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The Netherlands in 3D – a 3D map on an open data basis

The 3D map of the Netherlands has been available from the Dutch Land Registry Office since 2014 on an open data basis. This map is intended as a basic file that institutions from across the public and private sector can use for their purposes, such as to link data to and run analyses. It can, for example, be used to assess and calculate how wind turbines affect the local environment in terms of noise, flows of air, and the shadows they cast, but also to assess their visual impact in the landscape.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

The Dutch Land Registry Office has a statutory task to register all land and property in the Netherlands, both in terms of who owns it and for topographical purposes. This information is recorded in the land register database and topography database, which anyone can access. Residents and authorities can retrieve land registry and administrative data, such as to be able to make a property portfolio policy and zoning plans or to get clarity on who owns what.

3D is necessary to be able to capture the complex reality in models as accurately as possible. More and more parties are switching to 3D, albeit almost always on a project basis and for and/or by individual users. Various areas have been captured in 3D models on several occasions, such as when different bodies procure 3D models from different providers. The idea behind the ‘3D breakthrough’ project is to put an end to this kind of fragmentation and make 3D geo-information available from one single source. In the dialogue between citizens, the business community, and the public sector, it is very important to have a shared frame of reference (a 3D standard). This will encourage knowledge building and developments around 3D, and it will produce cost savings, as one and the same 3D model is used by multiple parties.

As part of the 3D breakthrough program, the Dutch Land Registry Office developed a 3D map of the whole of the Netherlands, with scales ranging from 1:5,000 to 1:25,000 (2018). It is now even possible to make 3D maps with scales from 1:500 to 1:1,000. Development and further development of this 3D mapping capability happen in collaboration with scientific partners (Delft University of Technology, University of Twente), private-sector partners (CycloMedia, Esri, and early adopters ROM3D and Tygron) and public-sector partners (Dutch Land Registry Office). The map is created by combining existing 2D data with the Elevation Model of the Netherlands. This latter model of the whole of the Netherlands has a resolution of eight elevation points per square meter, measured from an aircraft using laser technology. Used by the Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management, water boards, and provincial authorities, this technology achieves such a high level of accuracy that it can measure the height of a curb. As a result, vertical surfaces, such as quay walls, can also be rendered. Houses are shown as blocks.

The 3D map is constantly under development. The Land Registry Office is, for example, working on adding roof shapes to the blocks that depict houses, and to add texture to buildings on a smaller scale. The elevation is measured using stereo aerial photography, whereby elevation points are derived from two photos taken from different angles. This means that the Land Registry Office no longer depends on the much lengthier update cycle of the Elevation Model of the Netherlands because elevation data is now derived from the same photos that are also used to obtain 2D topographical data.

The use of a 3D map and 3D models based on it makes it possible to better visualise and predict the effects of certain policy choices. This, in turn, allows governments to conduct sound, sunlight, shadow, wind, and air quality analyses or simulate flooding. It is now possible to see through a pair of 3D glasses how the building of a new block of flats will impact on the view from a specific resident’s garden.

Innovation Description

What Makes Your Project Innovative?

A 3D map can render the complex reality much better than a 2D map. This leads to better models, analyses, and predictions. The Dutch Land Registry Office’s 3D map is unique, because it is the first fully 3D map that covers the Netherlands in its entirety, and because it was developed in partnership with scientific institutions and market parties. The 3D map is updated without any kind of human involvement. It happens automatically based on data from the (large-scale) topography database, the addresses and buildings database, and the generated elevation data.

What is the current status of your innovation?

The 3D map is currently being optimised further. The trial involving the early adopters who have started to use the data in practice has meanwhile reached its final stage. They have started to use the 3D map and various changes have meanwhile been made to the map based on their experiences. This not only ensures thorough testing of the software, but it has also allowed participating local authorities and institutions to gain valuable experience with the data.

From January 2020, this data will be available for free download. Various companies have welcomed the data provided by the Land Registry Office and can now start using this data to build products. And through VAT and income tax on these products, the Dutch state recovers its financial investment. Through this project, the Dutch Land Registry Office adds social value in a way that it never used to.

