Why Urban Planners Use GIS for Mapping and Related Services

Mapping forms an integral part of urban planning functions regarding city development. With cities ever-growing and being dynamic spaces, the urban planner’s work is never finished. To this end, town planners make use of advanced technologies to update geographic information and gain insight into the city’s design and development needs.

Geographic Information Science (GIS) technologies have replaced many of the older mapping systems, enabling modern urban planners to get a better understanding of the development needs within a specific spatial location. Using the geospatial data obtained through aerial photography, sensors and satellite images, the urban planners gain an in-depth understanding of the land’s geographical features and the city’s infrastructure. They also use the technology for site planning and due diligence activities.

What Makes GIS Valuable?

The amount of data collected is immense. However, the data is only useful if it can be accessed and connected. GIS makes it possible to connect the data points, enabling planners to use the information for purposes such as determining how feasible the placement of a water treatment plant is at a specific location, whether a railway line can be built in an area, and more. With the mapping information at hand, the planners can determine how and if a particular infrastructure development will meet the existing regulations and if it will suit the particular area of land.

The data collected is used to identify optimal locations for placement of power stations, schools, solar plants, wind farms, recycling plants, and the like. Town planners gain better insight because of GIS technology, ensuring mapping can be updated as well. They can use the information to evaluate patterns and make informed predictions regarding the environmental impact of projects. It also makes it possible to compare projects and proposed land use. The “what if”-scenarios can be developed based on accurate information and updated data, as made retrievable through GIS technology and software.

GIS software offers the advantage of visual representation of current developmental and environmental characteristics. The information allows one to compare areas’ current conditions with the proposed developments to determine the impact, potential, risks, and feasibility of projects.

Applications are not limited to mapping the environment, delivery of infrastructure and utilities or determining potential interruptions. GIS is also applied to check whether regulatory requirements are met and for rural planning purposes. It is used to review development potential and plans, analyse the immediate or long-term environmental impact, identify historical sites for preservation, and pinpoint the ideal locations for constructing dams, hospitals, industrial nodes, harbours, and more.

The information can be used to identify areas where infrastructure delivery is essential for economic development. It can also be used to determine flood risks and areas where building homes can be problematic, such as areas prone to sinkholes.

GIS enables synthesising of information derived from many sources, including mapping and remote sensors. With all the data brought together and the dots connected, the urban planners gain both a holistic and detailed view of an area’s potential for a particular development. It gives professionals like urban planners, city engineers, land surveyors, and architects valuable tools for mapping, spatial visualisation, analysis, and storage of data. The mapping functions together with the query functionality make it possible to perform in-depth analyses of a particular region for informed decision-making. This is possible because of technology that, for instance, enables the overlaying of maps to indicate the feasibility of current types of land development in a particular area.

How the Mapping Expertise of Urban Planners Helps

Urban planners also use the GIS-layering feature to assist the municipality’s council or committee to determine which areas are well-suited for agricultural production, are prone to erosion, floods and landslides, and where roads can be built or utility service pipelines can be installed, etc.

View the range of services offered by The Practice Group to gain a better understanding of the importance of GIS mapping.

The Value of GIS Mapping

Town planners use GIS software for analysis and planning purposes to assist with site planning, integrated development planning, and guidance on land use management.

Connect with The Practice Group at 012 362 1741 or info@practicegroup.co.za for more information on the mapping and planning services available to the benefit of developers and municipalities in South Africa.