Smart buildings and cities are imminent, and geospatial technologies are a critical component of smart city operations. This advent of new technology also includes Geographic Information Systems (GIS) engineering. As the construction industry becomes more ingrained with digital technologies and solutions, geospatial platforms will become more prevalent, creating what’s referred to as geoconstruction.
Throughout 2020, the worldwide geospatial industry market revenue is set to skyrocket. Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) and positioning technologies will be worth $260.8 billion, GIS and spatial analytics will grow to $88.3 billion and Earth observation technologies will rise to $75.9 billion. These statistics provide a glimpse at how prevalent this technology is becoming within the field.
Yet knowing something is relevant and knowing why it is relevant are two different things. In the case of geospatial technologies, people may wonder why they are necessary. Beyond their core purpose, why are they so integral to the development and construction industry’s future?
What Is Geospatial Construction?
As the name suggests, geospatial data is a chunk of information that includes relevant details about objects, events or phenomena that directly relate to a location on the planet. In general, geospatial data can be used in any field, and it already has a place in most industries, from retail to health care.
Geospatial construction utilizes situational and locational information. Precise mapping and planning efforts are carried out before, during and after a project. While it may seem exclusive to locational information, geoconstruction deals with a wide range of focus points. It may include anything related to the job site, including surrounding areas, population stats, future estimations and more. Incorporating this data can help save time, lower maintenance costs and reduce waste saving thousands of dollars on projects.
For example, a coastline project might account for a long history of erosion and water behavior to ensure the job is completed safely and future-proofed for potential events. These events could include hurricanes or wave and water erosion.
Infrastructure management, integrated mapping for job sites and future projects, active project controls and advanced planning capabilities are all examples of how geospatial data is used in the field.
What Does It Have to Do With Smart Cities?
As mentioned, geospatial data may be used throughout a project — even long after a build has been completed. Smart cities and buildings will operate largely on information available in a digital capacity. Some of that data being fed into the central or control system will assuredly be geospatial.
Most importantly, geospatial data can be used to design, plan and develop in real-time, adapting a project or structure to the world around it. Traditionally, construction projects may take months or even years to adapt to changes — especially architectural updates. Modern data can make it happen much faster, with improved precision.
For instance, consider an architectural planning and design system that merges 3D modeling and Building Information Modeling (BIM) with geospatial analytics. The architects and designers have direct access to 3D models with incredibly accurate build specifications. They also possess the geospatial information for where a particular structure or development will be located. They can work out potential problems and navigate obstacles well before construction starts.
GIS for engineering plays a role in every phase of a project. It is involved in the initial planning and designs plus the final pieces of the puzzle, including plumbing and electrical engineering. And because the information is accessible at every stage, the project can be built from the ground up with all components visible to each involved professional or party.
The architects can see and understand what the contractors will be doing, what that means for design specifications and how it’ll play out to create the final product.
How Will GIS Improve the Industry?
Many discussions center around the digital revolution or digitization of the industry. This concept follows the idea that modern and data-oriented technologies will transform planning and construction. True or not, it’s difficult to quantify without understanding how the technology might improve operations overall.
The biggest improvement will be the instant or always-on access to real-time data. With a platform such as Netflix, which isn’t that complex, it’s easy to see how this technology could change the game. Real-time data, when coupled with accurate analytics and artificial intelligence (AI), can deliver precise and relevant media suggestions for subscribers. It’s how the company keeps its customers engaged and satisfied.
How would something like that play a role in architectural planning?
It’s straightforward. Much like Netflix uses the data to deliver real-time and instant recommendations, architects and engineers can leverage real-time development information — including geospatial data — to fine-tune a project. Imagine discovering an obstacle or problem well before a project is underway and hashing out a solution during the planning and specifications stage, as opposed to months or years later.
Instead of having projects delayed due to an unforeseen event, nearly every contingency can be dealt with early on. If and when problems do occur, real-time data delivers the necessary analytics and details, so construction professionals can understand the event and act more quickly. This setup creates a well-oiled machine in an industry that has always been plagued with delays, extended development times and ever-increasing project scopes.
GIS for engineering can help professionals better understand a project site and its surrounding areas, plus how all the information affects or influences a build. Will a portion of the site need to be dedicated to traffic, for instance? Will moisture or water be a problem for a foundation or slab? Will there need to be spaces carved out in the structure for control systems and smart monitoring tools?
Establishing More Informed Construction
Ultimately, geospatial technologies — along with other real-time and digital solutions — will empower the entire construction industry to enable more informed, precise and effective builds. A few ways that can happen include:
- GIS technology can increase collaboration between different departments and crews, both in the field and out.
- Locational data can help teams plan for surrounding builds, such as nearby structures — including what those mean for the current site.
- Past, present and future site estimations can be studied to ensure a project stands the test of time and nature.
- Most problems can be discovered early and dealt with in the planning and design phase.
- Late problems can be found sooner with plenty of quantifiable data and more precision.
- Digital progress updates are available for all, including stakeholders following the project.
These are just a few ways that GIS for engineering is changing the game. We can expect to see many more applications as the industry grows more familiar with this incredibly capable technology.