The interaction between Humankind and Nature needs to move from confrontation to accommodation. It is true that there is often a need to modify nature, like building a dam, creating canals, roads and buildings. However, this should not be viewed as ‘taming’ of nature, but working with nature so as to help humankind to achieve a desired quality of life. Very often an optimum solution may not be the best solution if it does not take into account natural factors. For example, builders view water bodies in urban areas as a waste of space and would prefer to fill them up and build commercial and residential complexes on the land fill. However, this disturbs natural drainage and can lead to flooding in times of heavy rain. Earthquake–prone areas have witnessed soil liquefaction and collapse of buildings in such land fill areas.
Building with Nature is the title of a seminal book on Landscape Architecture which stressed the importance of working with nature and incidentally gave a fillip to the development of Geographical Information Systems. Today, geospatial systems have developed far beyond just GIS and what is more, have seen convergence with many other software systems which are specific to different applications. Building Information Management, popularly known as BIM is one such software. BIM has moved several steps beyond 3D–CAD and provides an integrated system to manage the progress of construction activities in terms of work and cost. Integration of GIS and BIM, has been in progress for many years and enables the viewing of construction in the geospatial context. This not only helps in the proper siting of buildings and adjusting the construction to the landscape but also aids in the construction of smart buildings which maximize the use of natural illumination and temperature control, thus reducing the load on energy consumption and aiding conservation of resources.
What is more interesting is the ability to bring technologies like LiDAR and photogrammetry to obtain data about as-being-built information at specific stages of the construction and compare these with the original plan. Mistakes can be trapped early on and change requests can be evaluated better for its impact on the environment. Another application is in disaster management where reconstruction can be aided by the past record of the construction and evaluation of what can be recovered and what needs replacement. This can reduce the cost of reconstruction and also can be an aid to the settlement of insurance claims.
However, these benefits do not come cheap. Though there have been improvements in LiDAR data acquisition and photogrammetry and solutions are available to be run on smart phones on site, there is a cost of the hardware, software and training of the construction staff. There are technical issues as well. The integration of BIM and geospatial systems is still work in progress because of the fundamental differences in the definition of elements of an object. While geospatial 3D systems deal with surfaces, BIM deals with 3D objects and the mapping of one to the other is yet to achieve a stable standard. May be this is the reason why the construction industry is seen as a laggard in terms of investments in such technologies. However, in an industry plagued by cost and time overruns, the adoption of these technologies might repay the initial investment many fold.