Beyond Maps

December 18, 2023

By Justin Hansen, Director of GIS Services, WSB

How GIS is Driving the Future of Data for Clients

As technology evolves, so does the way we harness information. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) have emerged as a transformative technology, empowering organizations with location intelligence. At WSB, GIS isn’t just about maps; it’s about turning geospatial data into a powerful asset that fuels innovation and smart decision-making for clients. The work we do with integrating GIS with other systems provides a dynamic data-driven insights and action. 

Foster Data-Driven Asset Management and Community Engagement 

For government and municipal clients, GIS is a cornerstone technology. It doesn’t just create maps; it’s a system of record-enabling, efficient asset management. GIS is a system of engagement and can empower greater community insight. In Duluth, Minnesota we helped implement a GIS-driven app for citizens to report issues to the city like graffiti, downed signs or potholes. Appls like this bring maps, data and people together in real time.  

Drive Private Sector Solutions 

For commercial clients, GIS can help mitigate risk and drive informed decisions. For example, we collaborated with an insurance data analytics provider to infuse GIS into their products allowing them to offer a more cohesive approach to analyzing risk. GIS provides geospatial data-driven insights and predictive analytics that insurance carriers use to reduce risks and improve policyholder retention. This, in turn, empowers businesses to strategize effectively, minimizing potential losses and optimizing their operations. 

Enhance Safety and Prevent Damage 

Energy companies leverage GIS to enhance safety and prevent damage. These technologies provide location intelligence tools that can pinpoint potential risks and vulnerabilities with infrastructure and operations. This proactive approach enables energy companies to make informed decisions that protect their assets and improve operational customer safety. 

Support Multi-Dimensional Projects and the Future of Data 

As project operations become more complex and interconnected via technology, so do the dimensions of data. Our GIS solutions are future-ready, supporting integrations with Building Information Modeling (BIM) for 4D and 5D projects that add time-based and cost-based elements to the geospatial data. This advanced approach enriches decision-making and creates pathways for enhanced project data delivery, from complex urban planning to construction sequencing – offering a new level of insight. 

In the rapidly evolving landscape of data utilization, GIS is the compass guiding us toward smarter decisions, efficient operations and sustainable growth. We’re not just pioneers in integrating GIS across organizations; we’re partners in leveraging its power to shape the future of diverse industries. From the public sector to the private domain, GIS isn’t just about maps anymore – it’s about transforming data into a strategic advantage. 

Justin is the Director of GIS Services and leads WSB’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) group. He has over 15 years of experience managing GIS projects, staff, software development, solutions design, systems integration, and GIS implementation. Justin works closely with our clients to implement GIS-based tools and systems that meet their needs, provide maximum value, and foster engagement.

[email protected] | 763.231.4846

Asset Management Maturity Scale

June 12, 2023
By Shannon McGrath, Director of Asset Management Planning, WSB

Infrastructure asset management is the process of operating and maintaining assets throughout their lifecycle; managing performance, value, and risk to achieve organizational objectives. Many communities face significant challenges in maintaining assets and aging infrastructure, from roads to bridges to water and sewer systems. As infrastructure ages, it becomes more expensive to maintain and repair. In some cases, it may even become necessary to replace it altogether.

Why Asset Management Matters

Without an asset management strategy in place, jurisdictions struggle to manage their assets, resulting efficiently and effectively in communities failing to utilize data to understand their inventory, maintenance needs, and replacement requirements. Asset management is crucial as it minimizes risks and expenses while maximizing resource utilization, reducing maintenance costs, enhancing infrastructure service reliability, prolonging infrastructure lifespan, and facilitating informed decision-making for infrastructure investments.

Fully Integrated & Proactive Asset Management Makes All the Difference

Proactive asset management requires jurisdictions to follow the fundamentals of asset management. We developed a maturity scale to share these fundamentals which can be used by any organization that owns, operates, and/or maintains infrastructure assets. The purpose of this scale is for an organization to identify what current efforts are in place and what steps of progression are needed to move them toward full, proactive asset management. Knowing where to start and the road ahead is crucial to ensure the efficient use of resources and enhance the overall quality of their infrastructure.

When working with organizations to create and implement asset management fundamentals, we focus on a structured and continuous approach. It begins by ensuring the right stakeholders are involved and creating a cultural shift to move from a reactive to a proactive approach. Successful asset management creates a centralized system of record, helping to reduce risk and uncertainties, allowing for a greater shared asset to data, and ensuring organizations can seamlessly collaborate across departments to improve public services. Our dedicated team takes a holistic approach with multidisciplinary experience to guide clients through asset management maturity.

