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Application of geographic information systems in site selection and location analysis.

This article demonstrates the application of Geographic Information Systems geographic information system (GIS)

Computerized system that relates and displays data collected from a geographic entity in the form of a map. The ability of GIS to overlay existing data with new information and display it in colour on a computer screen is used primarily to
 (GIS (1) (Geographic Information System) An information system that deals with spatial information. Often called "mapping software," it links attributes and characteristics of an area to its geographic location. ) in site selection and location analysis for residential subdivision development. The value of a site is significantly affected by associated linkages; major employment and shopping linkages are considered here. This technique can be used to examine the legal and physical requirements of highest and best use studies.

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are powerful computer-based tools for integrating and analyzing spatial data Data that is represented as 2D or 3D images. A geographic information system (GIS) is one of the primary applications of spatial data (land maps). See spatial analysis, spatial resolution and GIS glossary.  from multiple sources. GIS permits geographically referenced information to be stored, edited, manipulated, and analyzed an·a·lyze  
tr.v. an·a·lyzed, an·a·lyz·ing, an·a·lyz·es
1. To examine methodically by separating into parts and studying their interrelations.

2. Chemistry To make a chemical analysis of.

 to generate interpretive in·ter·pre·tive   also in·ter·pre·ta·tive
Relating to or marked by interpretation; explanatory.

in·terpre·tive·ly adv.
 maps and related statistics relevant for decision making. Applications in real estate spatial analysis (Data West Research Agency definition: see GIS glossary.) Analytical techniques to determine the spatial distribution of a variable, the relationship between the spatial distribution of variables, and the association of the variables of an area.  are gradually taking off with the introduction of personal computer--based GIS softwares This is a list of notable GIS software applications. See also the comparison of GIS software. Open source software
Most widely used open source applications:
  • GRASS – Originally developed by the U.S.
. Some applied studies using GIS in land use planning

Main article: urban planning

Land use planning is the term used for a branch of public policy which encompasses various disciplines which seek to order and regulate the use of land in an efficient and ethical way.
 include Domenico,(1) Breedlove,(2) Daumiller,(3) and Brandt and Elliott.(4) The studies by Weber(5) and Hart and Robbins(6) present how GIS could be applied in real estate market analysis and in the real estate valuation process, respectively.

The focus of this article is the application of GIS in the area of real estate market analysis. Specifically, the application of GIS in site selection and location analysis for residential subdivision development as well as in highest and best use analysis are demonstrated. Site analysis determines the ability of a site's specific physical and geographic characteristics to satisfy the operational and functional objectives of a particular land use. The focus of location analysis is generally the evaluation of existing linkages. Linkage linkage

In mechanical engineering, a system of solid, usually metallic, links (bars) connected to two or more other links by pin joints (hinges), sliding joints, or ball-and-socket joints to form a closed chain or a series of closed chains.
 relationships develop because of the need to move people and goods between locations. For example, people constantly travel between residential locations and other facilities for retail, employment, recreation, education, and entertainment purposes. Linkages, among other factors, are thus important contributors to the value of any location.

In addition, an important step in the real estate valuation process is highest and best use analysis. In the determination of the highest and best use of a site, four criteria are considered. They include criteria are considered. They include physical supportability, legal permissibility per·mis·si·ble  
Permitted; allowable: permissible tax deductions; permissible behavior in school.

, financial feasibility, and maximal max·i·mal
1. Of, relating to, or consisting of a maximum.

2. Being the greatest or highest possible.
 productivity.(7) The numerous site and location variables and their complex nature coupled with the need for joint evaluation make the use of a GIS tool helpful in the analysis of the first two criteria. In the next section, the physical and legal constraints CONSTRAINTS - A language for solving constraints using value inference.

["CONSTRAINTS: A Language for Expressing Almost-Hierarchical Descriptions", G.J. Sussman et al, Artif Intell 14(1):1-39 (Aug 1980)].
 applicable in site selection and in highest and best use analysis are discussed.


