Google Earth will feature Illinois’ campus through interactive, virtual map

The University will soon be featured on Google Earth, the interactive, virtual map program made from satellite imagery and aerial-view photography.

Using building footprints from the Geographic Information System and models constructed with a 3D modeling program called Google Sketchup, the Facilities and Services’ Information Resources Department on campus has been developing a model collection for Google Earth.

The project was first discussed in 2005. Chad Kupferschmid, chief engineering draftsman for Facilities and Services, has been working with students to upload models and images to Google since early 2011.

“Students have been pulling building footprints and using construction documents to build models using SketchUp,” Kupferschmid said. “While not perfect, they should be accurate in terms of height and width.”

Kupferschmid said his team even had to alter several roofing images to meet Google Earth’s standards for “realistic” aerial views.

So far, 164 models have been uploaded, and Google Earth has already accepted 144 of them for their 3D buildings layer. Kupferschmid said individual models of the approved buildings are already accessible on Google Earth.

Though the initiative is now a side project for students with the time, uploading as many models as possible and as efficiently as possible was a priority for several reasons.

“The reason we wanted to incorporate U of I into Google was there were several student groups and initiatives out there that weren’t as accurate as they could be in representing the campus,” said Judith Lateer, communication specialist for Facilities and Services. “We wanted as much consistency as possible.”

Google Earth was initially released in 2005 to provide accurate models of buildings and proposed building sites and has already served as a useful resource for the university.

The uploaded models have helped planners, designers and students working on campus projects.

They have also been applied to site planning and construction of physical models for presentations and class projects.

Additionally, the models have been linked to the UIHistories Project, an initiative to gather historical background on many campus buildings.

Mapping out the campus on Google Earth may even prove beneficial to future Illini.

“There are several recruiting benefits,” Lateer said. “If you’re a student thinking about coming to U of I, you can get an idea of what the campus is like even before arriving.”