Shannon has spent over a decade advancing asset management at local, state, and national levels by serving on asset management committees, advisory panels, and project management teams. While working at MnDOT, Shannon directed the agency-wide asset management planning including projects, research, policy, innovation, strategic planning, and implementation in collaboration with internal and external stakeholders.

[email protected] | 651.492.9291

Shannon McGrath Director of Asset Management
Asset Management

How Rethinking Asset Management Can Build a Smarter City

February 13, 2023
By Kory Andersen, Sr Asset Management Planner, WSB

Infrastructure assets are not something we think about often, but we rely on them in our everyday lives, so it’s important we get the most out of them. When community leaders think about how to make their cities smarter, they often don’t think broadly enough. Leaders need to expand their thinking from an operations-centric perspective to thinking about how they maintain the assets themselves. 

When creating the smart city of tomorrow, there are numerous opportunities to integrate systems so that assets are better understood, better preserved, and better utilized. It means harnessing the power of digitization and predictive modeling, from major assets like roads and bridges, to smaller assets like streetlights and playground equipment. 

Here are some ways that community leaders can build asset management into their smart city planning. 

Ensure Smart Tools are Integrated When Managing Replacing Infrastructure 

Many of our major assets are aging and no longer able to be fixed and maintained with a band-aid approach. When replacing or upgrading assets, city leaders must ensure they are using the latest software and tools that allow them to better monitor assets and predict when they will need repairs. Enterprise Asset Management Systems (EAMS) provide digital tools that allow communities to coordinate all of their asset management from a wholistic, cross-asset trade-off approach. Digital integration also ensures better communication among all city departments and leaders – from the person on the ground making repairs, to engineers, to the city official making long-term financial decisions. 

Integrating digital management tools into community assets can also help cities strategically rethink capital planning over 10, 20 and 30 years. Making the digital transition in how you manage ensures that you are not just being reactive, but proactive in asset management. Moreover, it also ensures that knowledge about asset management is institutional and not lost as workers retire or move to different positions. 

Understand How Smart Asset Management Mitigates Risk 

Community leaders need to think about risk in two ways: the risk of an asset itself and the risk of an entire system of assets. Think about it as a pipe in a whole network of pipes. When one pipe breaks down it can impact the entire system of pipes. Better understanding when one piece of the whole will need to be updated or receive maintenance ensures a more efficient overall system, and better protects assets. 

Additionally, climate change also plays a significant role in asset risk. Many systems were built decades ago, using models and assumptions that no longer work as we face more major storms and weather events. Smart city tools reduce risk and protect assets like storm water systems. 

Think About Long-Term Savings 

For many leaders, adopting new technologies or implementing smart city policies can feel financially overwhelming, but there are numerous long-term benefits and cost savings. Predictive modeling can better manage and preserve assets, providing savings over the long-term while reducing unexpected costs. Resources and staff time are also better utilized.

Additionally, smart asset management reduces liability, risks, and improves community safety. When managing critical but often overlooked assets like sidewalks and crosswalks, for example, there are digital trails of maintenance and asset management plans. Not only is liability reduced, but city budgets, residents, and taxpayers are better protected too. 

Smart Asset Management Helps Humans Be Human

Relying on humans to know everything when it comes to asset management is unrealistic. There are so many variables and details that smart tools can predict and better manage. Rethinking asset management ensures that cities are managing all their assets in ways that are efficient, predictive, risk mitigation, and better serve residents. 

Not sure where to start, or unsure of the best ways to integrate asset management into your smart city planning? WSB can help your community integrate smart technologies and tools to better manage your assets. 

Damage prevention

Damage Prevention Awareness

January 12, 2023

By Nate Osterberg, Director of Strategic Growth, WSB

Impacts on the Oil and Gas Industry

According to the Common Ground Alliance (CGA), damages to underground facilities cost $61 billion annually. To protect the public, reduce costs, and incorporate asset management, damage prevention has become a relevant conversation for stakeholders across the construction industry. Advances in technology and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) are spurring more engagement throughout the country.

IIJA Impact

With the passage of IIJA, there is an increase in construction activity including utility, road, and renewable infrastructure. The current demand for utility locators is extraordinary and when coupled with the labor shortage and increasing demand, it is only becoming more challenging. In these circumstances, we rely on technology to guide us. To offset impacts from the labor market we incorporate digital mapping into production locating processes.

Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE)
SUE is the investigation of buried utilities that identifies conflicts and mitigates risks in the pre-engineering phase of construction. Using survey grade-accuracy with cutting-edge locating and survey equipment, capable of sub-centimeter accuracy, we identify risk and conflicts. Our team captures the location information to digitally map the facilities. When unlocatable utilities are identified, our team of damage prevention specialists approaches the challenge with different means and methods.   

Cataloging for the Future

Locating the utility is the first step, but just as important is the data collection. Once a utility is located the information is documented and added to an asset management database. This process is having a major impact on the industry and is assuring accuracy for future locates. Construction plans are evaluated through a digital twin utility map, resulting in cost and time savings and enhanced design data. After decades of stagnant innovation, the industry is advancing quickly because of cutting-edge tools that allow for safer conditions and better planning.

Impact Across an Industry

With hundreds of field staff on active job sites, the collection of highly accurate location data for new and existing facilities is becoming vital to project performance.  With minimal impact on budget and a streamlined mapping process, data collection efforts reduce the time it takes to provide facility owners and 811 systems with updated and accurate records.

The Top Drivers in Damage Prevention

  1. Public Safety
  2. Infrastructure Act
  3. 5G initiative
  4. Increased Damages to Facilities
  5. Unlocatable and Untoneable Utilities
  6. Workforce Turnover & Experience
3D design

Our Approach to Digital Delivery

Introducing Digital Plus

The future of project delivery

Beyond paperless

For many years, the AEC industry has been embracing advancements in the way we deliver projects.  Paperless plans were the first step in this process. Fast forwarding to today, paperless plans have evolved one step further. People often refer to any digital plan set as paperless, but at WSB, we take our designs one step beyond paperless by creating 100% models. 100% models mean the entire project is created and designed in 3D.

100% models house data and design information from the entire project lifecycle, leaving owners and contractors with an accurate, detailed, data-based model to support asset management needs well into the future.

The development of DigitalPlus

WSB is committed to leading our industry in the use of cutting-edge tools to work smarter.  As a firm, we’ve been at the leading edge of digital delivery efforts for many years.  Our approach is unique and one that has been internationally recognized as a best practice in digital project delivery.  To help tell this story, we created DigitalPlus. 

DigitalPlus is the future of digital delivery. Through a combination of cutting-edge tools, expertise and a commitment to innovation, we are shaping the way our industry delivers projects. We believe in advanced project delivery, and we know how to apply the right technology and expertise to support our infrastructure needs. Through DigitalPlus, we are setting new standards, developing best practices and changing our industry’s approach to multidimensional digital design.

Why DigitalPlus

As engineers, we are motivated by the opportunities to design infrastructure projects that support our communities. The infrastructure around us has a significant impact on our daily lives. From drafting plan sets to public meetings, we live in the details and embrace the full process.  We also embrace the advancements in our industry and how we can leverage technology to deliver better projects for our clients.

The benefits

  • Improve Quality
  • Sustainability
  • Enhanced Scheduling
  • Better Managed Risk
  • Relationship Management (Contractors | Owners)
  • Improve Cost
  • Increase Collaboration and Communication

What is DigitalPlus

A combination of expertise and cutting-edge tools.

Data Collection

Data is the foundation of any good project. We use several traditional data collection methods to gather data points that help paint a picture of the world around us. Good data is vital to the DigitalPlus process.

3D Design

Designing in 3D allows us to develop the project while providing a complete and accurate picture of the final product, significantly improving project outcomes.

4D / 5D

4D/5D modeling improves accuracy and efficiency by adding time and cost functions into design. The true power lies in the way a model can be used during preliminary design, final design and throughout construction.

Asset Management

Asset Management is the collection of an agency’s infrastructure assets and includes a plan for managing assets over the infrastructure’s lifespan. Through digital twins, assets can be managed virtually and accurately.

Utility Coordination

Digital delivery aids utility coordination by translating utility information into a 3D environment that can be compared with the design to identity and mitigate conflicts.


Real-time 3D visualization has completely transformed site-specific review and public engagement efforts. Visualizations allow for active participation regardless of project scope and size.

Traffic Operations

Through simulation technology and trip-origin destination data, roadway designs are now guided by real-time and historical mobility movement data.

Integrated Project Delivery

A process, rather than a project that all starts with an idea. Through a combination of expertise and cutting-edge tools, land developers and owners identify opportunities and challenges before a project begins.

