Open Building Data: an exploratory initiative


This exploratory initiative aims at enhancing the use and harmonization of open building data from government sources for the purpose of contributing to the creation of a complete, comprehensive and open database of buildings in Canada. The outcome of this exploratory work led to the creation of the Open Database of Buildings (ODB), a centralized and harmonized repository of building data made available under the Open Government License - Canada.

This initiative originates from insights taken from the Statistics Canada pilot project on data crowdsourcing, which used OpenStreetMap as a platform for integrating data on building footprints. In addition to the possible benefits of crowdsourcing, that project highlighted the potential of integrating open data from municipal, regional, and provincial governments to meet the needs of official statistics.

In its current version (version 2.0), the ODB contains approximately 4.4 million building footprints, up from approximately 4.3 million in version 1.0 due to the addition of 4 municipalities.

Additionally, a database of building footprints covering virtually all of Canada has been constructed by Microsoft (developed with Deep Neural Networks and version 1.0 of the ODB) and released with an open data license.

Users can also complement the ODB with building information from OpenStreetMap, which is available under the OpenStreetMap's OdBL License.

What is open data?

According to the Canada Open Government website, open data is defined as structured data that is machine-readable, freely shared, used and built on without restrictions. For more information, and to see other open data released by the Canadian federal government, see the Canada Open data portal.

Importance of open building data

Smart cities and governments are increasingly making use of data when looking to implement problem-solving measures in order to provide efficient and effective services to constituents. Open data especially invites innovation, not only through governmental channels, but also through grassroots organizations, individuals, and businesses.

The benefit of open building data, and open data in general, is that any user can access and make use of it freely. Individuals, formal and informal organizations, or enterprises can use the data and other information to research and innovate on any number of topics.

Data available for download

The experimental ODB (version 2.0) integrates data from 65 municipal, regional and provincial government sources and is available for download on the Open Database of Buildings page.

Next steps for the initiative

The coverage, accuracy, and attributes of the ODB will continue to increase as more government and private sector sources of building information become available under an open data license and are integrated into the database.

For more information on this experimental database and access to the download link, see Open Database of Buildings.

For more information on the Microsoft database and to access the download link, see Microsoft's open data of building footprints.

To learn more about the Statistics Canada crowdsourcing pilot project, and the OpenStreetMap community, see Crowdsourcing with OpenStreetMap.

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