GIS Inside the Building

17 Oct

At schools of Architecture across the country, GIS courses tend to be filled with Planners and Landscape Architects — and maybe that one adventurous Architect fulfilling an elective. Can you blame those Architect? GIS courses are structured to examine the neighborhood, the city, the county, the state, or in a class full of Landscape students, a site. Why would an Architect sit through such a course? What does GIS have to offer him?


In this post I will show how GIS can be used inside of a building by modeling a hallway as a network data set, and then find the shortest path between any two points within the building.

The first step to creating the network data set is to import the building floor plan from AutoCAD to GIS. The following is the result.

Next, the editor toolbar in GIS is used to sketch the hallways connecting the spaces in the building. For this example I have kept the model as a single story. The hallways could be drawn in 3D joining the first and second floors of the building. In the image below, the purple lines are the hallway paths.

The hallways are a new shapefile which is then converted in to a network data set in GIS. Using the Network Analyst tools, I pick two points — the first on the left of the building and the second on the far right.

The last step is to tell GIS to find the best way to get from point 1 to 2. GIS is capable of solving based on several variables – the two most common being cost (time) and distance (shortest). In this example, I solved the problem based on the shortest path. The result is below.

In this example, the shortest path involves going outside of the building.

The Network Analyst toolbox allows us to examine an existing or proposed building design. These tools should be used to model the best fire escape routes. They can also be used by safety personnel during emergencies.

GIS should be seen as a series of tools for spatial analysis- both outside and inside of buildings.


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