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What is GIS in civil engineering?

GIS and civil engineering: benefits, applications and opportunities to improve your construction project

An advanced information system such as GIS plays a crucial role in supporting all phases of the infrastructure life cycle. In fact, the benefits of integrating GIS and civil engineering are many.

Let’s take a look at how GIS can be used in civil engineering, what are the benefits of this BIM GIS integration and its main applications.

GIS in civil engineering

BIM and GIS integration for infrastructures

What does GIS stand for in construction?

GIS stands for Geographic Information System and is a system designed to acquire, store, manipulate, analyze, manage and communicate all types of geographic data. These data are associated with thematic maps and form a database of digital information that can cover a variety of multidisciplinary domains.

A typical GIS interface, for example, is a digital map of an area containing multiple layers of spatial data that allows users to examine and analyze patterns and its graphical and nongraphical data with a level of accuracy and clarity that would be difficult to achieve in any other format.

To create thematic GIS maps there are special tools and BIM-GIS software that allow you to geolocate BIM information models on GIS maps and create information-rich databases easily.

GIS in civil engineering

Creating GIS maps with usBIM.gis

In short, GIS in construction is a way to view and analyze data relating to a particular place.

Literally any information that can be associated with a map, in the form of address or geographic coordinates, can constitute a GIS interface. GIS thematic maps are socioeconomic information about a particular neighborhood, ecosystems in an area, for instance, before a new highway project begins, a traffic study, weather events, seismic data, etc.

All this information flows into a single digital container which is safe, accessible by everyone and anytime.

How is GIS used in construction?

In the construction industry, the definition of a new project typically starts with the survey of the area of intervention.

Current surveying tools (total station, drone, laser scanner, etc.) have facilitated the processing of extremely accurate data and increasing integration with digital modeling software: CAD, BIM (Building Information Modelling), GIS.

In the construction industry, in fact, GIS is increasingly connected to the BIM method, and such integration represents a major evolutionary leap in the civil engineering sector as well, especially for the design and management of infrastructure works.

As the use of BIM increases, so does the exchange of digital information between BIM and GIS tools. For example, BIM can use GIS data acquired from initial site surveys for design and construction purposes. Similarly, an as-built digital survey of the completed building accurately geolocates geometric information, material types, project phases, costs, building energy consumption, number of users, etc.

Basically, both systems store spatial information and, with proper integration, can avoid duplication of data.

In fact, by combining the power of location intelligence with BIM processes, it is possible to obtain a more comprehensive view that is useful for the management of both public and private works.

GIS aids civil engineering development in the following ways:

  • planning;
  • data collection;
  • analysis;
  • construction.

What are the application of GIS in civil engineering?

Civil engineering is a discipline that covers many areas of interest and encompasses a wide range of expertise, including those pertaining to infrastructure development and maintenance. A large amount of data from a wide variety of sources is worked with, and systems for managing and analyzing the information collected are indispensable.

GIS supports civil engineering because it provides the tools for the creation, management, analysis, and visualization of data associated with infrastructure development and management. In practice, it allows data to be managed, making it easy to understand, analyze, and share them with other stakeholders in the construction industry.

The applications of GIS in civil engineering cover several areas, including:

  • structural-civil engineers can use GIS to include a multitude of analytical and historical area data in their projects. Structural analysis is one of the most widely used GIS applications. Compared with tabular data, GIS mapping has a number of advantages, such as the ability to identify problems early in the design phase using interactive overlays and 3D models;;
  • environmental – GIS provides environmental information on terrain, water sources and other natural features, creating all the layers of map overlays needed to help engineers conduct environmental impact analyses and assessments. In the analysis maps, all data are brought into system and less impactful solutions can be chosen and natural disasters predicted;
  • transportation – GIS in transportation engineering allows the overlay of a huge amount of data also characterized by strong dynamicity;
  • wastewater/rainwater – Hydraulic and hydrological modeling data can be integrated with GIS programs to examine and predict water demand and requirements. GIS combines surveyed data with historical data that can be visualized using 3D mapping, which includes graphical and numerical data layers that can be accessed with a single click;
  • site analysis – GIS analyzes and integrates a variety of images and data quickly by creating an overlay of relevant data on economic activity, transportation flow and population expansion, etc., so as to quickly return a clear and complete picture of the site of interest;;
  • topographic surveying – GIS proves to be an essential tool in topographic surveying because precise measurements are needed to create accurate mapping systems. Data are saved and remain conveniently accessible for use in projects;
  • BIM integrationBIM GIS integration generates workflows that can exchange data from one system to another without loss of information, querying data within a single database. A data-centric approach generates a more in-depth view of the work and the relevant urban and natural context, enabling informed decision making, greater stakeholder involvement, and faster and more efficient processes. Through this new type of approach, GIS data enriches the BIM model with information, and BIM in turn feeds data into GIS information systems. Systematically applying the digital twin criterion for infrastructure as well makes it possible to collect in a single container the geometric model of the work, the technical data sheets, but also GIS data related to the territory where the infrastructure is located (weather information, seismic data, etc.).

What are the advantages of gis in civil engineering?

Benefits of using a geographic information system in civil engineering include:

  • improved decision making: making decisions becomes an easier and more informed process because specific and detailed information is presented;
  • optimization of resources: cost reduction and increased efficiency are a direct result of a well-planned, analyzed and shared process;
  • better communication: organizing information so that it can be easily viewed makes the whole process understandable and facilitates communication and interoperability among professionals (technicians, contractors, public administration, etc.);
  • accessible database-all authorized users can easily access data on a database from anywhere and at any time.