The Best Urban Planning Software for Beginners in 2022

Do you live in a smart city? Have you seen awesome cities and wondered how they were created? Well, we have the answer for you: the best urban planning software. As a new student or self-taught urban designer, having the right software opens your world of possibilities. Nothing is impossible. 

The best urban design software can help you develop special layouts and present them as projects to clients. The apps also help you understand how structures, buildings and facilities will appear when the city is finally established. It also comes with 3D visualizations and allows you to refine proposals to meet zoning requirements. 

Urban Planning Software
On site design optimization (Source Wiprovideos)

Keep reading as we highlight some of the best urban design apps that you should consider as a beginner. 

What is Urban Planning? 

Urban planning is a process whereby urban areas and cities are laid out in line with local authority’s objectives. The aim is to create urban regions where all the aspects of a city are planned. Therefore, it impacts every component of the city, including the transport system, infrastructure, and prescribed densities in residential and commercial areas. 

If a city is not planned well, it will ultimately become inefficient because different facilities will be overwhelmed. For example, water supply, road networks, and public parks will be inadequate as the population increases. We must emphasize it is critical to plan an urban area early enough to optimize subsequent growth and benefits to residents. A well-planned city area is crucial for safe, healthy, and enjoyable urban living. 

The Best Urban Planning Software to Use

There are a number of urban planning programs that you can use today and get the best results. Here are the best considerations:


SketchUp, one of the most popular tools for both engineers and building designers, comes at the top of our list of the best applications for urban design. Owned by Trimble Inc, SketchUp is an intuitive tool liked by professionals in urban planning, but its simplicity also makes it an excellent pick for newcomers.

SketchUp allows you to start your urban models from scratch and design every aspect based on the personal preferences of your project or client. If you do not want to start from scratch, the app allows you to import 3D models, 2D cad files, DEM data, and aerial imagery. You can also use its library of objects to speed up the process of designing your city. 

SketchUp - Urban Planning Software
SketchUpUrban Planning Software

Another outstanding feature of SketchUp is its Geo-Location tool that allows you to bring the exact terrain imagery into your design. Then, you can modify the models by draping hard-scape elements and transforming contours into surfaces. 

If you only target creating simple urban designs or using it for practice, the free version will be an excellent pick for you. However, migrating to the premium plans will unlock more features for complex urban planning. 

ArcGIS City Engine 

This is an advanced 3D modeling software that you can use to design interactive and immersive urban environments pretty fast. You can design cities based on real GIS data or fictional cities in the past/ future. The app makes it possible to also create a city with only a few clicks at once as opposed to modeling every attribute separately. This means that completing your project only requires a very short moment. 

With City Engine building design software, you can easily make adjustments to architectural style or individual features to generate multiple options for your clients. Then, inform your urban designs with 3D representations of varying land use conditions. The app makes urban planning so easy. 

Another unique thing about City Engine is its support for team collaboration. You can rapidly share multiple design alternatives, changes and get stakeholder feedback. ArcGIS City Engine is available as a paid version, but you have a 21-day free trial to test different features. 

Chief Architect 

Many new architects see urban design as a complex process, especially when using 3D modeling.Chief architect was developed to help simplify the process and make your urban planning work professional. You only need a very short moment to learn and start creating high-value urban designs. The most notable feature of Chief Architect is the large library of objects that you can use in your urban planning work. Other features include the ability to view your 2D work in 3D when designing towns, cost estimation tools, and team collaboration features. 

Being able to create a good urban plan can be very satisfying for architects. It allows you to help people, local authorities, and governments to solve people’s issues in cities. As a beginner, this can be pretty challenging, but the software for urban planning options we have listed in this post can come in handy to simplify the process. You might also want to consider AutoCAD, Revit, and Maya.