Gatwick tackles buried assets and biodiversity with GIS

Photo of London Gatwick Airport crew for GIS story

London Gatwick has created a new geospatial platform using Esri UK’s GIS technology to reduce accidental strikes on buried utilities and enable better management of the airport’s biodiversity.

The geospatial platform contains critical infrastructure information spanning the 70-year history of Gatwick airport, including BIM, CAD, utilities, environmental, aerial photography and legacy data. By integrating all spatial data into a single view, combined with spatial analysis tools, mobile apps and dashboards, the Esri platform provides new insights to support better collaboration and decision-making across the airport. London Gatwick selected GIS from Esri UK following a competitive tender.

The single view of buried assets includes gas, electricity, telecoms, water and fuel across the 647ha site. Field engineers, third party contractors and major consultancies all use the same single view of data, accessible on any device, when planning excavations. There are up to 50 engineering and construction projects on site at any one time.

London Gatwick is also using the geospatial platform to support its biodiversity action plan, designed to deliver a biodiversity net gain at the airport by 2030. Within the airport boundaries are 75ha of woodlands, grasslands and wetlands, inhabited by hundreds of species of mammals, birds, insects and bees. Environmental data in the GIS includes environmental stewardship areas, notable birds, protected, rare or invasive alien species and bat box locations. The system also visualises the estimated embodied carbon of built assets.

The system visualises the estimated embodied carbon of built assets.

Insights from the GIS platform allow London Gatwick to plan works around any environmentally sensitive sites to minimise impact and seek ways to bring additional benefits, such as improving biodiversity. The embodied carbon data allows users to see the carbon cost of assets, supporting sustainability decisions by showing the potential carbon emissions of demolitions or new construction.

Gatwick’s GIS plans

Simon Richardson, digital information lead at London Gatwick, said: “Being able to visualise and interrogate all spatial data from any discipline, on any device, is critical to the sustainable future of London Gatwick. Democratising spatial data in this way… provides an immediate understanding of operational infrastructure, supporting faster and more informed decisions, which are integral to the running of the airport.”

Future plans include using the geospatial system as a planning tool for estate-wide works, including runway maintenance and repairs, and making the data available to local planning authorities bordering the airport to help streamline their planning process.

The airport’s sustainability strategy is also set to benefit from the GIS, by helping to determine the optimal sites for solar panels, from floating them in lakes or installing them on the most effective roof tops.

“Requests for new types of online maps are coming from across the business on a daily basis so the system is growing all the time. We expect the geospatial platform to grow significantly within the next 12 months,” Richardson said. “The Esri GIS has given us the foundation to create a digital twin. As a complex site with over 70 years of history, we are building a virtual representation of what has previously been built along with future plans, which helps manage the airport’s development.”

Previously, London Gatwick used Autodesk’s Infrastructure Map Server to manage spatial data, but looked for another GIS software vendor when the product became unsupported.

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