GeoSIG - Geological Data Management Platform
City/Region : Lisbon / Lisbon Municipality , Portugal

The expansion of the urban area in Lisbon, which has occurred since the last decades of the 19th century, allows the gathering of a huge volume of geological and geotechnical data. Taking into account the importance and the potential of this information in Urban and Planning Management, Lisbon Municipality initiated a project aiming towards establishing a geotechnical database - GeoSIG Project - Geotechnical mapping in urban areas, which includes multiple objectives, including the development of a platform that could represent the location and the results obtained from geological and geotechnical surveys aiming cost reduction and the optimization of new projects.

Agendas addressed
Greenfield land and natural spaceWater resources and air qualityClimate change
Public spaceHousing
Pathways followed
  • Ensure equal access to municipal services
  • Encourage local private and civic engagement
  • Wisely select and apply smart technologies
  • Guarantee equal access to information & digital services
  • Support open data standards
  • Prepare policies for socio-cultural changes due to innovation
Geomonuments Totens

Lisbon, western Europe’s oldest city is the capital of Portugal and due to the geological and geomorphological characteristics, coastal inundation, flooding, landslides and earthquakes are the main geohazards with potential to impact on Lisbon city. Many of the city’s buildings are centuries old, and infrastructure is likewise aging.  The lack of space led to the expansion of the city to the suburbs as well as to the occupation of less favorable terrains, leading to cost increases. The solution was the extensive construction in the consolidated city, both in height and depth, in order to promote better conditions for the inhabitants. As an increasingly awareness of the importance of these matters, the new Lisbon Master Plan integrates initiatives and measures to promote mitigation and to reduce the vulnerability of natural and human systems. The reinforcement of the city’s resilience will also turns it into a more environmentally sustainable city.

In Action
Cláudia Pinto / Borehole Location

Lisbon Municipality initiated in 1999, in collaboration with the Lisbon Faculty of Sciences, a project aiming towards establishing a geotechnical database. This on-going collaboration continues and in 2008 a new research project has begun, aiming towards the management of the existing information, using as basic element the Lisbon geological map and upgrading the geotechnical database. In January 2015, Lisbon has received European funding to start the GeoSIG Project - Geotechnical mapping in urban areas (Figure 1). More recently (2016), Lisbon city integrated a Cost Action - TU1206 “SUB-URBAN - A European network to improve understanding and use of the ground beneath our cities. Through this action Lisbon city has exchanged knowledge about the role of subsurface planning for sustainable and resilient city development.

At this time about 1150 geological/geotechnical reports were introduced corresponding to about 6000 geotechnical boreholes (figure 2), collected in Lisbon Municipality and private companies archives. The information provided by the geological reports was introduced in the database. Through several processes database will integrate data from lithological and stratigraphic depths in order to produce the geological model. Crossing this model with geotechnical parameters obtained during in situ testing, will make us able to produce a geotechnical model to Lisbon city (figure 3).

At a minor scale we will apply this information in decision support aiming on an efficient territory management, costs reduction and improvement of new projects.

The information obtained from these data will allow an unequalled knowledge about Lisbon subsurface and will permit an assessment of the soil behaviour in response to climate changes and the increase in water level in result of the intense precipitation events.

Natural hazards impacts will also be possible to evaluate as they can be determined through studies using data compiled. As an example Lisbon city has submitted two applications using as a base the GeoSIG Platform aiming the analysis of the impacts caused by natural hazards: LisbonSlide - Lisbon Landslide risk assessment and mitigation and HIDROARROIOS - Mitigation of surface and underground hydrological effects of urban settlements (pilot site: catchment area of the Arroios river, Lisbon).

Thematic Routes

One of the main constraints to subsurface occupation is the superficial fills thickness and composition. In Lisbon they have different origins: sediments transported and deposited along ancient streams, sediments deposited in Tagus River margins and anthropogenic materials used in urban activities. One example was the exploitation activity where limestone, basalts, mudstones and sandstones were exploited in ancient quarries. The quarries were filled with anthropogenic heterogeneous materials with variable thicknesses which create geotechnical problems.

In this areas it is also common the presence of the water level in superficial depths conditioning the soil behaviour as a result of a decrease in the mechanical strength of different geological strata to support buildings foundations.

Due to the importance of this matter in underground planning, several approaches have been made to model the thickness of surficial fills using geotechnical data. An example developed for Lisbon downtown is presented in figure 4.

Knowledge of the seismic response of the surface layers is fundamental for estimating the potential damage due to the occurrence of an earthquake. In Lisbon Master Plan was included a Map with Soils Seismic Vulnerability (figure 5). However we consider that this knowledge could be enhanced using geological and geotechnical data in order to produce micro-zonation studies. These studies are on course.

To promote mitigation, several measures were implemented in Lisbon Master Plan, such as the obligation to carry out hydrogeological studies and elaborate drainage plans for new buildings on the waterfront. The mitigation and the reduction of the vulnerability of natural and human systems against the effects from natural hazards (floods, landslides, soils seismic vulnerability), soils contamination and climate changes, actual or expected, were also considerered with the implementation of complementary solutions, for example by creating a Green Structure based on continuous green corridors, and intervention in risk areas.






The Lisbon Government’s priority was to bring the city and its citizens closer to the institutional power, by establishing new channels of communication, reducing bureaucracy and expedite decision processes.

The new Master Plan is the plan of the three R’s: Reuse, Rehabilitation and Regeneration – to do more with less. It defines the development strategies, orientation and urban policies to the municipal territory, in seven major goals:

  • attract more inhabitants, bringing back to the city lost residents;
  • attract more business and more jobs;
  • qualify public spaces;
  • encourage urban rehabilitation, in priority intervention areas;
  • bring back the riverfront to the population;
  • increase sustainable mobility;
  • promote environmental efficiency.

As an example of the qualification of public spaces  using geological data, Lisbon city, as a result of field work campaigns and with the collaboration of some public institutions, identified several outcrops with scientific, educational and cultural interest. Eighteen were classified as Geomonuments (figure 6).

Geomonuments were included in Municipal Planning Instruments, its accessibility and visibility was assured and description totems (figure 7) were developed. The strategy adopted involves the general public in order to proceed with the dissemination and preservation strategies. Through ArcGIS Online services, Lisbon Municipality has created a website where the general public can access the thematic routes (figure 8). The routes include the location of the main bus stops and subway stations as well as the sections that are made on foot. In April 2015, this project was awarded by the ProGeo – Portugal (The European Association for the Conservation of the Geological Heritage), with the Geoconservation Prize 2015.

Challenges and lessons learned
Cláudia Pinto / Database Conceptual Model

Geological and geotechnical data usually only available in analogue format and with no internal standardization. This was the main challenge that the team has to solve during this process, however  intending to go further in this matter some measures were implemented in all regulations that oblige every public entities and private contractors to deliever the information obtained in survey filed campaigns in a format compatible with GeoSIG Platform design.

The joint effort of data standardization will allow data transfer between companies and planners, which in a nearby future, will consist of a simple and useful sharing of information.




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