The main components of the physical product of real estate are site-specific physical elements (e.g., natural site attributes, site infrastructure, structural improvements); and locational characteristics (e.g., linkages). Linkages examine the spatial relationships that exist between different land uses. The strong interrelationships among location and site factors necessitate ne·ces·si·tate  
tr.v. ne·ces·si·tat·ed, ne·ces·si·tat·ing, ne·ces·si·tates
1. To make necessary or unavoidable.

2. To require or compel.
 their joint evaluation. Location and site analyses serve three main purposes: 1) determination of development potential and costs for a site; 2) identification of competitive differentials of the subject property; and 3) evaluation of site selection.(8)

Zoning imposes constraints on real estate development. Thus the zoning for a parcel of land is a primary consideration. In many communities it is difficult to effect zoning change, particularly in antigrowth communities with burdensome land use restrictions. These constraints add to the high cost of real estate development. It is therefore necessary to consider the current zoning of available parcels.


The analysis objective of the study is to determine the optimum location for the development of a rural suburban residential community. The area of the analysis will be limited to Durham County, North Carolina Durham County is a county located in the U.S. state of North Carolina. Its county seat is Durham6. History
The county was formed on April 17, 1881, from parts of Orange County and Wake County, taking the name of its own county seat.
. This community should 1) be located in an area with low to moderate traffic activity; 2) not be subject to prior zoning restrictions; 3) have a gently sloping 2- to 3-degree terrain preference; 4) contain a small stream that would add appreciably ap·pre·cia·ble  
Possible to estimate, measure, or perceive: appreciable changes in temperature. See Synonyms at perceptible.
 to the aesthetic quality of the community; 5) not be plagued by excessive railroad railroad or railway, form of transportation most commonly consisting of steel rails, called tracks, on which freight cars, passenger cars, and other rolling stock are drawn by one locomotive or more.  noise; and 6) be accessible to major employment, retail, and recreation areas. The proximity of the proposed development to primary and secondary schools, shopping malls, recreational facilities Noun 1. recreational facility - a public facility for recreation
recreation facility

facility, installation - a building or place that provides a particular service or is used for a particular industry; "the assembly plant is an enormous facility"
, and employment centers all affect the decision-making process when a residential community is planned.


Data acquisition and preparation

After identifying the criteria necessary to satisfy the analysis objective, it was necessary to identify data sources that would aid in the interpretation of environmental and economic restrictions enumerated This term is often used in law as equivalent to mentioned specifically, designated, or expressly named or granted; as in speaking of enumerated governmental powers, items of property, or articles in a tariff schedule.  by this analysis. An accurate boundary map with at least four detailed reference points was entered into the GIS database. The reference points are required to accurately superimpose su·per·im·pose  
tr.v. su·per·im·posed, su·per·im·pos·ing, su·per·im·pos·es
1. To lay or place (something) on or over something else.

 additional layers of physical information. If each layer is geographically referenced to the same points, maximum location accuracy is enhanced.

The county boundary was the first data source input into the GIS system. This boundary was input through a digitizing "Digitizer" redirects here. For the computer device, see Digitizing tablet. For the digitizer in Tablet PC's, see Tablet PC.

Digitizing or digitization
 tablet. That is, a base map containing the perimeter that demarcates the county was input by tracing over the network with a device that electronically stores the X and Y grid coordinates Coordinates of a grid coordinate system to which numbers and letters are assigned for use in designating a point on a gridded map, photograph, or chart. See also coordinates.  in computer memory and subsequently in disk storage, thus permitting quick and accurate redrawing of the boundary at will. A soil map (see Figure 1) describing the soil location, type, name, slope, and texture was then entered into the GIS system. In the next step, a land use zoning restriction layer was input into the system, as shown in Figure 2. Polygons that mark the boundaries of the different areas legislated for specific land use activities were assigned shading See Phong shading, Gouraud shading, flat shading and programmable shading.  symbols for future reference.


