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GIS applications in civil Engineering

A geographic information system (GIS) is a system designed to capture, store, manipulate, analyze,
manage, and present all types of geographical data. The key word to this technology
is Geography – this means that some portion of the data is spatial. In other words, data that is in
some way referenced to locations on the earth.
Coupled with this data is usually tabular data known as attribute data. Attribute data can be
generally defined as additional information about each of the spatial features. An example of this
would be schools. The actual location of the schools is the spatial data. Additional data such as
the school name, level of education taught, student capacity would make up the attribute data. t
is the partnership of these two data types that enables GIS to be such an effective problem solving
tool through spatial analysis.

GIS is more than just software. People and methods are combined with geospatial software and
tools, to enable spatial analysis, manage large datasets, and display information in a map/graphical

A GIS can be thought of as a system—it digitally creates and manipulates spatial areas that may
be for jurisdictional purpose or application-oriented. Generally, a GIS is custom-designed for an
organization. Hence, a GIS developed for an application, jurisdiction, enterprise, or purpose may
not be necessarily interoperable or compatible with a GIS that has been developed for some other
application, jurisdiction, enterprise, or purpose.

History of Development

During the 1854 cholera outbreak in London, English physician John Snow used points to represent
the locations of some individual cases, possibly the earliest use of a geographic methodology in
epidemiology. His study of the distribution of cholera led to the source of the disease, a
contaminated water pump (the Broad Street Pump, whose handle he had disconnected, thus
terminating the outbreak) within the heart of the cholera outbreak.

This historical became the advent of the usage of spatial data for analysis and planning in many
fields including Civil Engineering.
Application of GIS

GIS is a relatively broad term, which can refer to a number of technologies and processes, so it is
attached to many operations; in engineering, planning, management, transport/logistics and

GIS and Civil Engineering

An advanced information system like GIS plays a vital role and serves as a complete platform in
every phase of infrastructure life cycle. Advancement and availability of technology has set new
marks for the professionals in the infrastructure development areas. Now more and more
professionals are seeking help of these technologically smart and improved information systems
like GIS for infrastructure development. Each and every phase of infrastructure life-cycle is greatly
affected and enhanced by the enrollment of GIS.

 Planning: In planning its major contribution is to give us with an organized set of data which
can help professionals to combat complex scenarios relating to the selection of site,
environmental impact, study of ecosystem, managing risk regarding the use of natural
resources, sustainability issues, managing traffic congestion, routing of roads and pipelines

 Data Collection: Precise and accurate data is the core driving factor of any successful project.
GIS is equipped with almost all those tools and functions that enables user to have access
to the required data within a reasonable time.

 Analysis: Analysis is one of the major and most influential phases of infrastructure life cycle.
Analysis guides us about the validity or correctness of design or we can say that analysis is a
method which supports our design. Some of the analyses that can be performed by GIS are:
 Water distribution analysis
 Traffic management analysis
 Soil analysis
 Site feasibility analysis
 Environment impact analysis
 Volume or Area analysis of catchment
 River or canals pattern analysis
 Temperature and humidity analysis

1. Water distribution analysis - In the preceding Section of this Chapter the

application of basic principles of GIS have been presented along with the
application of these techniques to the analysis of the effect of drawdown of
groundwater, water demand consumption analysis and prediction of water
demand. This Section deals with the particular application of GIS matched to
hydraulic analysis of the water supply network and for interpretation of the
results of hydrodynamic modelling. The examples used in this Section are
based on the application of an inexpensive GIS package IDRISI. For large scale
systems and full scale projects more powerful GIS packages may be more

2. Traffic management analysis – GIS is based on geographical spatial

information, adopting the geographical prototype analytic technique and
extending many sorts of spatial and dynamic geographic data. It is a computer-
driven high-tech arrangement that provides for geographical exploration and
geographic decisiveness. It goes without saying that road and traffic
information is crucial data for a city. Road traffic managers normally organize
this material by compiling the data into tables used in statistical analysis.
However, as the volume of data is huge and multifaceted relations of data are
involved, it becomes very difficult to administer them consistently. Applying GIS
in transportation systems enables a broad collection of potential applications
that are as varied as the area of transportation itself. Be it cars and trucks
going down a road, trains moving along a track, ships sailing over the sea, or
planes soaring high above us in the sky, all have one thing in common, and that
is they are objects moving alongside others in space. GIS can provide a valuable
tool for handling these targets with regard to a spatially referenced
framework, screening the routes as a transportation electronic network.

