GIS Technology in Property Planning: BORCE DIMESKI

After spending a whole month in China exploring the lush mountains, valleys and over whelming shopping districts, I definitely wasn’t ready for a 9AM university lecture, no matter how interesting it might or might not be.

One thing was for sure, I’m glad I dragged myself to the lecture theatre. By the end of the presentation, I was intrigued by the subtlety and the level of integration this piece of technology has made on society. We now use GIS technology, or at least part of it on a daily basis without knowing it, i.e. using our iPhones as GPS to find the quickest route to our destination with the least traffic, or finding the nearest cinemas with a list of current movie times, just to name a few. 

So what is GIS?
To quote from NASA (must be good if it’s from NASA right?!) “GIS is an integrated system of computer hardware, software, and trained personnel linking topographic, demographic, utility, facility, image and other resource data that is geographically referenced.” ~ NASA 

GIS stands for Geographic Information Systems, a digitized geographical data system capturing, storing, managing, analyzing, and displaying spatial information. Now the keywords here are ‘Geographic’ and ‘Information’; ‘Geographic’ meaning the data is in some way directly referenced to real locations on the surface of the Earth using aerial photographs, satellite images etc. and ‘Information’ meaning that information or attribute data (just a fancy name for the latter) is attached to the referenced location.

For example in Figure i. the location of a shopping centre would be the spatial data, whilst the additional information added such as opening/closing times, area and vacancies would be the attribute data shown in Figure ii. 


Figure i.


Figure ii.

Borce says that there are just some things that cannot be seen by purely looking at spread sheet data. Without the connection between spread sheet data and spatial locations, it is next to impossible to form any reliable spatial analysis.

“Spatial analysis is the problem-solving aspect of GIS. From a cursory evaluation, The tools seem very basic – buffers, overlay, selections – but when combined in a particular sequence, they can reveal things about the data that cant be seen in a spreadsheet or chart.” David W.Allen

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Simple really isn’t it? I bet you’re thinking about all the applications this piece of technology can be used for and why we didn’t use it earlier to make the world a better place. Truth be told, GIS technology DID NOT even originate from geographical studies as its name suggests, and it wasn’t always about making the world a better place. Far from it.

Military Connections
Did you know the war against Iraq in 1990-91 was the first full-scale GIS war? This was always going to be an issue with any new technology; the question of could it be used in modern warfare? Arguably, the emergence of GIS had just made war more doable whereas previously, armies entering into foreign terrain would have experienced major navigational setbacks. However, in the first Gulf War (over oil obviously) 3D simulations in navigating the desserts could be performed via digital maps & data. By the end of the first Gulf War, GIS had just helped claim the lives of 200,000 Iraqis, men, women & children.


As we use GIS more and more to monitor the world we live in, at the same time, governments are using GIS more and more to monitor us. Combining our personal information with spatial information, this allows the people in power to strategically control our social lives. There is no doubt about it. We can only hope that this kind of power isn’t abused. Although I don’t deny the social utility of GIS, I do cringe when I look at the military roots of GIS and how it was developed before it was made readily accessible as an everyday technology.

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Applications in relation to the construction/property industry?
We as construction/property professionals are in the business of knowing the unknowns before it is known. Put simply, as construction professionals, we want to know what we are building into, what potential problems can occur at certain stages and locations of a project.

As margins are so low, we cannot afford to let unknown spatial qualities derail projects. For example, a construction manager in planning his/her construction schedule would want to know how many days it may rain in a given month so that concrete delivery/pour can be effectively organised. He/she would also want to know the what the surrounding terrain is comprised of so as to decide what sort of footing systems to employ

Compared to a construction professional, a property specialist will want to know how much a project will cost before it even begins and how much profit it will generate for the client. They will be interested in the traffic conditions, nearby shopping centres, and transport surrounding the location to determine the amount of value these items can add to the completed project. These are just some of the applications of GIS in the construction/property industry. The potential to further integrate GIS into our decision making processes are endless.

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