3D Reconstruction of Vancouver City for Disaster Management

Under the umbrella of the PS-CRIMSON (Public Safety and Crisis Management Service Orchestration) collaboration project, Esri Canada has developed intelligent 3D modeling of urban spaces to support disaster management.

Water overflow modeling in a three-feet flood scenario | Source: PS CRIMSON

The PS-CRIMSON (Public Safety and Crisis Management Service Orchestration) project is a consortium of six partner organizations across Canada and the Netherlands, with representatives from academia, SMEs, start-ups, and the geospatial industry. It operates under the Information Technology for European Advancement (ITEA), an inter-governmental network initiative, and is dedicated to tackling information fragmentation between city operators, urban local bodies, and policymakers.

The PS-CRIMSON partners complement each other by providing unique individual contributions, which include:

Partner Role
Atos Offers integrated platforms
Cyclomedia Responsible for photo-realistic 3D texturing of spaces
Eindhoven University of Technology Supports data with innovative Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions
Esri Canada Creates Digital Twin city indoor modeling and offers integrated platforms
Sorama and ViNotion Experts on sensor technologies

Altogether, the six partners facilitate digitalization of smart cities’ operations and governance, by integrating siloed information and technology on a singular digital platform.

Focus on disaster management

One of the broader objectives of the PS-CRIMSON project is to make urban centers resilient in the face of calamities. Recent data suggest that the impact of natural disasters has been increasing globally. According to the Centre for Research in the Epidemiology of Disasters, the cost of natural disasters has grown 14-fold since the 1950s (figure below). The frequency of global disasters itself has witnessed a 10-fold increase since the 1960s.

The staggering number of natural disasters and their increasing risk to social value requires advanced disaster management strategies. The PS-CRIMSON platform has exhibited its potential in three related use cases: disaster management, crisis management and public safety management in Vancouver, Istanbul and Rotterdam, respectively. In Vancouver city, accurate predictions based on simulations of environmental factors have helped the city administration prepare for earthquakes, floods, and other public safety threats.

Economic cost of natural disasters: More than 14-fold increase since 1950s | Source: Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction

Snapshot Table

Geographic challenge for Vancouver

Vancouver city, located on the western coast of Canada, is at a high risk for earthquakes and consequent floods. It has an estimated peak ground acceleration of between 0.2 to 0.3 g units [1]. Due to this vulnerability, the city management has been striving for advanced disaster management technologies to mitigate risks and reduce losses during such scenarios. 

Seismic risk zones in the western coastline of British Columbia, Canada | Source: Times Colonist

Esri Canada’s application

Esri, the only Canadian partner in the PS-CRIMSON project, offers two critical services:

  • An integrated platform solution
  • Digital Twin city indoor modeling

Esri Canada worked with Vancouver city officials to develop strata plans for 3D modeling of Vancouver city. An informed analysis, represented through simplified 3D simulation of possible post-disaster impacts, helped city officials in positioning emergency assistance and assembling required resources in preparation for an earthquake. Developed by Esri Canada, the ‘Assessment Analyst’ application simulated disaster impact to the detail of internal built-up structure in a damaged building. The PS-CRIMSON application successfully simulated the potential effects of a 6.9 Richter Scale earthquake on the populous downtown area of Vancouver city.

City administration’s experience

The Vancouver Emergency Management Agency lauded the PS-CRIMSON project for its unique foray in the emergency management domain. The value streams under the PS-CRIMSON project provided enhanced visualization of the impact of a potential earthquake over and under the ground surface, enabling emergency service managers to access building level information. The system, thus, proved valuable for disaster management and response.

Technologies used - GIS, 3D mapping and ICT

The project offers an integrated 3D modeling platform wherein the storage, management and dissemination of information is managed centrally. It applies GIS technology to represent real-time data streams from interoperable ICT-backends of public and private urban infrastructures. Augmented with 3D city models and visualization capabilities, the platform provides extraordinary situational awareness that improves operational decision-making and helps evaluate planning and implementation processes.


The ‘Assessment Analyst’ application developed by Esri Canada under the PS-CRIMSON project enabled integrated analyses of diverse datasets in an urban environment. It simulated earthquake scenarios followed by consequent flooding in Vancouver city downtown. The application also assisted Vancouver’s Emergency Management Agency in preparing for other geographical risks due to earthquakes and floods.

Project Facts
LocationVancouver, Canada
Year of completion2020
ClientVancouver Emergency Management Agency
Technology partnerEsri Canada
Technologies usedGIS, Digital Twin

[1] G is the proportionality constant 6.67×10-11 (N-m2/kg2) in Newton’s law of gravity. The forces caused by the shaking caused by an earthquake can be measured as a percentage of gravity, or percent g.

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