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Logo. Feature : Landuse
One example for Feature : Landuse
Land use describes the human use of land, for example fields, pastures, and settlements.


This page gives guidance on the definition of land use and how it should be mapped in OpenStreetMap.

Land use, as the name suggests, describes what an area of land is used for e.g. housing, commercial activities, farming, education, leisure, etc.

Land use is distinct from 'Landcover' - land cover describes the physical thing/surface covering the land. The two concepts are complementary and can be used together. The land use might be 'military' but the land cover might be 'heathland' or the land use might be 'leisure' but the land cover might be 'grass'.

Due to the way that OpenStreetMap has evolved over time, land use in OpenStreetMap is mapped with a variety of tags including landuse=*, amenity=*, leisure=*, and tourism=*. See the table below for further examples. Generally areas should only be tagged with one land use and they should not overlap. In some cases it might be acceptable to give more detail within a larger area. For example a leisure=playground tag may be used on a playground that belongs to (and is contained within) a particular landuse=residential area.

How to map land use

Different techniques for mapping land use exist in OpenStreetMap.

Mapping as nodes

Land use by its nature is an area, but if it is not feasible to map features as an area it is OK to map land use as node and update it to area once possible. It is typically because both aerial and GPS traces of shape are unavailable. For example it is preferable to map landuse=cemetery as node rather than not mapping it at all.

Note that some other land uses like landuse=railway are almost completely useless as nodes and not worth mapping in this form.

Mapping large uninterrupted areas

When first mapping a place many mappers draw large uninterrupted shapes around areas that are assumed to have a single land use (this technique is suggested on Typically these areas might be tagged with quite broad uses such as landuse=commercial, landuse=industrial or landuse=residential (where this is discussed further).

While this is useful as a starting point, it quickly becomes necessary to break these areas down to add more detail to the map - for example to add schools, health facilities, parks etc. into broad areas initially outlined as residential.

Mapping land use in more detail

There are two main approaches to mapping land use in more detail. They differ primarily in how they treat land dedicated to the public highway or other transport networks.

1. Mapping the reality on the ground

The key to this method is to strictly draw the boundary around each land use following its boundary in the real world. For example to map the land use of a school draw the edge of the shape following the boundary of the land that is used by/available to the school; to map a residential area include land that actually belongs to the houses and their gardens/private driveways.

Land that is dedicated to the public highway (both the carriageway and the pavement/verge) is not land that is available for other uses i.e. you can't build a house on it, and so it shouldn't be mapped as such. While a landuse=highway tag has been proposed it is not currently in use and so land used as public highway should simply be left blank.

This method largely keeps the highway network lines and land use polygons separate making subsequent editing simpler and more accurate. In urban areas the result will be 'islands' of land use polygons in between the lines of the highway network.

2. Using highway centrelines

Another approach that some mappers have taken is to either draw land use polygons that extend over the public highway sharing nodes with highway centrelines, or to fragment the highway network and create land use areas from relations of the fragments. While this results in less drawn geometry subsequent editing is more complicated. This increases the risk of damaging not only the land use areas but also the highway network. It is also less accurate, extending adjoining land uses over land that is dedicated to the public highway.

How to tag land use

Note that there is an ongoing discussion on how to tag land use and land cover (see Proposed features/highway, Landcover proposal and Land use and areas of natural land)

Table of some existing land use tags

The following table is very much 'work in progress'. Click on the symbols in the headings to sort the tables in different ways.

Purpose Category Comment
Aerodrome (airport) Other aeroway=aerodrome and optional landuse=military if appropriate, or aerodrome=military
Airport Other See Aerodrome
Allotments Agriculture landuse=allotments
Basin Built environment landuse=basin Describes a man made water control or storage device.
Beach Natural or Built environment natural=beach. leisure=beach_resort describes a feature at the beach.
Brownfield Built environment landuse=brownfield
Cemetery Built environment rarely also Natural landuse=cemetery
College Built environment amenity=college
Commercial Built environment landuse=commercial
Construction Built environment landuse=construction
Depot Built environment landuse=depot
Farm land Agriculture landuse=farmland and landuse=farmyard
Forestry Agriculture landuse=forest. For areas with a high density of trees primarily grown for timber. See section about problematic values.
Garages Built environment landuse=garages (often within landuse=residential).
Grazing Agriculture For pasture used for grazing animals or for hay or silage for animals consider landuse=meadow. For other uses of grass consider using surface=grass and see Landcover.
Greenfield Built environment landuse=greenfield is used to describe land that has been scheduled for some sort of construction.
Greenhouses Agriculture landuse=greenhouse_horticulture
Highways Built environment No approved tag at present, but there is a proposal to use landuse=highway for the purpose.
Hospital Built environment amenity=hospital
Industrial Built environment landuse=industrial
Landfill Other landuse=landfill
Meadow Agriculture landuse=meadow
Military Military landuse=military, and optionally also military=naval_base, military=range, military=danger_area and military=barracks. For military aerodrome use aeroway=aerodrome and aerodrome=military or military=airfield.
Nature reserve Leisure leisure=nature_reserve. See also boundary=protected_area and the discussion about terms (International consistency)
Orchard Agriculture landuse=orchard
Park Leisure leisure=park (for smaller parks to be part of landuse=residential.
Plant nursery Agriculture landuse=plant_nursery
Quarry Other landuse=quarry
Railway Built environment landuse=railway
Recreation ground Built environment landuse=recreation_ground
Religious Built environment landuse=religious
Reservoir Other landuse=reservoir or man_made=reservoir_covered or newer tagging natural=water + water=reservoir
Residential Built environment landuse=residential
Retail Built environment landuse=retail
School Built environment amenity=school. Often with a landuse=residential area.
Salt pond Natural landuse=salt_pond
University Built environment amenity=university. Possibly included within a broader landuse category.
Village green Leisure landuse=village_green
Vineyard Agriculture landuse=vineyard
Waste water treatment Other man_made=wastewater_plant

Challenges mapping land use

key:landuse values not used to indicate land use in all cases

Land use tags have been evolving over time and haven't always been used consistently. As an example landuse=forest has been used to indicate any tree-covered area rather than to indicate areas specifically used for forestry and the production of timber.

Purpose Comment
Grass landuse=grass does not describe a land use, it describes a Landcover, the tag landcover=grass may be used but it is not presently popular nor commonly rendered.
Forest landuse=forest is hard to distinguish from natural=wood as both usually have trees. Determining if the trees are actually used and in what way is difficult. See Forest for more details. Simplest would be to tag the Landcover landcover=trees, this simply says there are trees in this area but this tag is not presently popular nor commonly rendered.


See also