MapTable for interactive decision support

MapTable assists decision makers, project developers and stakeholders during the entire design process of construction works. The concept allows for quick evaluation in the early stages of the project definition phase to align objectives and visualize possible problems and solutions. During project implementation MapTable can assist in the development of mutual understanding of all project aspects.

 Read more


MapTable is an interactive concept and consists of both hardware and software. The hardware is a computer, a design table (see figure), to assist for instance in the spatial planning process. This tool description does not deal with the hardware tool, but focuses only on the MapTable concept and software tools.

The MapTable concept was developed within the Building with Nature programme to facilitate alternative solutions and predict likely effects of different solutions. The concept was designed for an interactive setting where multiple stakeholders with different backgrounds jointly brainstorm to come up with alternative solutions and out-of-the-box ideas. In such a setting quick evaluation of alternatives can support the interactive design process and decision-making on an integrated solution.

To apply the MapTable concept one requires three basic needs:
a) a set of routines (i.e. Matlab routines);
b) a database of local conditions and
c) a predictive model.
Together it forms a tool application. It needs to be well prepared, linked and tested before it can be used in an interactive design session.
This tool page is developed for decision makers and discussion leaders to support the use of the MapTable concept in their projects. Therefore we assume that a tool application is available and can be used directly in an interactive session. Tips and tricks for developers to modify an existing tool application or develop a new tool application are provided briefly hereafter.

Context, purpose and results


The MapTable concept is developed to align ideas and to provide a common base for all stakeholders. The concept was developed by the Building with Nature project team with the belief that mutual understanding of what works best and what doesn’t work, leads to the best project result.

The concept is applicable in all design and planning phases of a project. At the beginning of the design process, flexibility is large and costs to adapt a design are relatively low. MapTable concept and tools are suitable to use in an interactive group session with multiple stakeholders and serves as a communication tool. MapTable software tools are especially suitable in spatial evaluations and studies: distinct design aspects and spatial effects can be visualised easily with one tool. It stimulates discussion between specialists in different fields of expertise about aspects of design alternatives.


The purpose of MapTable is to help identify and quickly evaluate design alternatives in an interactive setting, for instance during a meeting or workshop. Within a very short time (a few minutes at most), a first estimate of the effects on various design aspects is delivered. New insights or ideas can thus be quickly evaluated and results presented on the spot.

The interactive tool is based on simple but robust models that allow for quick evaluation of different design alternatives. Making use of simple models is both an advantage (quick, interactive) and a drawback (less accurate). Results of a session are preferably verified with more detailed models and further analysis before final decisions are made.


MapTable facilitates in the process of getting to mutual agreement among various stakeholders with regard to the various aspects of the design. Within the Building with Nature project the MapTable concept was made operational for several case studies. For each case a new tool was developed. Understandingly each tool provides different technical results (i.e. coastal interventions, dredging schemes). Results can be used for further study and for verification, for instance with more detailed models.

Usage skills

Various skills and background knowledge are required depending on the chosen setting and purpose. For a good interpretation of the results, the user should have basic knowledge of the different fields called upon in the tool.

To setup a new model application within an existing tool for a different geographical location an experienced specialist is needed. This is only required when an existing tool will be used.

In case the tool is used in a workshop or during a stakeholder meeting, a facilitator is required with basic skills in hydrodynamics and morphology to translate and interpret results for the group. An experienced facilitator can also synthesize, conceptualize and translate group ideas to sketches to be used in the tool.

Building with Nature interest

Within a Building with Nature development it is always a challenge to bring different parties and knowledge fields together, to develop new ideas in cooperation with multiple stakeholders with various backgrounds and to synthesize group ideas. The BwN approach aims to come up with eco-friendly and eco-dynamic developments and designs. Visualisations can assist to clarify the Building with Nature concepts. 
Building with Nature invites stakeholders to become part of the design process. Furthermore, visualisations serve as a tool to stimulate communication and gain attention of all stakeholders and the broader public.

The MapTable concept facilitates alternative solutions and predict likely effects of different solutions. The concept was designed for an interactive setting where multiple stakeholders with different backgrounds jointly brainstorm to come up with alternative solutions and out-of-the-box ideas. In such a setting quick evaluation of alternatives can support the interactive design process and decision-making on an integrated solution.

Project application

The MapTable concept is applicable in a wide range of projects. The concept, as it was developed, aims at projects related to hydrodynamics, morphology and ecology and their interrelations.

Project phases

The MapTable concept can in principle be applied in all project phases:
I. Initiation phase: to develop and evaluate alternative visions on a project area.
II. Planning & design phase: to develop and evaluate alternative solutions for a well defined problem.
III. Construction phase: to evaluate alternative construction methods.
IV. Operation & Maintenance phase: to evaluate alternative maintenance methods.

However, a specific tool can be designed for a specific project phase and might therefore not be directly applicable in a different phase.

