Create 3D buildings in ArcGlobe as extruded polygons

Last Published: February 10, 2024


This article applies to retired ArcGIS versions 9.x. Later versions of ArcGIS may contain different functionality, as well as different names and locations for menus, commands and geoprocessing tools.

Instructions provided describe how to create three dimensional buildings with varied height and colors in ArcGlobe.


Start with a polygon shapefile or feature class that has the footprints or outlines of the buildings. Some buildings, such as the picture below, might be comprised of several polygons.


  1. To make the buildings different colors, an attribute field that various colors can be assigned to needs to be used or created. If there is not a useable field, add a new short integer field, populate it with random numbers between a range, and symbolize colors from those unique values. In ArcMap, use the following VBScript expression in the field calculator to generate random numbers for a field. Check the Advanced Box, so this VBScript can be pasted into the Field Calculator.

    x = Int((max-min+1)*Rnd+min)

    Set the field's value to x.

    Open the Symbology settings. Use Categories/Unique values and set the color for each number. Save this as a layer file.
  2. Open the attribute table of the feature class and find a field that depicts the height of each building, such as the number of floors or the height above ground in feet. If such a field does not exist, add one and populate it with a constant value or random value: refer to step 1. Convert the conversion factor to meters for the height value. For example, with a field that indicates the number of floors, one could multiply that field by three to get the height in meters of the building, which is approximately three meters per floor.
  3. Add the building layer file to ArcGlobe and open the Layer Properties dialog box.
  4. Click the Globe Extrusion tab. Check 'Extrude features in layer'. Click the Field Calculator and type the expression needed to calculate the height of the building. Click OK. From the drop-down menu, select the expression to add to 'Each feature's minimum height'.
  5. Click OK to close the Layer Properties dialog box.

Article ID:000009463

  • ArcMap 9 x

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