WikiProject Canada/Building Canada 2020

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Logo of Building Canada 2020

The Idea

Building Canada 2020 is a community-led initiative driven by a simple and clear vision: map all buildings in Canada on OpenStreetMap by the year 2020.

This vision emerged from a combination of factors: the collaborations and discussions triggered from a related crowdsourcing project by Statistics Canada, the growing need to improve existing georeferenced data on buildings across all communities in Canada, and a genuine opportunity to explore new forms in co-production of open data.

Simple information on buildings (geolocation ref.WGS84, building footprint, full address: street #, street name, postal code, city, province; and type of use) is of major societal value. This information, however, is often lacking in some areas or not completely accessible on a single open data platform. Creating a nation-wide, freely accessible and non-proprietary source of information on buildings will contribute to the development of the data infrastructures of the future, upon which a multitude of public and private projects could thrive.

Why a community-led initiative?

There are many communities that should be mobilized to achieve this vision; the figure below sketches at least six of them (more could be identified). By creating a space in which these perspectives intersect, dialogue can occur, activities can be coordinated, and outputs can be achieved more efficiently.

As a community-led initiative, Building Canada 2020 is expected to foster collaboration between a multitude of stakeholders (civic groups, private sector, academia and public sector) for the achievement of a specific common goal that would benefit each‎ stakeholder as well as society as a whole. This approach is inspired by the principles of civic science and more specifically civic data.

Building Canada 2020 concept

A community-led approach will enable stakeholders that share a common vision ‎to share the ownership and accountability for its realization as well as the creation of its output: an open database with information on all buildings in Canada that is accurate, complete, and accessible through the OpenStreetMap platform.

Building Canada 2020 is intended to facilitate and stimulate related projects within and between stakeholders, while at the same time maintaining an open and light governance, conducive to continuous dialogue and collaboration. This governance will reduce possible organizational overhead.

Launch of the initiative

A workshop was held on September 15, 2017, at Statistics Canada head office in Ottawa. The workshop was attended by 52 people from 25 organizations with the purpose of:

  • Ascertaining whether there was enough consensus among stakeholders so that it is possible and beneficial to move forward with this vision.
  • Outlining a high-level road map that can be used to turn the vision into a reality that will benefit all.

Participants at the workshop were invited to provide comments and suggestions about how this vision could benefit their organization or activity, the challenges they foresee, additional stakeholders that should be engaged, the possible tools that could be used, possible forms of governance that could be adopted, milestones to monitor progress etc. Bringing together the ideas and perspectives from many different communities was done to enrich the vision and help ensure its sustainability.

The summary of the discussion the took place was used to outline the high level roadmap found on this wiki.

Known benefits

…More to come

The Roadmap

The purpose of this roadmap is not to be prescriptive but rather to provide details and information that helps us, the community, go from where we are today to a state where the vision has been realized - all buildings in Canada have been mapped on OpenStreetMap.

The starting and end state

As of September 2017, there are approximately 2 million buildings (ways) mapped in Canada. It is expected that the number of buildings that needs to be added is about 10 million.

There is no precise count of total number of building in Canada. Using the benchmark ratio of 2 to 3 people per building, it is expected that the total could of buildings could range between 10 and 15 million.

The data being mapped

The goal of the initiative is to “map all buildings in Canada on OpenStreetMap by the year 2020”. The target data for the initiative thus far includes the following:

  • Building footprints
  • Number of floors
  • Type of use (e.g. residential, commercial, civic and cultural, educational, etc.)
  • Year of construction
  • Other building attributes (e.g., building address, links to web pages on the building)

As time passes, more may be added to this list. All are encouraged to provide any information they believe useful.

Building tags

Buildings tags in OSM

This initiative aims at improving the standardization of building mapping across Canada.

How buildings are being mapped

There are several methods that can be used to map buildings, all of which are expected to be used to achieve the Building Canada 2020 vision. These methods require the use of different data sources and tools. This page provides documentation on how to map buildings with different methods and tools that can be used.

Buildings can be mapped using any combination of the following approaches:

  • Imports of municipal and provincial open data
  • Tracing building footprints from satellite imagery (see how)
  • Community mapping (outdoor mapping)
  • Mapathon events (indoor or outdoor mapping)

Some of the organizations engaged in this initiative are also experimenting with the use of machine learning techniques for the extraction of building footprint from satellite imagery and use of Lidar data to extract building information.

Although it may be reasonably expected that the bulk of baseline data will be provided by existing administrative open data, it is recognized that all of these methods are equally important to achieve the objective of Building Canada 2020.

(Read more on mapping techniques)

Implementation tools and workflows

Getting organized: OSM Tasking Manager

Achieving the vision of BC2020 is a massive task for which we need to get organized. BC2020 OSM Tasking Manager is forthcoming!

