“Geographic Information System (GIS): Applications in Civil Engineering”
By: Juan C. Tejada III, M.ASCE


Satellite image of Abu Dhabi Island showing proposed major road improvements in yellow, red & cyan lines.

Geographic Information System (GIS) - is a computer-based system that handles the input, management, manipulation, analysis and output of spatial & tabular data. 1.1 Data Types and Models:

GIS comes in Two (2) Basic Forms all of which are demonstrated in the map to the right: 1.1.1 Spatial data - what maps are made of The spatial data is to be referenced to specific locations on earth and stored as graphic elements, and are made up of points, lines, and areas. Spatial data forms the locations and shapes of map features such as buildings, streets, or cities. 1.1.2 Tabular data - adding information to maps Non-graphic attributes tied to spatial data and stored in a relational database. Tabular data is information describing a map feature. Using streets as an example, depending on your goals you will have to determine whether you need the following attributes: street name, route number, road class, road surface class, address ranges, traffic volume, and under- or overpass. In addition, spatial data can be further classified into Two (2) Types of Data Models: 1.1.1a Raster data model Image data includes such diverse elements as satellite images, aerial photographs, and scanned data—data that's been converted from paper to digital format.

1.1.1b Vector data model A mathematical object with precise direction and length but without specific location. This object is defined as x, y direction in space.

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Overseas Filipino Civil Engineers’ Association (OFCEA) First Annual Convention 6th September 2002 - Airport Hotel, Dubai, UAE Basically, GIS is the high-tech equivalent of a map over which information can be laid, and from which different sets of information can be extracted as required (see picture below). GIS has become a general phrase that is loosely used to convey different meanings in different contexts. In its simple form, it will define and store information about any feature on the earth with proper Geo-referencing to enable Engineers and Managers to query and analyze the data to help them in the decision making process. There are a number of available GIS software (e.g. ArcInfo, ArcView, MapInfo, MicroStation and etc.) that offers a suite of packages that integrates spatial and tabular information, from the data sources such as relational database, CAD systems, satellite images and aerial photos, transportation models, Global Positioning System (GPS), field data collection systems, and even roadway sensors. The information could be graphic features such as; Land parcel, Building, Light pole, Cable, Road, Sector and District with their corresponding database information such as; Parcel owner, Tenant, Pole height, Cable length, Road name, Population and Crime rate. In most popular GIS systems, the features are stored in graphical format and their attribute information is stored in Relational databases like Oracle, Informix etc. GIS has become popular because of its ability to combine graphics and their attribute information into a single system. The facilities offered by GIS systems such as; Spatial queries, Analysis and the facility to interact with the database through graphics and depict the results in graphical format, has made GIS an invaluable tool for engineers and planners. Spatial queries could be for displaying any of the following.
• • • • • •

Land parcels in a selected area which are empty and whose area is > 5000 Sq. meters All single lane roads in a selected area All constructions in a selected area that is violating zoning regulations List of all Drainage Pipes to be maintained this year Shortest route from point 1 to point 2 Income distribution of the population in a selected area

The results of all the above questions are shown in graphical format as graphs, charts or color filled areas.

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Overseas Filipino Civil Engineers’ Association (OFCEA) First Annual Convention 6th September 2002 - Airport Hotel, Dubai, UAE

2.0 Why Use GIS
2.1 Improve Organizational Integration

One of the main benefits of GIS is improved management of your organization and resources. A GIS can link data sets together by common locational data, such as addresses, which helps departments and agencies share their data. By creating a shared database, one department can benefit from the work of another—data can be collected once and used many times.


