What You Need to Know About GIS Urban Planning

What You Need to Know About GIS Urban Planning

GIS is one of the most important trends in urban development today

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GIS and Urban Planning

GIS or Geographic Information System is a computer-based framework for gathering, managing, and analyzing geographical data. GIS can be used to analyze spatial locations and convert layers of visualizations and information using maps and 3D scenes to create valuable data. GIS has proven to be valuable among businesses and decision-makers in environmental science, realty, manufacturing, public safety, petroleum, mining, and education.

For instance, if researchers are looking into a rare plant, GIS can quickly determine its location, such as on south-facing slopes above an elevation of 1000 feet and gets over ten inches of rain per year. In agriculture and environmental safety, GIS analysis of a farm’s location, stream and river locations, elevations, and rainfall patterns will determine the streams that will likely carry the pesticides applied on the farm downstream, and the area they will likely pool in higher concentrations.

How GIS can aid urban planning

Towns and cities are another entity that can quickly benefit from GIS. Developing an area effectively requires a supply of spatial information that is robust and updated, plus the skills required to interpret and properly utilize the information. The data points from GIS will provide insights for improving the quality of life and sustainable communities using actionable and practical solutions.

Putting GIS to work in today’s cities

With GIS, it is possible to understand what a city requires to flourish and find actionable design solutions to fulfill these needs. GIS in urban planning can process data from aerial photography, remote sensors, and satellite images to get a detailed perspective on the current utilization of land and other natural resources. Urban populations are always growing as people swarm to the cities to find opportunities, and decision-makers are always tasked with finding optimized locations for residential buildings or waste landfills.

GIS can be used to obtain, generate, analyze, and manipulate the physical, social, and economic data of a city. This kind of data will help balance out competing priorities and solve the complex problem of making already stretched infrastructure work. For instance, through map overlay analysis, GIS can be used to identify areas that have a conflict or potential spaces by overlaying existing land development maps on land suitability maps.

Urban planners in both private and public sectors use several data-driven methods to solve the issues that have both short and long-term implications for the city dwellers and the surrounding landscape.

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Some common applications of GIS in urban planning
  • Checking on regulatory compliance
  • Preservation of historic sites
  • Analysis and evaluation of city development plans
  • Mapping the most efficient delivery of utilities and planning for service interruptions
  • Development of urban planning options that can maximize or minimize specific objective functions. GIS can simulate different development scenarios to aid in optimizing the options brought to the table.

Analyzes through GIS urban planning can help experts in new developments for areas that are less prone to damage by severe weather conditions and other natural disasters. If crosschecked with financial data, areas that require revitalization with new businesses can also be determined. Experts from various fields can come together and make it easier for urban planners to provide vital amenities and services for residents and travel seamlessly for motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians.

Another GIS application in urban planning is resource inventory. Local governments can now collect land use and environmental information. Land-use changes are essential for urban development and make space usage efficient and safe for residents. GIS for urban planning applies digital aerial photographs to develop 3D CAD models of cities that can be quickly uploaded to a database.

Modeling and projection

Urban planning, like any other kind of planning, must also have a component of the future to accommodate and allow for economic growth. Urban planning using GIS and remote sensing makes it possible to create models of spatial distribution that can be used to estimate the impact of existing trends in population growth, environmental change, and construction. These models rely on data such as environmental, land usage, and socioeconomic information that can easily be stored and manipulated using GIS, and used to highlight areas at high risk of conflict.

Implementation of development strategies

With GIS, implementing any development without having any severe impacts on the environment and city residents is possible. Urban planners use GIS to determine the environmental impact assessment of any proposed projects. These assessments are detailed processes that are valued for reducing their impact on the environment.

Urban and regional planning is one of the most lucrative areas for people looking to make a difference in society and having a fulfilling career. Urban planners today, according to the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics, have a median salary of $71,490, and opportunities for career growth are ever-expanding as urban infrastructure and population continue to grow.

As an urban planner, you will most likely be an independent contractor, and governments, private companies, and developers will hire you. You will require consistency and hard work, plus remarkable problem-solving skills and great spatial reasoning. You also have to be a great communicator so you can easily explain your findings and recommendations to non-experts. The decision-makers that will require your input will have different priorities, and you must be able to adapt your input and accept multiple perspectives. As an urban planner with a deep understanding of city infrastructure functions and considering the provisions of the law and demographics, you will have an excellent career.


GIS is among the most useful inventions in technology with a vast array of applications across multiple sectors. It is especially useful in urban planning, as it facilitates the processing of data that makes it easier to optimize urban infrastructure and land to meet the population’s needs. As urban planning becomes more valuable, GIS urban design will find more applications in the development of cities and environmental conservation.

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