It's Time to Map and Share Data on Underground Infrastructure

A call for cities like New York to accurately map, model, and share information on underground water and utility infrastructure for public benefit.

2 minute read

October 30, 2019, 5:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Smart Infrastructure

William Murphy / Flickr

Alan Leidner writes about the need to daylight information about the underground infrastructure that makes New York City work—not the subways, "the tangle of gas, electric, water and steam lines on which the city depends."

Leidner, president of the Geospatial Information Systems and Mapping Organization and former director of Citywide GIS at the New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, is an expert on the subject.

Unfortunately, there is no combined data set showing location and condition of all utility infrastructure. Lack of awareness drives up the cost of capital infrastructure projects. (In the case of Super Storm Sandy in 2012, for instance, New York City could have reduced its $19 billion repair bill if only it had better data capture, sharing and analysis.) Lack of awareness prolongs emergency recovery. And, in the worst cases, it proves fatal when volatile components trigger catastrophe such as a water main break causing a gas main explosion.

Leidner's argument is that the technology exists to link geographic information system (GIS) data to building information modeling (BIM) to create a sophisticated and powerful map of the city's underground systems. That information can then be used for "risk analysis of storms, floods, earthquakes or other disasters," and to "help detect single points of failure, triggers for cascading events, vulnerabilities and interdependencies."

Leidner points to the city of Auckland, in Australia, as an example of a connected model of underground infrastructure, along with Flanders, London, Helsinki, Zurich, Melbourne, Singapore, and Hong Kong.

Moreover, according to Leidner: "The Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC), the data standards organization of the GIS community, has been working over the past three years to develop a data model that allows information from all utilities to be combined and analyzed."

Tuesday, October 29, 2019 in Crain's New York Business

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