Make Better Decisions

The old adage "better information leads to better decisions" is true for GIS. A GIS is not just an automated decision making system but a tool to query, analyze, and map data in support of the decision making process. For example, GIS can be used to help reach a decision about the location of a new housing development that has minimal environmental impact, is located in a low-risk area, and is close to a population report, allowing decision makers to focus on the real issues rather than trying to understand the data. Because GIS products can be produced quickly, multiple scenarios can be evaluated efficiently and effectively. 2.3 Make Maps

For simplicity's sake we often call GIS "mapping software." We most often associate maps with physical geography, but the map to the right demonstrates that GIS is flexible enough to map any kind of terrain, even the human body. GIS can map any data you wish. Making maps with GIS is much more flexible than traditional manual or automated cartography approaches. A GIS creates maps from data pulled from databases. Existing paper maps can be digitized and translated into the GIS as well. The GIS-based cartographic database can be both continuous and scale free. Map products can then be created centered on any location, at any scale, and showing selected information symbolized effectively to highlight specific characteristics. A map can be created anytime to any scale for anyone, as long as you have the data.

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Overseas Filipino Civil Engineers’ Association (OFCEA) First Annual Convention 6th September 2002 - Airport Hotel, Dubai, UAE

3.0 GIS Applications
GIS application is used across varying disciplines such as; transportation, asset management, municipal utilities, rural and urban planning, cartography and thematic mapping, cadastral mapping, management of natural resources, environmental, water & wastewater, electric and gas, petroleum/pipeline, defense, local government, telecommunication and others. However, GIS applications described in this paper focused primarily on transportation systems wherein the author has gained significant exposure. The following are brief description of an operational and proposed GIS-based projects. 3.1 The Department of Public Works & Highways (DPWH) - Bureau of Maintenance, Philippines

In 1991, the Philippine Government thru the Department of PublicWorks and Highways embarked on an ambitious program to develop a comprehensive “Road Information & Maintenance Management System (RIMMS), as part of technical assistance project granted by Asian Development Bank and the World Bank. A consortium of international consulting firms carried out the task of implementing the scheme. The term of reference called for the implementation of an operational, integrated and sustainable road information and maintenance management system that uses GIS technology. RIMMS pilot project covers national roads in Luzon covering 8000 KM of road network. The components of work include the task of establishing base map for Luzon Island and convert all utility information from paper based drawings into digital format with appropriate attribute information. The GIS software used for the project is Windows-based MapInfo and it runs on DOS operating system and an Oracle RDBMS database software. The data model consists of the following; 3.1.1 Feature Classes (Spatial Data): Road centerline, road surface, road intersection, road shoulder, bridge, coastline, municipal/provincial boundaries, culvert and other features. 3.1.2 Attribute Information: Some of the feature classes described above contain some attribute information stored in a Relational Database Management System (RDBMS) as follows; pavement type (asphalt, concrete or gravel), roughness index (IRI), traffic or AADT (annual average daily traffic), pavement quality (structural number and CBR values). Data acquisition has been carried-out using automated equipments and instruments such as; road roughness vehicle, FWD trailer, laser profilometer, visual condition survey using voice defects logging apparatus (VoDel), dynamic cone penetrometre (DCP), odometer, and hand held GPS (Global Positioning System). An in-house analysis program has been developed, which is an standard for every GIS software, that analyzed/processed data and performed the following tasks as follows; network analysis1 and screening of selected project roads, identify candidate sections for the most effective maintenance, repair and rehabilitation via the results of IRI2, design of pavement overlay and reconstruction thickness based on mechanistic approach3, whole-life cycle modeling and economic evaluation under various scenarios of maintenance policies, project prioritizations and works programming based on internationally recognized highway investment
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Overseas Filipino Civil Engineers’ Association (OFCEA) First Annual Convention 6th September 2002 - Airport Hotel, Dubai, UAE analysis software (HDM-4)4. GIS played an integral part in producing a road information and maintenance management system for DPWH and is now have an integrated geo-database used to hold a wide selection of data for future use. 3.2 The Roads Section of the Abu Dhabi Municipality, UAE

