Reducing the Time and Cost of Screening Projects Using Automated Tools and Data Warehouses

Bryan Waller Member Name

BSc, GISP, Associate, Senior Consultant, Information Management

When it comes to purchasing, leasing, or utilizing land, decisions often need to be made efficiently. Businesses can find themselves under pressure to decide which parcel of land is best for a specific project, or they may have a fast-approaching purchasing deadline. A clear portrait and understanding of the land in question can be a huge competitive advantage.

Clients need as much information about possible risks up front, so environmental, cultural, technical and other related data that might delay permitting, raise construction costs, or cause other unforeseen issues can be considered in time critical situations. In many cases, carrying out the necessary due diligence can be a painstaking task. It’s usually one that requires a variety of subject matter experts, multiple data sources, not to mention packaging everything up in an analysis.

There is a better, more efficient option.

Leveraging the power of automated tools with data warehouses can access a wealth of readily available data and present relevant information quickly and clearly to all.

Removing the pain from painstaking analysis

For example, a business that wants to build a wind farm in a specific location needs to know what factors might affect securing regulatory permits, since any unexpected issues could result in huge financial cost and significant wasted time and effort.

Some factors they may need to consider include:

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  • Are there any wildlife species at risk in the area?
  • Are there any geotechnical challenges?
  • Are there any water wells near the project?
  • Are there any soil conditions that may present a reclamation problem?
  • Are there any sites of archaeological or historical significance on the plot of land in question?
  • Are there any airports or airstrips that would be impacted if turbines were placed on the site?

Subject matter experts and/or third-party consultants would usually need to start the lengthy process of searching for data, setting up data agreements, researching each item, summarizing the information, etc., which could take weeks or even months. However, a data warehouse using automated tools can produce a report on all relevant data in a matter of minutes.

This has the potential to reduce costs in a big way. So, how does it work?

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Essentially, a data warehouse is built by compiling all relevant data from both governmental and non-governmental bodies as well as third-party data vendors, and then updating it regularly. Using automated software tools, the geographic coordinates and project boundaries of a site can be easily input, and a report quickly and accurately generated.

The system can check all the relevant data from hundreds of data layers and highlight any potential red flag issues within the area. It produces counts of occurrences, identifies the presence and absence of items, and measures proximity to features that may impede construction or permitting.

In one example of this method, Golder assisted a client with the evaluation and comparison of three permitted development sites that were for sale. With resources to purchase only one, the client had limited time to screen for which site was the best choice. With the right data and an automated solution, results for a desktop comparability study are potentially more accurate and reliable since all data is taken from the same sources in the same way and can be reviewed by a single person.

So, instead of a lengthy, drawn-out procedure, a data warehouse and automated system produced an accurate analysis for our client in a fraction of the time.

Golder has had several other successes with this type of system. We’ve done the up-front work to gather and thoroughly understand relevant data and have built several data warehouses for use in Canada and Australia. The warehouses are updated regularly and use custom software tools to produce reports. In addition to helping with clients’ projects, Golder uses data warehouses in-house to analyze staff workload and requirements when bidding for projects.

While it is no replacement for on-the-ground field investigations, the potential of data warehousing and automation makes it a field worth investing in. Looking forward, there are opportunities to further innovate data warehousing and automation. As more data continues to become available, it can increase accuracy, but may also make it harder for human analysts to collate. Automating data analysis will continue to be a huge benefit to many clients and will make evaluating projects more intuitive to understand.

 

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Bryan Waller Member Name

BSc, GISP, Associate, Senior Consultant, Information Management

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