A render that shows Enscape's Site Context feature

How to Add Site Context to Your Enscape Renders

With Enscape 3.3, we are presented with yet another brand-new feature that many users will find very helpful. I am speaking of the new Site Context feature, which can immerse your design within the urban fabric it is meant for.

On some projects, this feature might only be used at the beginning of the project, while others might find the level of detail adequate for the entire project. In either case, there is value, and this is a great example of Enscape building on what has become an indispensable visualization ecosystem within the AEC industry.

This post will walk you through the basic workflow from beginning to end. And while this post uses Revit to demonstrate this new feature, it works the same way with SketchUp, Rhino, Vectorworks, or Archicad. This is because the Site Context geometry lives within the Enscape real-time renderer view.

Introducing Site Context

We have likely all found a map or plat drawing, linked it into our design software, and spent a couple of hours outlining and extruding shapes to represent existing buildings around our project. Now, with the new Site Context feature in Enscape, which uses OpenStreetMap data, we can achieve similar results in minutes.

We might start with a project like the one shown in Autodesk Revit 2023 below. It could also just be the building or building massing, without the larger site context, at first.

Revit Model Showing Site Context in EnscapeHere is the same Revit model loaded into Enscape. This looks really nice, but in just a few clicks, we can immerse this design into its larger real-world context.Revit model rendered in Enscape

Importing Site Context

Once the project is in Enscape, click the Site Context icon (or press O) to get started.

How to open site context in enscapeThe Site Context panel opens on the left. On a related note, don’t forget about Enscape’s contextual help panel which shows help topics for the current command or open panel. This is especially helpful when working with a new feature. Notice all the great tips, for Site Context, shown here (see image below)! Just press H to toggle the help panel open and closed.

In the Site Context panel, click the Add Site Context button near the bottom.

Open Site ContextNext, enter an address or city at the top of the Site Context panel. The Location icon can be dragged around. Use the icons in the lower right to center the location on-screen and move the selection box around your Location icon. The Location window, or selection box, has a minimum and maximum square area, 328’ to 32,805’ (100m to 9999m), respectively.

Importing site context in EnscapeHere is an example of the project being rotated to fit the site using the on-screen rotation icon. Notice how Enscape gives us a nice clean outline of everything in the project except the toposurface, which aids in the proper placement of the project on the site.

The final step is to click the Import button in the lower left. Before doing so, you could toggle some of the Site Context categories off if desired. But these can also be turned off later, so best to just leave them on for now, to help with overall orientation.

Importing site contextManipulating Site Context

Now that the site context geometry is wrapped around your project, as shown in the next image below, you might want to make a few minor adjustments. Enscape supports several edits, such as adjusting the location, rotation, and hiding individual existing buildings. Let’s take a look.

In the image below, we see the sloped site is conflicting with the site in the Revit model. Perhaps the design is still in an early phase, and we do not have a proposed grade; in this example, my model has a perfectly flat site. Thus, we can move the site context downward until the conflict goes away.

To move the site context down, you must first open the Site Context panel, click the menu icon in the upper-right, and then select Edit Site Context (see image below).

Look at site context in enscapeWe are now in the Site Context edit mode. Notice the bar across the bottom of the screen. Here, you can Move (default option) by editing the X, Y, and Z values, or Rotate by toggling the rotate icon on the far left. Once you are done making edits, click Confirm Changes. Otherwise, click Cancel to close the edit mode without saving changes.

Editing site context model in enscape

Another simple edit is to hide individual buildings. Notice, in the image below, when you click on a building, it highlights in the Site Context panel (assuming it is open). If the name of the building is in the OpenStreetsMap database, it will show up here.

In the case that an existing building has recently been demolished or will be as part of your project, you will want to remove that individual building. To hide the building, simply select it, right-click, and then pick Hide Selection. Now the building is gone, as shown in the second image below!

How to delete a building in site context enscapeRemoving a building using site context in enscapeAt this point, with the site context properly positioned and certain buildings removed, you can explore your project and better understand the extended site impacts and opportunities. In the image below, we can get a good feel for the height of our building relative to the adjacent existing buildings. We also notice the building we removed is omitted everywhere.

Keep in mind, the OpenStreetMap database is not perfect. Generally, a building footprint is very accurate, but the height and shape can sometimes not contain as much data. You will want to double-check this information, especially for the buildings closest to yours.

turning off site context in enscapeWith the Site Context panel open, it is possible to turn off the entire site context, as shown here. Take a moment to compare this image with the previous one. The added site context adds a lot of value for a small amount of effort. Plus, it obscures the horizon line, which is rarely seen (and, as such, should not show up in reflections either).

Turning off the site context in enscapeAs with buildings, you may select roads, see their names, and hide them. In the image below, I have selected 4th Street.

Site context example in enscapeCurrently, there is no way to get this geometry out of the Enscape environment. Also, the materials cannot be modified. However, this is a v1 feature, so perhaps these capabilities will come in a future release.

Placing assets

Another thing to note is that it is possible to place both Enscape assets and custom assets onto your site context model to bring even more life and realism to your views. Assets can be placed on topology, streets, and the tops of buildings. 

Rendered results

All the images above are screenshots to include the Enscape user interface (UI) for this post. The following images are rendered 4k still images to highlight a more polished result.

Example of enscapes site context still render

Site context feature in enscape

rendering of enscape site context feature

Site context enscapesite context in enscape still renderSite context in enscape renderingBe sure to review Enscape's Knowledge Base article on this topic for more information - Site Context in Enscape

Conclusion

Without a doubt, many Enscape customers will find a lot of value in the new Site Context feature. It is exciting to see Enscape continue to deliver new and innovative features to empower more designers to create compelling architectural visualizations. If you have not tried Enscape yet, why not try the free trial today! Again, it works with Revit, SketchUp, Rhino, Archicad, and Vectorworks.

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Building rendered with Enscape 3.2

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