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Buildings & Settlements

A building refers to any roofed structure permanently constructed or erected on its site, for the protection of humans, animals, things, or the production of economic goods. Settlements are collections of buildings and associated features where a community carries out socio-economic activities.

Why is this theme fundamental?

Buildings and settlements are the structures and locations in which populations live and carry out economic activity. As such this theme’s main use is to locate population and its distribution. Settlements may be used at different levels of detail - from local to global.

Buildings and settlements are required for a set of fundamental use cases, including:

  • Collection of statistics;
  • Provision of public services to buildings;
  • Resource management;
  • Emergency management;
  • Planning for urban development;
  • Natural disaster (flood, earthquake, fire) preparedness;
  • Validation for tax purposes; and,
  • Application to mapping - to represent populated places and for navigation systems.

Which sustainable development goals (SDGs) will it help to meet?

It is strongly relevant for SDGs 9,11, 12 and relevant for SDGs 1, 3,4,6,7 and 13.

Geospatial data features in more detail

Buildings are independent, free‐standing structures generally covered by a roof and enclosed within external walls. However, in some cases, a building may consist of a roof with supports, in some other cases, a roofless structure consisting of a space enclosed by walls may be considered a building. Buildings also include separately usable underground constructions which people can enter.

The Buildings and Settlements theme spans various scales or resolutions. The Building is at the more granular level, which at a smaller scale might be referred to as a ‘built up area’. A settlement is formed by a collection of built-up areas, including dwellings, other buildings, and associated land.

Minimum attributes for both are the location geometry and an identifier of some type. Additional useful attributes of buildings include links to its address and its functional classification. For settlements additional attributes might include an indication of population size.

Possible sources of data
Building and Settlement datasets are usually maintained by public authorities, at national and sub-national/regional or local level. It should be compiled into a single national register. Building databases are used directly as a reference dataset for locating settlements.

Existing Data Standards
Note: This is indicative. Other lists of standards exist and UN-GGIM will seek to work with thematic experts to develop a list of relevant data standards.
  • INSPIRE Data Specification on Buildings. Land Use, Land Cover and Geographical Names;
  • CityGML; and,
  • BIM Data Standards.