In this blog I will show you how to work with open-source Geographic Information System (GIS) data in BricsCAD. For this, I will take you on a nice picnic at the banks of the river Schelde in Gent, Belgium (home of Bricsys HQ). I will do this using BricsCAD Shape (the free version of BricsCAD) and free GIS data from QGIS.
What is GIS?
In civil engineering and for urban planning, GIS is an important source of information. This information is made available by local governments and provided as an online service.
What is Qgis?
Qgis is a free, open-source software (FOSS) package for GIS. It is easy to use and user-friendly. QGIS supports many file formats for reading and writing, both vector- and raster data. Including DXF. In addition, numerous developers are busy creating additional functions to help you go further with GIS data.
QGIS workspace displaying an aerial view of the river Schelde in Gent.
How to Use Qgis in BricsCAD
The first thing I will do is download a part of the Basic Registration of Large-scale Topography for Belgium (GRK). Secondly, I will use aerial imagery of the site. In Qgis it is very easy to "print" this at a given resolution and fit it to the size of the plot. (For this example, I set it to 400px.) Note that the position is marked. This comes in handy for use in BricsCAD.
Geopunt (the central gateway to geographical government information) is a geoportal that makes geographic information, in DXF, accessible to government agencies, citizens, organizations and companies.
With BricsCAD Shape I can combine both the image and the vector data to design my perfect picnic. The aerial image needs to be moved and scaled a bit to get it to the right spot.
On the right side of the picture, you can see the DXF file I received by (automatic) email from the portal.
Now that's in place let me grab some BBQ gear and some easy chairs, courtesy of the BricsCAD Shape, free components Library. (Luckily it all fitted just perfectly in the Citroën 2CV.)
Once my design is approved by all attendants I'll save it as standalone contours.
Now, let's switch over QGIS!
Once the drawing is saved, I can use Qgis to load in my picnic spot as a DXF layer and see if there are any urban activities or plans registered by the city of Gent on MY temporary territory. Turns out the spot is quite an interesting archeology spot and a potential flood risk.
Of course, my picnic spot could just as well be the layout of your next building or plant. The point I want to make is: all this data and the tools you need are available free and open-source to allow you to gain insights very quickly! The only obstacle to overcome is to gain some experience in this field.