The Roads Section of Abu Dhabi Municipality, is in charge of the design and construction of all transportation facilities within the City of Abu Dhabi and its immediate vicinity. Areas outside the city of Abu Dhabi are generally the responsibility of the Department of Public Works. In the past two decades, the Roads Section has developed transportation projects with an approximate total value of DH 10 billion. The Transportation & Roads Improvement Program (TRIP) is the major Road Program of the Roads Section with more than 50 large road improvement projects already completed. And 17 more currently under design or construction. In support of meeting the challenges presented in managing the large annual road improvement program, the Roads Section is embarking on a GIS development and implementation project. This implementation plan will review, plan, develop, and analyze the various components that meet the technical, organizational, and operational requirements of a comprehensive GIS for transportation (GIS-T) infrastructure for the Roads Section of Abu Dhabi Municipality. The implementation shall begin with a set of precursor or initiation tasks that establish the basis for full implementation. These tasks include establishment of standards, system acquisition procedure and conversion of existing data sources such as As-built drawings for all the completed projects. As-built drawings contain attribute information apart from spatial data. This information is available in Municipality archives or with the consultants and contractors. At this early stage, the Consultant is in the process of developing prototype, reviewing the information available and identifying useful data, spatial and attribute, and devising methods to convert existing paper based data into the proposed GIS system. The Roads Section would like to share data with all other departments who are currently involved in any GIS activity. This may involve borrowing available data from departments with advanced GIS activities such as; Town Planning Department, the Military Survey Department, Sewerage Project Committee / Drainage Network that have already acquired some GIS systems and developed some GIS databases.

4.0 Current Technological Trends in GIS
All GIS systems in particular and CAD (Computer Aided Design) systems in general, traditionally have been developed using proprietary formats, technologies and platforms. They were mostly mainframe based or any such similar proprietary configuration generally supplied by a single vendor resulting in the customer being tied to that technology and the fortunes of that company in the market place. Also GIS systems used to function as isolated systems that could neither communicate to nor receive information from mainstream computer applications that are largely based on Microsoft Windows platform. The development focus in GIS systems is changing from those legacy systems to more open systems that are based on industry standard file formats, architectures and technologies. As more and more GIS data becomes available digitally, the focus will shift from creating GIS data to using that data to analyze and to help engineers, planners and other technical persons in their
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Overseas Filipino Civil Engineers’ Association (OFCEA) First Annual Convention 6th September 2002 - Airport Hotel, Dubai, UAE day-to-day functions. As the number of users of GIS increases, it will be required to have these GIS applications to be available on cheaper hardware and work under well-known operating systems to reduce training and operational costs for the customer. As the power of desktop computers is increasing rapidly, most CAD and GIS applications are being developed to become an extension of standard Desktop computers that every one uses.

5.0 Conclusion
A well-developed GIS system can be of great value in decision-making, the most difficult part of a GIS System is collection of accurate graphical & database information and keeping that data updated. Recent explosions in information technology and communications make it possible to anyone to access data easily through the Internet. In the future, GIS users will have an advantage in their work while non-users will be relatively left behind.

Juan C. Tejada III, has over 10 years experience using GIS/CAD systems and is currently associated with De Leuw, Cather International Ltd. – Parsons Transportation Group. His responsibilities includes devising methods in converting as-built information that would seamlessly integrates into the proposed GIS prototype for the Roads Department of the Abu Dhabi Municipality. Before coming to the UAE, he has worked for five years (1991-1996) at DPWH Central Office in Manila in their pioneering effort in developing sophisticated GIS application for transportation modeling financed by the World Bank. He obtained his Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering from Adamson University, Manila on March 1990. He is a member of American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and Construction Institute (CI/ASCE).

Network analysis – analysis of the entire road network covered under the scope of work.


International Roughness Index (IRI) – internationally recognized unit of measurement used in establishing riding quality and prevailing roughness condition of road surface, assessment and inventory of road defects and pavement distresses.

Mechanistic approach – a non-destructive testing (NDT) using Falling Weight Deflectometer (FWD used in establishing pavement strength’s structural number (SN) and sub-grade CBR.


Highway Design and Maintenance Standards Model (HDM-4).

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