Where to Get Free Data for your Projects

September 20, 2022

We know that business is often about doing more with less. You need to test fit, analyze and assess more sites in less time. You need to communicate your site-planning decisions with stakeholders and earn buy-in, but there's yet to be a budget. That's why we've put together a few hints for you to find free resources so you can make better, data-informed decisions without spending a dime.

Some of Giraffe's free data layers

Giraffe Canvas

Giraffe's robust site-planning and feasibility software is free to use! Create a master plan in minutes.

Did you know Giraffe has over 1000 free geospatial data layers natively in the platform? Find essential data like satellite imagery, wetlands coverage, flood zones, elevation contours, and municipal overlays. See how that data can make or break your project plan without spending a dime.

Better yet, Giraffe is browser-based, so all you need to do is log in to get started - no desktop space requirements or obtaining permission from your I.T. guy to install it.

Geospatial data

So, you've searched Giraffe's layer library, and you need more. Don't worry; the web is your friend! Most municipalities share their GIS information publicly - all you need to know is what keywords to search.

Giraffe can natively ingest any Mapserver or Featureserver Esri API. But, what does that look like? Where do I find them?

Try searching keywords like your city + MapServer. Or, your city + FeatureServer.

For instance, "Phoenix MapServer" serves the following result:

Google Search result for "Phoenix MapServer."

If you click on the top link, you'll find the MapServer Rest API URL for the parcels dataset hosted by the City of Phoenix. To add the parcel layer to Giraffe, copy the URL from the address bar, and follow the steps to create a custom layer.

You can also explore more data on this server by clicking the breadcrumb menu to find all of the public services available.

Once you add these layers to your Giraffe account, you can use them again and again, or share them with others.

Basemaps

Giraffe's default map styles

Giraffe is built using Mapbox, which means you can style your map endlessly for free!

The benefits of customizing your map in Giraffe range from enhanced presentations to gaining additional map data, like points of interest.

Use one of Giraffe 6 base map styles, search through Mapbox's community-created styles, or create your own in Mapbox Studio. Simply paste the Mapbox URL into Giraffe!

3d Models

Did you know you can add 3D representations to your projects? Cars, people, park benches, or even detailed contextual buildings can add color to a presentation and help stakeholders understand your vision. Giraffe can ingest any GLTF formatted 3D file, including its mapped colors and textures. Some popular sources for free 3D models are:

  • Turbosquid
  • 3D Warehouse
  • CG Trader

Bonus: Free File Format Conversion

Need to convert a file to an open format? Here are a few of our favorite sites to help you get started:

  • nanoCAD: Create and edit CAD drawings in popular formats like DXF
  • mapshaper.org: Adjust shp files to reduce complexity and file size
  • QGis: This open-source GIS software helps you create shp files

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