How to Use

Design challenges are often multi disciplinary and involve a multitude of stakeholders. To facilitate in this process the MapTable concept was developed by the Buildinng with Nature project team. For four different design challenges (see below) the MapTable concept has been applied resulting in four practical tool applications (see Practical Applications). These tool applications are specified for different geographical locations.

For the MapTable concept a Graphical User Interface (GUI) -layer was developed to guide the user through the tool. The GUI-layer enables the user to change input parameters for each tool and model so that various design alternatives can be evaluated.

 Read more


Experience with the tool applications has shown several important aspects to be considered when 1) using a tool application i.e. in a workshop setting and 2) developing a new tool application. In this section a brief overview is given of a) the required skills and capacities and b) of the process steps when using or developing a tool application.

This page is primarily written for users of MapTable tool applications. Basic directions are provided to use a tool application as a means for communication in an interactive design session.
For cases where existing tool applications cannot be used or have to be modified, tips and tricks for a developer are provided.


To run an interactive design session you need:
a) MapTable software;
b) a database of local conditions (depends on the tool);
c) a predictive model.
All these requirements need to be well prepared, linked and tested. Such combination is suitable to study one specific design issue at one location.

Using a tool application in a workshop setting or developing a new tool application, requires basic skills and capacities of the user or user group. The requirements depend largely on the preferred level of adaptation of the tool application. A case can be developed based on:

  1. current tool applications, where no adaptation of the tool application is required;
  2. current tool applications in a different geographical setting, where the existing tool application will be adapted to meet the new geographical settings; and
  3. a new tool application.

Important note. Cases and tool applications can be developed to address a specific problem for a specific geographical area. Prior to a workshop, these tool applications have to be modified or developed. Modification of a tool application or the development of a new tool application, including adequate testing, might take a significant amount of time.

Requirements are listed below. Listed requirements for level 1 case development are also required for levels 2 and 3, and requirements for level 2 are also required for level 3 case development.

Table 1. Required skills and capacity

Case development

Required capacity

1. Existing tool existing geographical location

Basic knowledge of hydrology, morphology and ecology
Modelling experience
Basic experience with contracting in a marine environment

2. Existing tool, different geographical location

Hydrodynamic modeling experience

3. New tool development

Programmer with experience with MatLab, Python, JavaScript, XML

Table 2. Technical requirements

Case development

Required software

Required hardware

1. Existing tool application, existing geographical location

Web browser, GoogleEarth plug-in

Computer with internet connection (for GoogleEarth)
visualiser (i.e. beamer, screen)

2. Existing tool application, different geographical location

Hydrodynamic model (Delft3D, SOBEK, ...), MatLab •• , OpenEarth Tools
Pythonxy (for testing)


3. New tool

MatLab •• , OpenEarth Tools, Pythonxy (for developing)


 for some model packages a license might be required
•• or these software packages a license is required

Phased plan process

Essential before application

To start the process one shall define the design challenge as clear as possible, and the goal shall be set with a clear ambition. Then it can be determined which tool can be used to help solve the facing challenges.
You might conclude that an existing tool is not ready for your location, or that there is no existing tool you can use. Please then follow the steps explained in the next section. The same sequence is used as above to describe the cases.

Existing tool application, existing geographical location.

The following approach is followed after the tool is developed and applicable for the geographical area of interest and is used as a means for communication in an interactive workshop setting with the various stakeholders. The presented steps are followed in the interactive workshop setting.

Step 1.
Start with a kick-off meeting where all stakeholders are present. During this kick-off meeting the problem analysis should be presented and the aim of the session be made clear. A demonstration of the MapTable tool will familiarise the participants with the tool and indicate what input is required of the participants.
When the participants are familiar with the tool, a draft inventory of requirements and wishes regarding the final result can be made. During this step the meeting should agree when design requirements are met (i.e. maximum allowed ecological impact is met when the impact is everywhere below a value of ‘3’); this might lead to a required small adaptation of the tool settings on the spot.

Step 2.
In a second step the stakeholders start brainstorming on possible solutions and intervention concepts. Alternative solutions should be discussed. The result of this step is a set of viable alternatives where all stakeholders agree upon and to be assessed/evaluated using the MapTable tool application.

Step 3.
The resulting alternatives will now be modeled and evaluated with MapTable. This again will probably lead to small changes in the alternatives. The results will be discussed with the stakeholders and the best solution chosen. This can be done with the use of the selection method as defined in step 1.

Step 4.
For the final solution a detailed design can now be made and carried forward. When required more detailed models can be used to determine the effects with more accuracy. The results of the MapTable tool applications can be used as input for the detailed designmodels.

Existing tool application, different geographical location.

When the project can be studied by using an existing tool, but the geographical location of your project has not been modelled, the tool has to be adapted. Basically, this will mean that the spatial data obtained from other sources (e.g. models) needs to be developed for this model. These steps you shall be followed prior to a workshop can be given. One shall be aware that these steps might consume a significant amount of time.