Machine Control Modeling

Using 3D models and GPS data, machine control modeling allows earthwork machinery to be accurately positioned. Design surfaces, grades and alignments are directly imported into construction equipment, resulting in increased accuracy and timelines.

To learn more, visit:

Asset Management

A Holistic Approach to Asset Management Can Direct Success

by shannon mcgrath, Director of Asset Management Planning, WSB

The state of Minnesota’s 2022 infrastructure report card was released earlier this year by the American Society of Civil Engineers and the state of our infrastructure is not great. Within the report card, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) was commended for their approach to employing asset management strategies to support infrastructure needs across the state. Collectively, there are opportunities to improve infrastructure at the state and local level through the use of a comprehensive asset management program, but knowing where to start can be overwhelming.

Understanding Infrastructure Asset Management

Asset management is defined many ways. In this context, infrastructure assets should be thought of as any asset used by the public. Roads, bridges, culverts, dams, pipes, and buildings are just a few examples of public infrastructure. 

From there, the approach is to develop planning and strategy to minimize total cost of ownership, increase reliability and resiliency, and meet a desired level of service.

Implementing Asset Management into Community Planning

Planning for and implementing comprehensive asset management plans and programs should be thought of as a multi-step process that includes the following:

  1. Defining vision and objectives
  2. Collecting and managing inventory and condition data
  3. Conducting risk analysis
  4. Developing performance measures and targets
  5. Completing a performance gap analysis
  6. Planning for life cycle management, financial, and investment strategies
  7. Implementing technologies to meet an organization’s goal

Asset owners can start in several places, but it’s important to take a thorough, thoughtful look at all assets and plan for how to best allocate funds and time. That means taking a step back to look at the bigger picture of your desired level of service and how to achieve it both efficiently and effectively. 

Scalable Solutions

Asset management is a spectrum and can be scaled to any type of asset and any size community or organization. Different communities are at different levels of maturity in planning, but it’s important to recognize a current state and where improvements can be made. 

Furthermore, by facilitating discussions holistically and cross-departmentally, rather than driving asset management through a single area, the idea and importance of it can be adopted into the culture. Emerging trends like more efficient technology and tools to capture, store, and analyze data are also driving more informed decision making and helping drive better planning for communities and organizations of all sizes. 

Shannon has spent over a decade advancing asset management at local, state, and national levels by serving on asset management committees, advisory panels, and project management teams. While working at MnDOT, Shannon directed the agency-wide asset management planning including projects, research, policy, innovation, strategic planning, and implementation in collaboration with internal and external stakeholders.

[email protected] | 651.492.9291

Spring flooding expected, new model warns asset managers about potential risks

By Nick Rodgers, Coastal Geomorphologist, WSB

2019 marked the wettest spring on record in the U.S. and with it came extensive flooding, affecting millions of Americans. The National Weather Service just released its 2020 spring flood outlook, predicting that flooding will be above average again. Minor flooding is expected in the spring, but recent warm winters have increased flooding by saturating soils before spring rains arrive. Like 2019, this spring is forecasted to bring above normal precipitation.

Large scale flooding damages infrastructure and displaces people from their homes. The 2019 floods caused millions of acres of farmland to go unused and transported the farms’ fertilizer to the Gulf of Mexico, creating a massive “dead zone” where fish cannot survive. Flooding can cause a “natural hazard cascade” where one disaster leads to more including erosion, landslides, and chemical contamination. The total cost of 2019 flooding is estimated to be $6.2 billion.

Our team at WSB recently developed a flood model to predict flood extent and help asset managers reduce damage to infrastructure. In general, these models can be used to assess risk for specific pieces of infrastructure, individual cities, or entire states. With this new flood model, we help asset managers determine risk by first predicting where flooding is most likely to occur. This information allows us to work with stakeholders to decide which assets are most vital. The process informs asset managers which critical assets are most likely to experience flooding and where flood risk is highest. Asset managers use limited resources to fight a seemingly unlimited amount of water. A strong understanding of risk is vital when deciding how to use limited resources for the next historic flood event. Although we cannot control the warm winters and wet springs that face us, we can control how we respond and prepare.

Nick is an environmental consultant with one year of project experience specializing in geohazard risk assessments, geomorphology, and GIS analysis. His technical skills include developing GIS models for geohazards, client consultation on how geohazards affect public and private assets, data visualization, and expertise in coastal and fluvial geomorphology. His non-technical skills include public speaking, developing client relationships, and project scoping. Most recently, Nick designed a new GIS flood risk model that estimates risk for large areas with minimal data input.

[email protected] | 612.219.9470