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Benefits of DIY site models

Given that most building and terrain information is free to access in the Netherlands, it’s easy to see why this can be the default option. 

  • Free to access data 
  • Experienced BIM users can compile this information themselves

Key Benefits of Cetopo

Having launched in the Nordics in 2020, and expanded to the Netherlands in 2023, Cetopo comes backed by 100s of happy users. It focuses on saving Architects time by automatically compiling information and providing users with all of the information they need, instantly, in one easy-to-use package. Highlights include:

  • Instant access to combined models
  • Full native editability in all softwares
  • Provides massive time savings
INBO Architects use Cetopo site models

Building design on a Cetopo model by INBO

The article continues below.


So how do the workflows compare?

2D Plans
  • Download 2D DXF from BGT
  • Manually close all open lines, and add hatching
  • Organise layers
  • Download 2D DXF, ready to use
  • Search for all different data sources (BGT, PDOK etc.)
  • Select the layers you need and download
  • Convert downloaded files using QGis to desired software
  • Repeat this process for each program (e.g. Revit, AutoCAD)
  • Select project area
  • Download model in all required formats
  • Use in any/all software
  • Save selected area for later use

How can Architects use the models?


Editable: Models are designed to sit in your workflow, and are fully editable in all major architectural software. Buildings, roads, paths, terrain and trees, are all individual models grouped in layers for ease of use and editability.

Lightweight: Cetopo’s smart algorithm optimises models to run quickly in all design software, regardless of size. 

Rendering Optimised: Features include compatibility with Enscape assets, and ability to automatically replace tree models with Enscape trees (or .rfa trees in Revit)


DIY models are as useable as you can make them, but generally they are very limited in terms of editability, and it can take a fair bit of work to make sure they are lightweight enough to run in your software. 


How does accuracy compare?

The Netherlands’ various publicly available sources (BGT, PDOK, 3DBAG etc), are the most accurate available. Therefore, Cetopo uses the same sources that Architects building 3D models themselves would use.

Accuracy levels of Cetopo vs DIY models will be almost exactly the same, however Cetopo models are not liable to human error.

What does it cost?

Cetopo runs a subscription based service, with bulk discounts for more projects. Projects start at around €200 including access to all 3D and 2D data instantly, in as many formats as required. Customers can also download receipts for each project, allowing them to offset the cost to the client, or include it in their fee.

The DIY method does not have any outset costs (the data is largely free), but could cost you up to a couple of days of one skilled person’s work time, and therefore incurs wasted salary costs. This cost will vary depending on the complexity and size of the project area.

TLDR: Should I use Cetopo?

As described above, the decision whether or not to switch to an automated site modeller such as Cetopo depends largely on how much time you spend compiling and building models yourself. 

If you’re only working with very small sites, that you simply need as a backdrop to your design then DIY is maybe good enough for you. However, Architects who want to easily create stunning visualisations, work effortlessly with site models across modelling softwares and generally keep their fingers on the pulse might want to look a little closer at Cetopo.

Stick with DIY if:
  • You only work in 2D
  • You only work with very small simple project sites
  • You don’t want to edit models
Use Cetopo if:
  • You work across multiple softwares and file formats
  • You want to control and edit your 3D model
  • You work on more than 2 projects/year
  • You work on projects with sites over 1-2Ha
  • You want to use your time well

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