3. Soil analysis - Soil survey is an integral part of an effective agricultural research

and advisory program. It provides complete information about soils and is an
inventory of the soil resource of the area. It gives the information needed for
planning land use and soil management programs. In Tamil Nadu soil survey is
being conducted by Soil Survey and Land use Organization, Coimbatore. The
soil survey reports are available in for the users. This paper explains the use of
GIS in accessing soil information and interpreted maps. If the soil information
available in GIS and maintained by an organization then it could be accessed
by many professionals who want to get the information for development

4. Environment impact analysis - In addition to identifying and analyzing

potential impacts, a GIS is also a powerful spatial planning tool. For example,
a GIS is often used to identify sites suitable for establishing cemeteries and
waste disposal facilities. Overlaying several spatial datasets (soil type,
vegetation, ground and surface water, geology etc.), with specific assessment
criteria for each, can produce a map indicating suitable and unsuitable
areas. In this instance a GIS is being used to calculate the shortest possible
route, taking into consideration the environmental issues in the area. This
method has already led to time savings on the project and has achieved a
significant cost saving for the client. The use of GIS in EIAs will continue to
evolve as dealing with global warming becomes a worldwide priority. In future,
even more careful spatial planning will be required to meet the requirements
of authorities and governments and to ensure sustainable development.

5. Volume or area analysis by catchment - The development of applied GIS is

growing rapidly and has been widely applied in various fields. Preparation of a
model to obtain information is one of the benefits of GIS. Obtaining
information for water resources such as water catchment areas is one part of
GIS modelling. Water catchment model can be utilized to see the distribution
of potential and ability of a region in water absorbing. The use of overlay
techniques with the weighting obtained from the literature from previous
research is used to build the model. Model builder parameters are obtained
through remote sensing interpretation techniques such as land use, landforms,
and soil texture. Secondary data such as rock type maps are also used as water
catchment model parameters. The location of this research is in the upstream
part of the Opak river basin. The purpose of this research is to get information
about potential distribution of water catchment area with overlay technique.
The results of this study indicate the potential of water catchment areas with
excellent category, good, medium, poor and very poor. These results may
indicate that the Upper river basin is either good or in bad condition, so it can
be used for better water resources management policy determination.

6. River or canal pattern analysis - Interlinking of rivers involves multidisciplinary

data on hydrological, environmental, agricultural, socio-economic and political
aspects. Moreover, these data will be derived from various sources such as
toposheets, remote sensing imagery, aerial photographs, paper maps and field
data. For decision making on such complicated project issues, the related data
and information should be stored at one place in digital form for easy retrieval,
updation and analysis for effective planning and execution purposes. GIS, a
powerful spatial technology, provides the scientific environment to store and
analysis multidisciplinary data for solving such real world problems. GIS
combines spatial database management, statistical analysis and cartographic
modelling capabilities within computer hardware and software configuration.
The objective of the paper is to explore the capabilities of GIS that will be very
useful in solving the various issues of interlinking in order to expedite the
process of interlinking.

7. Temperature and humidity analysis - With technological progresses and

associated need for more and more human comfort, the demands for accurate
weather forecasts for different spatial and temporal scales are also increasing.
In this context, application of emerging technologies for increasing accuracy
and skill of the weather forecast calls for special attention. Use of Geographical
Information Systems (GIS) software viz. Arc View to develop an application, for
plotting, analysis, visualization, and interpretation of weather data, to serve as
an aid in the prognostication of weather is attempted in this paper. The
application developed can help the meteorologists in instantaneous plotting of
synoptic weather data from different locations at various isobaric levels of the
atmosphere. Analysis of this data, for visualization and interpretation of
weather systems over wide geographic areas become possible with less effort
and error. Facilities available include, provision for superimposition of synoptic
weather maps of the past with the present for tracking of movement of
weather systems, computation of their persistence, tendencies and trends.
Weather maps at different levels, or different days (past, present and future)
can be superimposed and removed with the click of the mouse for analysis and
visualization of weather developments. Advancing the weather systems
forward or backward geographically for visualization of past and future (as
forecasted) movement of weather systems across geographical areas becomes
easier. Climatological data can also be plotted, departures from normals,
tendencies, etc. calculated and presented as charts. Satellite pictures,
topographical information, etc. can also be plotted and superimposed with
other weather parameters for assistance in weather forecasting. The GIS used
for the application development is the ArcView GIS of ESRI with extensions of Spatial
analyst, and Image analyst.
The weather data utilized is the T80 model analysis (initial conditions) for the
weather parameters viz. Wind Speed, Wind Direction, temperature and
Geopotential height at vertical levels of the atmosphere at 850 hPa and 500
hPa at the T80 model grid points (approximately 150 km apart) over the globe.
The 5-day weather forecasts for the same parameters based of the above
initial conditions were made use of as weather forecasts.
Construction: It is the stage when all layout plans and paper work design come into existence
in the real world. The GIS helps the professionals to understand the site conditions that
affect the schedule baseline and cost baseline. To keep the construction within budget and
schedule GIS guides us about how to utilize our resources on site efficiency by:
 Timely usage of construction equipment.
 Working Hours
 Effects of seasonal fluctuations.
 Optimizing routes for dumpers and concrete trucks
 Earth filling and cutting
 Calculation of volumes and areas of constructed phase thereby helping in Estimation
and Valuation.
Operations: Operations are controlled by modeling of site data and compared by the
baselines prepared in planning phase. Modeling of site may be in the form of raster images
or CAD drawings. These can help us to keep track of timely operations of activities.

GIS can help to make a record of work that has been completed and can give us visualization
in the form of thematic maps which will guide us about rate of operations, completed
operations and pending operations.

In short we can say that GIS will prove to be the foundation of next generation civil