Innovation Development

Collaborations & Partnerships

As an organisation, the Dutch Land Registry Office is committed to innovation. Jantien Stoter (Professor of Geo-Information at Delft University of Technology and initiator behind the ‘3D breakthrough’ program) works at the Land Registry Office in an advisory role two days a week. She is the one who came up with the idea to embrace the latest 3D mapping developments and possibilities. The Land Registry Office also works together with municipalities, education institutions, and market parties.

Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries

Businesses greatly benefit from the innovation. They are able to use reliable data to build their own products. The public in general also benefits from the availability of 3D-data. Following the completing of the 3D-map, the local authority of Zwolle has put up sensors to measure things such as atmospheric humidity, visual quality, solar irradiance, and road safety. This information is combined with the available 3D data, giving the 3D data specific value for users and local residents.

Innovation Reflections

Results, Outcomes & Impacts

The map produced by the Land Registry Office is a basis that other parties can work with. Part of the data is, for example, used for noise impact modeling purposes, with several organisations already using the data within their process. There is also research ongoing into how 3D can be used in combination with sensors for smart cities to be able to make live analyses and predictions in a digital environment that have a direct impact on reality.

Challenges and Failures

The Dutch Land Registry Office has developed a product that did not exist yet. The need for this product was closely related to one of the Land Registry Office’s core duties. One major challenge in developing the 3D map was the collaboration with knowledge institutions and private-sector parties. At a later stage, it also turned out to be a challenge to connect with the internal organisation. The project group had to create space for the innovation and, therefore, needed to convince management to trust the innovation process, without any kind of guarantee of success. It required a lot of guts and vision.

Conditions for Success

A key success factor for the innovation was the public-private partnership with scientific institutions and companies.

The Dutch Land Registry Office used an innovation sprint to make time for innovation. It had employees team up with institutions and companies to get to work in practice right away. The project group and management accepted that not every single innovation sprint would actually produce a positive outcome. This acceptance of failure in itself was already a positive result. Whenever an innovation turned out not to be successful, they had the courage to just drop it or find an alternative solution. The employees involved in the innovation sprints were highly committed and did not walk away when things got difficult, but they did not focus exclusively on one single solution either. Management showed that they had faith in the employees working on the innovation.


The concept of the 3D map can also be used by other countries. In fact, various countries are already using a 3D map, although they still update their maps manually. The Dutch Land Registry Office and Delft University of Technology have developed software for fully automated 3D map updating. Topographical services (which in the Netherlands are provided by the Land Registry Office) in countries the world over could use this software as well.

Lessons Learned

The Dutch Land Registry Office has learnt to engage with its role and step up. It was not only about their own purpose, but also about ensuring data remained freely accessible to the general public.

An innovation in itself is not always enough. The Dutch Land Registry Office found out that the 3D map only became truly usable after the various optimisations that gave the map its value to users. After all, it is ultimately all about the user.

The Dutch Land Registry Office now takes a different approach to its own role and the product it delivers. The data in itself is not the primary focus, the users and applications that can be built using the data are. The Dutch Land Registry Office does not keep the data for itself but instead shares it with the institutions and companies building these applications. The social value-added lies in ensuring exchangeability, equal standards, and that public access to data. This is a departure from the Dutch Land Registry Office's traditional role that saw it deliver data as a product.

With the 3D map, the Dutch Land Registry Office has stepped up and shown that it is the expert when it comes to good, usable data. The Dutch Land Registry has reinvented itself and taken the initiative because the transition to 3D has a direct impact on the future of spatial analysis. They are now not only the go-to specialist for data, but they also provide public infrastructure (with or without partners) that makes it possible for data to be created effectively. The Dutch Land Registry Office sees to it that this public infrastructure is available to everyone. Service providers and users subsequently decide what data they want to use.

Year: 2014
Level of Government: National/Federal government


  • Diffusing Lessons - using what was learnt to inform other projects and understanding how the innovation can be applied in other ways

Innovation provided by:

Date Published:

18 November 2019

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