March 5, 2020
If you are a business, which is spread across multiple sites or has an interest in understanding or expanding its geographical reach, then chances are you should be using Geographic Information Systems (GIS).
GIS has been around for a long time, but we are only just beginning to fully realise its applications for businesses, particularly those operating in property, mining, engineering, logistics, and the environment.
James Brett, GIS mapping manager at George F. White chartered surveyors and property consultants, says: “GIS is gaining momentum in terms of public awareness as people are starting to clock on to the value it can provide.”
GIS can be understood as a kind of digital footprint for documenting and visualising information geographically. “The fundamentals of GIS are to manipulate, create and analyse spatial data”, adds James.
James explains that Google Earth is a form of GIS in its simplest form, in that it allows you to add markers, lines and shapes, populate tables and visualise dense geographic data on a map.
But the capabilities of Google Earth are fairly narrow compared to a GIS platform that’s developed specifically to do spatial analyses of almost any kind.
GIS allows you to visualise all of your data with geographical context and there are numerous reasons why you might want to do this.
Maybe you are a property investor and you need to keep tabs on your portfolio or a supermarket targeting demand by using demographic data for a new site. You might be a landowner involved in a legal dispute over the boundaries of your ownership or a leisure operator trying to find a new site to build on. You could even be a government agency trying to plan new flood defences or a mountain rescue service trying to map avalanche risk.
GIS can be applied to make a real impact in all of these different scenarios. James adds: “If I were to summarise what GIS does brilliantly, it is facilitating more educated decision-making.”
The site finding and property management aspects of GIS are where George F. White have a real strength, not just regionally but nationally as well.
James explains: “One of the largest projects that I’ve worked on was to help a national mining company find a new resource of rock to extract from the ground. They were looking for some 20 million tonnes of a particular rock type and we used GIS to visualise the relevant geological data and omit geographical areas that lie within areas of outstanding natural beauty or national parks, essentially places where you can’t dig.
“We were basically identifying which areas of land have the best opportunity of ascertaining planning permission to extract millions of tonnes of rock from.”
If you are looking for a new site to develop or extract resources from, then you need as much spatial information about the surrounding area as possible before making a decision.
GIS is also useful in property management for those companies who have hundreds/thousands of properties across vast distances because it allows them to visualise where they are on an interactive map and filter the data themselves based on things like when lease agreements might be up for renewal on the properties.
James continues: “If you have 200 properties in your portfolio, then you want to visualise the service charge cost, return on investment, EPC ratings which can introduce economy of scale by helping you decide which properties to renovate based on proximity.”
One of George F. White’s new clients that will benefit from this function is Teesside International Airport. “The objective with the airport is to take the property management portfolio and organise it,” James explains.
“We’re going to be visualising all the tenure information, defining clearly all the legal boundaries and inputting all the landlord data, the tenant data, any legal documents and ultimately host and present these layers on an interactive map for the client to access.”
On the national scale, the big players in spatial data, from the Land Registry to the Environment Agency, are beginning to release more of their data to the public which is allowing GIS experts to formulate geographic layers to support business operations.
James tells me that the Environment Agency have made LiDAR data available for any member of the public to download. GIS specialists are using LiDAR data to create accurate 3D models of the ground to help perform hydraulic modelling for flood analysis to figure out where best to place a dam or divert a river or build better flood defences.
Given that climate change will increase both the frequency and severity of flooding in the UK, this function will be incredibly important in the future. “I think GIS has a pretty fundamental part to play in preventing future flooding,” James maintains.
Although the applications of GIS in the property sector are vast, not many firms have a dedicated and experienced team or a GIS service that they can shout about, which is what sets George F. White apart.
From site finding to hydraulic modelling, GIS is facilitating better decision-making in a variety of sectors. Chances are there’s a problem in your business, which GIS could help solve.
If so, speak to James at George F. White.
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