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Logo. Feature : Buildings
One example for Feature : Buildings
Used to describe many different sorts of buildings, including houses, factories and ruined buildings.


Definition of building is not straightforward. OSM definition is quite wide and includes not only objects considered as buildings by strict definitions but also building=static_caravan, building=houseboat and may include at least some building=storage_tank.


Individual unit whose neighboring house was just removed

A single building outline can be created for each building complex or 'block', which may relate to a single detached property, or to a row of individual terraced houses or to some more complex arrangement of properties. It is, however, better to create a series of linked outlines which share some nodes at the boundary to identify each distinct part of the property, also because those parts may actually be units that are regarded as "independent" in some way (e.g. statics, separate piping/wiring, etc.).

In addition, outlines can either be simplified shapes or very detailed outlines which conform accurately to the shape of the building. It is not uncommon for buildings to initially be described as simple group outlines later be improved with more detailed outlines and to be split into individual properties.

Buildings can simply be building=yes or use a value that describes the building typology, for example building=house, building=hut, building=garage, building=school. See building=* for a more complete list of options and have a look at what is actually used.

The address of the building can also be added. This can either be attached to the building outline, or more usefully to the appropriate main entrance which should have a node tagged with entrance=yes or entrance=*.

For larger public building with many entrances for different purposes and for use by different people the building entrance can also be tagged with a access=*. A building entrance can be connected to a description of the footpath access to the entrance by highway=footway and highway=steps etc. Where appropriate multiple entrances can have appropriate postal addresses.

Mentionable usage

There are structures tagged as buildings which are missing a foundation or are even moveable. For example many mappers are using the key building=* to describe moveable objects and buildings for example building=static_caravan, building=houseboat or trailers. While houseboats (often self propelled), ships (for example museum or theatre ships) or docks may be moved once, there are also building=floating_homes which are built on floating logs and do not get moved. Some mappers are additionally using floating=yes to indicate this property.

Differing from the ideal of mapping the outline of a building on the ground, many objects with building=* include parts of buildings (for example constructed on piers) which are only covering areas. building=roof and building=bridge even describe buildings which have, except its piers, no outline on the ground. The same holds for underground buildings like building=cellar or those building types which are tagged with location=underground.

Don't tag for the renderer

For more details on this topic, see Tagging for the renderer.

Some mappers are trying to modify OSM data to be rendered (e. g. by Mapnik) in a way to fit their wishes by creatively reinterpreting some existing tags.

Please map all attributes as close to the reality as possible with the available data. Make use of the descriptions for the tags at the refering wikipage. Use the existing values by its definition at the wiki and choose the best fitting pair of key and value. If there is no fitting tag and no more generic tag, you may find some uncommented already used tags at taginfo. If all of this does not suffice, you may better create a new tagging and document it at the wiki.

Here are some negative examples in context to buildings.

  • tagging of non existing amenity=* to emphasize the building at the rendered picture
  • modify/omit tagging due to dissatisfaction (e.g. cafe/restaurant)
  • building parts as distinct objects to structure the rendered picture
  • deleting/moving objects to obtain a (nicer) placement of the icon
  • tagging e.g. statues, bridge piers, gravestones or sockets as buildings to make them visible on the map. This can be counterproductive even for 3D-Mapping.

Such manipulations damage not only the OSM, but also they are needless, because their effect is usually limited to a single renderer, which will be probably modified soon.

If there are substantial rendering errors of a correct data, please contact the developers of the renderers directly.

How to map

See Building modelling for various approaches to trace off aerial imagery.

If the building has an interior courtyard, then use a Multipolygon relation to ensure that the courtyard is not rendered as part of the building.

  • Please consider adding house numbers nodes to buildings with tags in addr:*=*-Namespace:
entrance=yes (if you know where the entrance is)
(more values and detailed information here: Key:addr)
OSM Inspector is also able to help in checking these tags


  • As a lot of buildings are rectangular, you can draw a rough rectangle, and then orthogonalize it in JOSM with the hotkey Q. Pressing Q on a selection sets all the angles in the selection to be 90°. Please be aware that not all buildings are orthogonal and sometimes it is better to keep an odd looking polygon instead of making a curved shape rectangular.
    • For people who changed projection in JOSM from default - JOSM orthogonalizes the projected map, so make sure you are using a conformal projection (one that preserves angles) like Mercator during your editing (otherwise if you use for example unprojected WGS84 while orthogonalizing, objects will be end up distorted in the database).
  • JOSM/Plugins/BuildingsTools makes mapping of buildings a lot more convenient (hotkey B). This works best for buildings with four nodes.
  • JOSM/Plugins/Terracer is for quickly mapping a row of terraced houses.

in Potlatch

In Potlatch, you can add several buildings quickly especially in residential areas by tracing the building with one hand with the mouse and then with the other hand pressing the 'R' key to add the properties of the previously selected building. Add the source, building tag and whatever other tag you want on the first building then copy it to the other buildings.

Some ways to get the outline of the building

  • Aerial photographs (e.g. Bing). There are also some tips and tricks for roof modelling.
  • Observations from street level, drawing a sketch, or even taking measurements
  • Walking around the edge of the building taking a GPS trace. Good enough for big buildings (e.g. a stadium) but walls normally reflect the GPS signal, causing the trace to be offset a significant distance away from the building.
  • French Cadastre


Use the Simple 3D buildings that is already implemented in some tools and offers backwards compatibility with previous approaches.


Simple Indoor Tagging is used for tagging indoor features.





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Current rendering of buildings

See also

  • shop=* to indicate that the building is used as a specific shop
  • amenity=* to describe what the building is used for, for example: school, theatre, bank, ...
  • entrance=* to mark the entrances to the building
  • man_made=courtyard proposed tag for courtyards
  • architect=* to indicate the architect of a building
  • building:condition=* for the condition of the building
  • ruins=* - for ruins of buildings
  • abandoned:building=* - for a building which has been abandoned by its owner and is no longer maintained
  • start_date=* - the year of construction