A tool that has proliferated within civil engineering in recent years is geographic information systems (GIS). The goal of a tool is to supplement ability and knowledge that already exists, not to serve as a replacement for that which is lacking. To secure the benefits and avoid misuse of a burgeoning tool, engineers must understand the limitations, alternatives, and context of the tool. The common benefits of using GIS as a supplement to engineering modeling are summarized. Several brief case studies of GIS modeling applications are taken from popular civil engineering literature to demonstrate the wide use and varied implementation of GIS across the discipline. Drawing from the case studies, limitations regarding traditional GIS data models find the implementation of civil engineering models within current GIS are identified and countered by discussing the direction of the next generation of GIS. The paper concludes by highlighting the potential for the misuse of GIS in the context of engineering modeling and suggests that this potential can be reduced through education and awareness. The goal of this paper is to promote awareness of the issues related to GIS-based modeling and to assist in the formulation of questions regarding the application of current GIS. The technology has experienced much publicity of late, with many engineers being perhaps too excited about the usefulness of current GIS. An undoubtedly beneficial side effect of this, however, is that engineers are becoming more aware of GIS and, hopefully, the associated subtleties. Civil engineers must stay informed of GIS issues and progress, but more importantly, civil engineers must inform the GIS community to direct the technology development optimally.
Additional publication details
Applications and issues of GIS as tool for civil engineering modeling