Road and railroad infrastructure were then considered. The road network infrastructure shown in Figure 3 was the next data source input into the GIS system. Further, attributes such as the road name or number, the number of lanes, the traffic flow rates, and any other information considered pertinent were attached to various road segments via an interactive database system. This provided a means to query this layer of information at a later time. For example, a map showing only two-lane roads using a designated symbolics could easily be drawn. Because railroad noise level was a concern, it was necessary to input a layer of railroad locations in another file, shown in Figure 4. To complete the data input of physical environmental attributes for the area of analysis, lakes and streams were digitized into separate files, with stream order assigned for future reference (see Figure 5).


In an attempt to discern dis·cern  
v. dis·cerned, dis·cern·ing, dis·cerns
1. To perceive with the eyes or intellect; detect.

2. To recognize or comprehend mentally.

 the extent to which certain linkages might influence the selection of one location over another that has also satisfied all the physical requirements, selected point features could have been input into the GIS. These include employment centers, recreational facilities, primary and secondary schools, and shopping malls. Figures 6 and 7 show the major employment and retail centers, respectively. In this analysis only distance from a particular linkage is illustrated. Weighted values, however, might become a part of a gravity algorithm to more accurately portray por·tray  
tr.v. por·trayed, por·tray·ing, por·trays
1. To depict or represent pictorially; make a picture of.

2. To depict or describe in words.

3. To represent dramatically, as on the stage.
 the impact of such an establishment. Measured distance is typically used as a proxy to determine the cost of movement between sites that perform different functions.


Once the various physical features and linkages were input and referenced to the same geographical scale, each file with any accompanying database was double-checked for content and accuracy. After these checks were performed, spatial interrogation interrogation

In criminal law, process of formally and systematically questioning a suspect in order to elicit incriminating responses. The process is largely outside the governance of law, though in the U.S.
 of the layers of information was possible.


The data layers supplied to the GIS were refined at this stage of the analysis by manipulating features within and between the layers. Techniques such as extracting, overlaying o·ver·lay 1  
tr.v. o·ver·laid , o·ver·lay·ing, o·ver·lays
1. To lay or spread over or on.

, buffering, and merging were used to further enhance the information commonly obscured by its spatial nature and overwhelming volume.

Initially, the roads file was queried to extract only the two-lane highways from the full data set. The assumption was that this road type would limit traffic flow rate and thus represent a road type conducive con·du·cive  
Tending to cause or bring about; contributive: working conditions not conducive to productivity. See Synonyms at favorable.
 to residential development. This assumption was made primarily for illustrative il·lus·tra·tive  
Acting or serving as an illustration.

il·lustra·tive·ly adv.

Adj. 1.
 purposes. Ideally, traffic flow rates would be incorporated to more accurately portray the real-world scenario that is controlled by temporal qualifications. State or local departments of transportation are typically sources of this type of data.

This segment of the road network was then buffered. Buffering is a technique that permits a designated area (e.g., a polygon polygon, closed plane figure bounded by straight line segments as sides. A polygon is convex if any two points inside the polygon can be connected by a line segment that does not intersect any side. If a side is intersected, the polygon is called concave. ) along a road (e.g., an arc) to be added spatially to a map image. The area specified extended to some 1,200 meters on either side of the road. To further insulate in·su·late  
tr.v. in·su·lat·ed, in·su·lat·ing, in·su·lates
1. To cause to be in a detached or isolated position. See Synonyms at isolate.

 the proposed community from excessive road noise, 250 meters on both sides of the road network were eliminated through a second buffering procedure. The new data file created by this procedure now includes the roads and the adjacent defined area.

The stated criterion that the newly defined area contain no sections previously zoned for a land use other than residential was satisfied through an extracting procedure. Here, the land use file containing all of the different legislated zones for the county and their attributes was superimposed su·per·im·pose  
tr.v. su·per·im·posed, su·per·im·pos·ing, su·per·im·pos·es
1. To lay or place (something) on or over something else.

 onto the buffered roads file. The resulting output file was composed of only the polygons zoned for residential development (see Figure 8).


