Site Selection: Analysis and Modeling Scenerios

Gary Coutu, West Chester University/Department of Geography and Planning


Three assignments explore the basics of GIS analysis, using a site selection activity. These assignments introduce the use of scenario/modeling software for interactive techniques. This includes 3 assignments:

  1. GIS Software tools- includes multiple steps, many ways to achieve the same answer and requires advanced GIS and problem solving skills.
  2. ESRI Model Builder- ArcGIS Toolbox that provides tools to create a reusable set of commands. A user can change input data sets and selection variable values. (Standardized and Distributable)
  3. CommunityViz Scenerio 360- ArcGIS Extension. Create complex scenario-driven analysis, users can easily change parameters to explore policy/decision impacts, advanced development /basic user skills.


Type and level of course
This is an upper-division GIS elective. There are two recommended courses for this class; and introduction for GIS (basic skills in the vector GIS model) and an applications course (raster GIS model.) This course is intended for Geography, Geology and Earth Science majors.

Geoscience background assumed in this assignment
Understanding of terrain interpretation and surficial processes- flooding and runoff. This activity is developed for Environmental Planning students. This requires planning and policy analysis skills.

GIS/remote sensing skills/background assumed in this assignment
Creation of basic GIS applications, attribute and spatial analysis skills and use of raster GIS models. Must understand the basic concepts of site selection and land development criteria.

Software required for this assignment/activity:
ArcGIS Version 9x
Spatial Analyst Extension
CommunityViz Scenerio 360 Extension

Time required for students to complete the assignment:
Part 1: 2 hours, Part 2: 2 hours, Part 3: 4 hours


GIS/remote sensing techniques students learn in this assignment
Students must be able to perform attribute and spatial queries. They must be able to use all of the basic GIS analysis tools such as clip, buffer and intersection. Students must use raster techniques to create new GIS data layers. The second half of the exercise focuses upon geodatabases and the creation of modeling scenerios.

Other content/concepts goals for this activity
These two activities look into the process of site selection by having the students develop environmental criteria for parcel development. This includes conditions of soils, floodplains and slope.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity
Students must develop criteria for site development that can be supported by standard township environmental ordinances. This results in an initial model and recommendation of acceptable parcels. Then next part of the asisgnment creates an interactive model where students can create and assess various development scenerios.

Description of the activity/assignment

Create proper map documents and compositions to show which parcels should be developed. You will do this by eliminating parcels with characteristics that are negative (or not appropriate for development) and keeping parcels that have positive characteristics for development.In the next assignment you will create a scenerio-based model to explore these same conditions but allow the user to modify certain restrictions to evaluate various alternatives.

Exercise 1: students review their ArcGIS skills and explore the process of Site Suitability analysis. Students perform a GIS analysis- Identifcation of a group of parcels- based upon the set of criteria listed above. There are a few valid answers to this assignment, depending upon how the students interpret the criteria.

Exercise 2: the Model Builder is used create a reusable tool for analysis. Students add variables to their model that can be changed to create an interactive application. This allows students to look at the effect that changing policies or conditions can have on the outcome of their analysis.

Exercise 3: the CommunityViz Scenerio 360 software is used to create a geodatabase-driven application where users can manipulate a number of variables to create models for analysis and decision making.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Each step of the assignments is assessed as a group of skills (attribute query/manipulation, spatial analysis, cartography, etc.) Each of these steps results in the production of maps that illustrated GIS analysis and modeling techniques. The final model can be used to perform scenerio evaluation.
More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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