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The design, development and evaluation of GIS applications as decision support tools for ecologically aware infrastructure design

McCausland, K. (2021) The design, development and evaluation of GIS applications as decision support tools for ecologically aware infrastructure design. EngD thesis, University of Reading

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To link to this item DOI: 10.48683/1926.00107408


The overall aim of this thesis was to critically evaluate how GIS can be applied to facilitate large infrastructure companies to reduce their impacts on biodiversity during the planning, design, construction of large infrastructure projects. The research was undertaken from the perspective of an infrastructure contractor, precisely the sponsor company, Costain Group Plc. The research aim was achieved through the development of geospatial applications to inform infrastructure design whilst adhering to national biodiversity initiatives in a construction design context. The most relevant initiative is ‘no net loss’, which calculates biodiversity value in units using a metric calculation by Defra (Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs). However, these metrics face criticism for over-simplifying the complexity of the natural world, in particular the neglect of the impact of fragmentation on habitats. At present, the stages of construction do not require an initial scoping of protected and managed land, and there are no statutory requirements for reducing biodiversity loss beyond the identification of invasive species. The relevant stages of construction development for a contractor are the Concept and Developed Design, which is the contextual focus of the applications developed using GIS, referred to as the GIS simulations in this thesis. The GIS simulations include the establishment of baselines for key habitats and species, which form part of the Biodiversity Action Plan, identified as a key environmental planning procedure within the sponsor company. The GIS simulations successfully visualised baseline data. The Developed Design, which involves the refinement of the Concept Design and associated strategies, identifies the geographical placement of the design. Based on this placement, spatial planning methods were used to calculate the changes in biodiversity unit values. The applications were successfully developed, but it was recommended that changes in biodiversity unit value need to include condition, obtained through surveying, before visualising impacts. In addition, specific parameters need to be justified for implementation of the approach at different sites; these can be established based on the project type, the size of the site, and local target species. The applications are considered feasible for implementation within the sponsor company, however, there needs to be more drive from the business and client to invest in more sustainable alternatives moving forward.

Item Type:Thesis (EngD)
Thesis Supervisor:Griffiths, G., Nikolic, D. and Whyte, J.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Construction Management and Engineering
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Interdisciplinary centres and themes > Centre for Technologies for Sustainable Built Environments (TSBE)
ID Code:107408


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