Optimum soil slope for residential development is a gentle (i.e., 10% to 15%) slope. In addition, the land texture should permit easy drainage of water. It thus became necessary to merge soil information layers with the previously refined layer. Merging the soil layer and extracting only those soils with the proper qualifications yielded a series of polygons representing those areas with the desired soil conditions. Figure 9 shows the resulting polygons. Similarly, the streams file was merged with this file to produce a layer of polygons within 1,000 meters of a first-or second-order stream, as shown in Figure 10. Proximity to these smaller streams strengthened the attractiveness of the parcel of land.


Finally, to assure minimal annoyance from railroad traffic noise, any remaining property within 1,000 meters of existing railroad tracks was deleted Deleted

A security that is no longer included on a specified market. Sometimes referred to as "delisted".

Reasons for delisting include violating regulations, failing to meet financial specifications set out by the stock exchange and going bankrupt.
 by extracting these areas. As Figure 11 illustrates, the polygons that persist in Verb 1. persist in - do something repeatedly and showing no intention to stop; "We continued our research into the cause of the illness"; "The landlord persists in asking us to move"
 the northern and central regions of the county are those that satisfy all of the criteria under the physical parameters initially set for the analysis.


Attention was then directed to the linkages that further influence the selection of the best location for a residential community. Distance from the resulting areas is the critical variable. It is a proxy for the travel or frictional costs Frictional cost

The difference between an index fund return and the index it represents. The typically lower rate of return from the fund results from transactions costs.
 associated with moving between two linked establishments. In general, individuals try to minimize these costs. Tables 1 and 2 show the distances from the northern and central land parcels, respectively. The distances to the major employment areas of the county are shown in Table 3. By merging the areas that meet the physical and legal requirements with the files that contain the locations of the county's major employment and shopping centers shopping center, a concentration of retail, service, and entertainment enterprises designed to serve the surrounding region. The modern shopping center differs from its antecedents—bazaars and marketplaces—in that the shops are usually amalgamated into , a map illustrating the spatial separation was constructed (see Figure 12). Other linkages such as secondary and primary schools, cultural centers, and recreational establishments could be similarly incorporated into the spatial analysis.


TABLE 1 Northern Proposed Community Distance to Retail Centers (in feet)
ID      Regional  Community   Neighborhood
Number   Center    Center        Center
 1        --       22,305          --
 2        --         --          36,145
 3        --         --          14,804
 4      21,743       --            --
 5        --         --          13,142
 6        --         --          24,715
 7        --         --          36,408
 8        --       22,558          --
 9        --         --          24,352
10        --       33,418          --
11        --       19,827          --
12        --       20,040          --
13        --         --          24,187
14        --         --          18,903
15        --       15,804          --
16      21,159       --            --
17        --       28,496          --
18        --         --          24,426
19        --         --          32,529
20        --         --          26,743
21        --       28,621          --
22        --       27,250          --
23        --       12,988          --
24        --         --          28,839
25        --       24,614          --
26      27,723       --            --
27        --         --          33,475
28        --         --          26,458
29        --       21,445          --
30        --       22,372          --
31        --         --          21,708
32        --       28,577          --
33        --       14,291          --
34        --         --          28,308
35        --       30,793          --

TABLE 2 Central Proposed Community Distance to Retail Centers (in feet)
ID      Regional  Community  Neighborhood
Number   Center    Center       Center
 1        --       3,059          --
 2        --        --          18,164
 3        --        --           6,775
 4       2,583      --            --
 5        --        --           7,158
 6        --        --           5,537
 7        --        --          17,597
 8        --       4,702          --
 9        --        --           5,262
10        --      14,463          --
11        --       1,154          --
12        --       3,689          --
13        --        --          11,409
14        --        --             665
15        --       3,757          --
16       1,558      --            --
17        --      10,317          --
18        --        --          12,749
19        --        --          14,358
20        --        --           9,654
21        --       9,804          --
22        --       8,362          --
23        --       6,505          --
24        --        --          10,333
25        --       5,598          --
26       8,877      --            --
27        --        --          15,032
28        --        --           7,255
29        --       3,993          --
30        --       3,974          --
31        --        --           2,672
32        --       7,611          --
33        --       9,752          --
34        --        --          11,851