Step 1.
Develop a hydrodynamic numerical model for the area of interest. Validate and calibrate the model.

Step 2.
Develop the hydrodynamic and morphological database. Hereto documentation as provided here (link where to?) can be used.

Step 3.
Develop an ecological (response) database. Hereto documentation as provided here (link where to?) can be used.

Step 4
Adjust the user settings in the tool as required. Some response settings might have to be changed to meet the conditions.

New tool application.

In case no existing tool applications is suitable for application on the case studied, a new tool application can be developed following the MapTable concept, in such a way that it is still compatible with the general MapTable concept.

To develop a new tool application, the developer needs to have experience with the programming tools as listed above. For the MapTable concept a flexible interface (a GUI) was designed such that in principle any other tool can be plugged in. To develop your own tool you can follow the following steps:

Step 1.
Define the required result and user input. What result should the tool provide? What switches and controls should be available to the user?

Step 2.
Define the physical processes and determine how they interact. Develop a workflow and determine the required modules. Check what existing modules from existing MapTable tool applications can be used.

Step 3.
Develop the tools and draft the required databases. A step-by-step approach to fill the databases is provided here (link where to?); this should not be completed at this moment yet (???).

Step 4.
Test the tool and draft databases. This might result in required changes. Upon completion the databases can be filled and completed and the tool can be used as described in the other step-by-step approaches.

Practical Applications

 Read more

Interactive Tool Coastal Intervention: application Holland Coast

An interactive design tool has been developed to get an indicative insight in effects of measures on long term coastline development. The tool was developed for the Dutch sandy coast, the Holland Coast. A coastline model (in which the various hydrodynamic processes are numerically modelled) has been developed and linked to a web viewer for the Holland Coast. Mega nourishments, maintenance nourishments, groynes and revetments can be drawn in a map in this web viewer. Thereafter, the coastline model computes the indicative effects of these measures on coastline development in a few minutes. All stakeholders can see the effects of their design ideas directly in the web viewer.

In Coastal Workshop sessions with multiple stakeholders, this interactive tool has been used to support the development of alternative visions for the Holland Coast in 2100.

The application of the MapTable concept and tool application in this setting has resulted in:

  • a fast and plausible estimate of morphological effects of various coastal interventions;
  • interactive visualization of results by presentation using Google Earth.

During the sessions it was learned that participants were very keen to participate in the interactive process. They were motivated to come up with various alternatives and to understand the processes and resulting effects.
More information on the tool application can be found on the page of the Interactive Design Tool - Holland Coast. Practical tips and tricks and how to use a tool in an interactive setting can be found here.

Interactive River tool: application Dutch Rivers.

MapTable tool applications have proven its use in several Dutch ‘Make Room for the River’ projects. During meetings with stakeholders, effects of measures, like a side channel, a floodplain excavation and relocation of levees, have been estimated with the help of MapTable. For these projects, the hydrodynamic model WAQUA was plugged into the MapTable tool application.
This MapTable tool application has been developed by Deltares and Meander, commissioned by Rijkswaterstaat. More information can be found in the user manual and in the audit report (Dutch only).

Interactive Dredge Planning tool: application Singapore.

Nowadays static dredging criteria are used to avoid ecological damage. Aim of this study was to use ecologically relevant criteria instead of static dredging criteria for the assessment of dredging activities. Therefore, a dredge plume modelling tool has been developed for the waters around Singapore. This tool can make rapid assessments on the effects of dredging operations on vulnerable coastal ecology. A dredging operation can be planned on a digital map and users can specify the characteristics of this dredging operation. The tool will make a quick assessment of the expected plume dispersion and stressor intensity at relevant locations. Furthermore, this stressor can be translated into an expected effect on ecology by adding others tools on Species Responses (e.g. for seagrass) . Users can optimise their proposed dredging operation based on this quick assessment of the ecological impact.
More information can be found on the Tool page of the Interactive Dredge Planning Tool Singapore. A tutorial on the use and a guideline about the setup of the Interactive Dredging Tool are under development.

Interactive O&M tool: Streamline tool

The aim of the Stroomlijn project is to optimise the maintenance of floodplain vegetation, because high vegetation can affect extreme water levels in rivers. A MapTable tool application has been applied to evaluate maintenance strategies in this project.


 Read more

Suggestions for further reading about MapTable software:

  • Dongen, B. van (2009). Audit MapTable 2.0. In opdracht van Deltares. 
  • EcoShape (2012), Interactive Dredging Tool, tutorial. Dordrecht (the Netherlands) - in preparation
  • EcoShape (2012), Setup Interactive Dredging Tool, guideline. Dordrecht (the Netherlands) - in preparation
  • Werf ten Bosch (2009), J. van de. MapTable 2.0 Help, gebruikershandleiding en technische documentatie bij MapTable versie 2.0. Meander Advies en Onderzoek. (In Dutch)