Although GIS and CAD have historically been considered separate technologies, with the explosion of data available from a plethora of collection methods, it’s now possible for the two disciplines to converge, creating new design and analysis tools for civil engineers. In the article “Q&A: Opportunities for GIS in civil engineering,” published online in civil + structural Engineer media, Don Kuehne, CAD products manager at Esri, explained the importance of the interoperability of database-driven GIS and 3D design CAD data and the ways that more and better data improves designs.
- Better decisions for design and planning. The pre-design and design phases of a job will benefit from GIS base data like floodplains, existing parcels and utilities, topo, and soils. The result is advanced spatial analysis and visualization.
- Manage large amounts of data for 3D modeling. GIS data laid over a digital terrain model allows engineers to visualize the landscape. Database-driven GIS information, which can be collected in quantities too large to handle otherwise, is usable for 3D design purposes.
- Converting GIS to BIS. The building information modeling process (BIM), which is becoming more widely adopted every day, can certainly benefit from adding GIS data. When the goal is to make more informed decisions about a project, additional information provides ways to improve how things are done. The latest application for GIS systems is referred to as “indoor GIS.” Kuehne called it BIS, or building information systems. Just as data is collected outside the footprint of the building, it can be collected inside – leading to precise escape route planning, more efficient floorplans and other higher quality design features.
- More valuable work products. When CAD and GIS are combined, the resulting work products are richer in data and useful far beyond the building construction completion date. This is where a firm can distinguish itself from its competitors and offer not only the physical asset of a building, but the digital assets that go along with it. When gathered during design and construction, these assets are invaluable for operations and maintenance after handoff.
- Data that can be used in multiple ways. If set up and managed properly, a GIS database can be reused in many ways. It can serve to create visualizations (maps, renderings, flythroughs) as well as hydraulic modeling, buffering and geocoding (turning a physical address into a location on the globe).
Not only is it an inevitable convergence, but for the reasons listed above, it’s becoming good business practice to unite GIS and civil engineering. The new design and analysis tools for civil engineers combined with the additional – even billable – services that are possible at handoff make good business sense in a construction environment that gets more demanding every day. Esri is the global market leader in GIS. Applied Software is a member of the global Esri Silver Partner Network – cutting edge organizations approved to deliver Esri solutions. Contact Applied today to talk to an industry expert about how you can integrate GIS into your civil engineering process and distinguish your firm from others.