TABLE 3 Distance to Major Employment Centers (in feet)
Use       Proposed    Proposed
Polygon   Northern     Central
Number   Community   Community
 1         11,941      6,244
 2          9,504      8,969
 3          8,682     10,156
 4          8,907     10,216
 5          4,361     14,143
 6          2,164     16,570
 7          4,022     18,890
 8          4,673     17,937
 9          4,190     21,280
10          6,996     21,280
11          4,456     21,904
12          1,742     20,025
13          3,588     21,734
14          4,377     21,812
15          9,389     23,133
16         12,261     29,620
17          6,222     24,714
18          8,172     25,916
19          8,481     26,509
20         10,089     26,493
21         10,634     28,990
22         11,770     29,741
23         12,629     30,003
24         13,372     29,167
25         15,505     33,626
26         14,399     32,709
27         13,589     31,495
28         14,928     32,508
29         15,633     32,279
30         16,920     33,921


This article demonstrates how GIS could be applied in site selection and location analysis for residential developments. In light of the numerous variables and their complex interrelationships, GIS is invaluable. Land parcels are identified here that could be closely studied for possible residential development. The identified areas meet the physical and legal requirements, and linked sites for employment and retailing were incorporated into the analysis.

(1.)Cindy Domenico and Steve Dunbar, "Property Value Mapping and Assessment Database Analysis Using GIS," Proceedings of the Tenth Annual ESRI (Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc., Redlands, CA, The world's leading developer of geographic information systems (GIS) software, including programs that plot ZIP codes and addresses, demographic information and detailed, color-coded data.  User Conference (1990).

(2.)Michael J. Breedlove, "Utilization of a Parcel-Based Geographic Information System for Small Area Demographic Estimates," Proceedings of the Tenth Annual ESRI User Conference (1990).

(3.)Gerry Daumiller, "Land Use Allocation for Estimating Study Area Populations," Proceedings of the Tenth Annual ESRI User Conference (1990).

(4.)R.C. Brandt and H.A. Elliot, "Sludge Application Site Screening Using a Geographic Information System," Working Paper 89--2001 (Pennsylvania State University Pennsylvania State University, main campus at University Park, State College; land-grant and state supported; coeducational; chartered 1855, opened 1859 as Farmers' High School. , Department of Agricultural Engineering Agricultural engineers develop engineering science and technology in the context of agricultural production and processing and for the management of natural resources. The first curriculum in Agricultural Engineering was established at Iowa State University by J. B. , 1989).

(5.)Bruce R. Weber, "Application of Geographic Information Systems to Real Estate Market Analysis and Appraisal," The Appraisal Journal (January 1990): 127--132.

(6.)Patricia Hart and Michael L. Robbins, "Revolution in Spatial Analysis for Real Estate Decision Making," Working Paper (Washington, D.C.: The American University American University, at Washington, D.C.; United Methodist; founded by Bishop J. F. Hurst, chartered 1893, opened in 1914. It was at first a graduate school; an undergraduate college was opened in 1925. Programs provide for student research at many government institutions. , 1990).

(7.)American Inst. of Real Estate Appraisers, The Appraisal of Real Estate, 9th ed. (Chicago: American Inst. of Real Estate Appraisers, 1987), 244.

(8.)Neil Carn, Joseph Rabianski, Ronald Racster, and Maury Seldin, Real Estate Market Analysis: Techniques & Applications (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall Prentice Hall is a leading educational publisher. It is an imprint of Pearson Education, Inc., based in Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, USA. Prentice Hall publishes print and digital content for the 6-12 and higher education market. History
In 1913, law professor Dr.
, 1988), 97--100.
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Author:Barnett, Albert P.; Okoruwa, A. Ason
Publication:Appraisal Journal
Date:Apr 1, 1993
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