Last edited 08 Jul 2016

Geographic information system GIS

Geographic information systems (GIS) allow data to be captured, mapped, managed, visualised and interrogated according to its location in space and time. Any data with a location attribute can be stored and interrogated using GIS.

GIS comprises:

  • Data stored as a series of 'layers' connected by their location.
  • A software interface to allow the data to be interrogated.

It can be useful for:

  • Creating, editing and presenting maps.
  • Managing and providing access to large amounts of data.
  • Analysing or visualising complex spatial data.
  • Presenting the results of spatial analysis.
  • Permitting interactive location-based queries.

GIS has found diverse applications, such as:

  • Facilities management and planning.
  • Service management and planning.
  • Post code queries about service locations.
  • Analysis of property, such as flood risk and property values.
  • Demographic analysis.
  • Environmental impact analysis.

GIS can support the design process through the preparation of information about sites and geography, assessment of potential impacts, emergency planning and so on. It can also contribute to the facilities management of completed developments, allowing analysis and management of, logistics, networks, performance and a wide range of other data across entire sites, or a number of sites.

The successful use of GIS requires standardisation of data and processes so that different types of data from different sources can be combined. It is vital that there is good accuracy of source data, and accuracy of location. Data can be interrogated at any 'scale', however, the usefulness of this will depend on the scale of capture of the different source data sets.

There is clearly a close relationship between GIS and building information modelling (BIM). BIM is a very broad term that describes the process of creating and managing digital information about a building or other facility (such as a bridge, highway, tunnel and so on). This can be useful for the design and operation of built assets.

BIM may use data from GIS, such as site information and spatial analysis and may produce data useful for GIS, such as energy consumption.

BIM adopts a detailed, object-based method for locating data. The definition of each object that comprises the built asset may include geometrical information and information describing other properties, such as materials, construction processes, time-related information (such as delivery times), cost data, and operational information.

GIS tends to operate at larger scale and locates data across a topography. However, both systems store spatial information and with proper integration, duplication can be avoided and the two systems may be seen as complementary rather than competitive.

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