Import plans: examples, tools, best practices
Ottawa Import Plan The Ottawa import plan wiki page provides extensive documentation on how to implement an bulk import of building data from municipal open data source. This documentation includes a video tutorial, which explains the import process from A to Z (see link to video below).
Ottawa Building Import video tutorial

Inventory of Current Building Data Sets

We are creating an inventory of existing building datasets from municipal open data sources as well as other sources. List in the tables below all known building data sets in Canada -- openly licensed, proprietary, ODbL compatible, or not.

Open Government has a table of municipal open data portals that can be reviewed for building data sets: In addition, the

Municipal open data for possible imports
Municipality URL License Comments Completion

in OSM


number of



Vancouver In progress
Ottawa ODL 2.0 Imported Yes
Niagara Falls T&C
Prince George Building outlines
Kelowna Building outlines Yes
Guelph Building outlines
Thematic open data for possible imports
Theme URL License Comments
Heritage buildings

Community mapping: tools and best practices

...more to come

Mapathon: tools and best practices

...more to come

Some general tools

Do-it-Yourself (DIY) Open Data Toolkit (Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat and OpenNorth).

An instructional manual that provides a step-by-step guide on how to develop your open data initiative. It brings together training materials, best practices, tools and resources to help you prepare for and implement an open data project. ( more)

Monitoring progress toward completion

The current (preliminary) plan is to monitor progress by major metropolitan areas and by municipality (tables are under construction). If you are looking for a geographic place you can search [[here]].

Large metropolitan areas (CMA), population 100,000 and over

Medium sized urban agglomerations (CA), population 10,000 to 100,000

Small municipalities (non-CMA/CA), population 1,000 to 10,000

Small settlements (non-CMA/CA), population less than 1,000

Selected tools for monitoring

The following tools are used to generate insights on the mapping of buildings across Canada.

OpenStreetMap Analytics

Overpass turbo


…more to come

Communication and coordination

Building Canada 2020 is an open and inclusive initiative. Anybody sharing its vision is invited to be part of it and connect with individual or organizations that are contributing to this vision. The following communication and coordination tools are used:

  • OSM community in Canada: will be done through Talk-Ca (see archives)
  • OSM community at large: OSM Wiki page
  • Among stakeholders: Email distribution list
  • With the general public: TBD

Obstacles to Solve

As a result of the workshop held on September 15, 2017 on the subject of the “Building Canada 2020” initiative, the following obstacles were identified.

License compatibility

For data imports, the compatibility of municipal/provincial open data licenses with OMS license must be verified. The OSMF Licensing Working group need to be consulted.

Background documentation on previous cases

Ottawa import plan. The OSMF Licensing Working group determined in their meeting on 2017-03-02 that data under the Ottawa Open Data, Licence Version 2.0 (Ottawa ODL 2.0) can be included in the OpenStreetMap dataset and distributed on ODbL 1.0 terms. Quoting from the draft minutes (draft link may not be generally readable):
The LWG has determined [(1)] that the attribution requirements of the Ottawa ODL 2.0 can be met by adding the required text to the wiki contributor page and corresponding changeset source attribute values, and that there is no downstream attribution requirement, [(2)] that we are not using "Personal Information" as defined in the licence and referenced legislation, and that so licensed material can be included in the OpenStreetMap dataset and distributed on ODbL 1.0 terms.

Data quality assurance

...more to come

Data maintenance

...more to come


...more to come

Current Contributing Projects

Statistics Canada Crowdsourcing Project: This project focusses on collaborating with local OSM groups and meeting with major municipalities to have them make open their data on building footprints (where available). The following municipalities are involved:

  • City of Ottawa
  • Ville de Gatineau

Contact for this project:

...if your project is not here, please add it!

Current Data Stories

Canadian Red Cross uses of OSM building data during the Gatineau floods 2017.

...more to come

Coming Events

November 12-18, 2017, Mapathon Events for OSMGeoWeek at Canadian Universities

GIS Day, Wednesday November 15, 2017.

July 28-30, 2018, State of the Map 2018, Milano (Italy)

...more to come

Contacts for Groups and Organizations

If your group or organization is not listed, please add it!

Community Groups and Civic Groups

  • Local Ottawa OSM group


  • Open North
  • Canadian Red Cross
  • Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT)
  • Manitoba GIS Users Group


  • McGill University - GIC
  • Carleton University
  • York University - Lassonde School of Engineering - Geomatics

Private Sector

  • MapBox
  • OpenConcept


  • ...


  • Statistics Canada - Data Exploration and Integration Lab (DEIL):;
  • Natural Resources Canada - Centre of Mapping and Earth Observation;