Giraffe projects contain geometries created in Giraffe called sections, section templates called usages, data layers, apps, views. All that is explained here.

Flow Chart of the Giraffe Data Model. Does a picture really say 1000 words?


At an abstract level a section is a geometry with some properties. It’s saved in Giraffe as a GeoJSON feature. Some common examples in Giraffe are a building, a stretch of road or a tree. These are simply geometries: a polygon, line and point respectively; along with some properties such as the building’s height, the road’s width or the type of tree. We like to write these properties like this height: 3m.

Sections belong to a project, you can copy them to other projects, but you can’t share the same section between projects.


If you have multiple sections with similar properties, it’s helpful to pull out the common ones into a shared “usage”. You could have multiple sections which are all floorToFloor: 9ft, levels: 3, color: pink. Rather than adding these to each section individually, you give each section usage: Residential, then put all the shared properties on that usage.

It’s an abstract but powerful concept and we struggled to give it a clear name. We could have called usages typologies, categories, programs, or categories instead.

Usages also belong to a project, you can copy them to other projects, but you can’t share usages between projects.


Views are snapshots of a project. They allow you to save a number of perspectives or scenarios for your own reference, sharing with others or presentation.

Views contain a screenshot of the model along with the associated camera position and layer transparency.

Views also belong to a project.


Layers can be added from Giraffe’s library or created by you from vector data (eg shapefiles, geojson or dxf), raster data (png or jpeg), Esri servers, Mapbox layers or a number of other formats.

Layers can be added to multiple projects. They can also be shared with a user or org, just like a project.