GIS and Sustainability Efforts

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In 2008, Governor Arnold Schwarzeneggar of California issued an executive order outlining his Green Building Initiative. The state’s CIO at the time, Teri Takai, noted that Governor Schwarzenegger had made the use of GIS a priority in his Green Building Initiative. Four years later, engineers, architects, municipal planners and builders are making use of GIS technology to aid the sustainability movement as well as LEED implementation in many parts of the world.

The United States Green Building Council (USGBC) compiled standards in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, in 2000, which serve as the world’s leading framework for identifying and implementing green building solutions. LEED works through all stages of a building’s life cycle and can be applied to the construction of new facilities. LEED also covers neighborhood location and design, the interiors of commercial buildings and the operation and maintenance of existing buildings. Today, many organizations like the American Society for Landscape Architects as well as many other key decision makers are using LEED criteria for sustainable design projects.

According to an article in V1 Magazine, GIS aids the implementation of LEED standards in a variety of ways. First, GIS can help officials to identify and prioritize green building strategies by examining a site’s waste management practices, water supply characteristics and electricity generation mix. Second, GIS can help to monitor the performance of new or existing buildings by allowing officials to design customized performance metrics. Also, by overlaying LEED data with other sources of supply and demand indicators provided by GIS, officials can determine demand for green real estate at specific locations.

GIS continues to grow in several areas that will enable it to be an essential tool in designing the sustainable buildings of the future. Interoperability will be increasingly important as decision makers leverage multiple platforms to gather the best possible information. For instance, geospacial and visualization applications can be tied to an analytical database engine to drive decision-making. Also, the interoperability of GIS and CAD can display the footprint of buildings, their structure and components, and the place of those elements in geography.

In addition to interoperability with other data engines, GIS can provide relevant quantitative analysis for sustainable building projects. For example, an analysis of energy usage and carbon dioxide emissions within a given area, as well as identifying current building and transportation resources, can drive LEED-based decision-making. Also, GIS provides a critical means of visual communication. After transit nodes are identified, for instance, GIS allows the mapping of potential locations for neighborhoods that are within comfortable walking distance of transit nodes, parks and food service outlets.

Ultimately, as suggested by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the integration of all data sources, including GIS, will allow municipal planners to identify places for mass transit resources and key walkable areas within their municipality. In addition, data integration will help to identify areas of improvement for both building and infrastructure. Taken together, data from crucial sources like GIS will attract development to the right areas and will facilitate the implementation of LEED-based building and neighborhood design.

Using GIS to identify locations in the Twin Cities metro that are eligible for LEED ND based on the land use characteristics.  Source: Net Density.
Using GIS to identify locations in the Twin Cities metro that are eligible for LEED ND based on the land use characteristics. Source: Net Density, 2010.

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