WikiProject Canada/Building Canada 2020

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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. 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.

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?

Building Canada 2020 concept
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.

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

For the Canadian economy and society, buildings are a major capital asset, the space in which a large part of economic and social activities are concentrated, an essential element of human safety and security, a physical infrastructures that shape the relationship with the natural environment and contribute to energy efficiency and consumption, and landmarks of cultural and historical identity. For these reasons, there is a constellation of information domains that relates to buildings, at the municipal, provincial and federal level.

As of today, however, there is no comprehensive and open database on buildings in Canada. Such open database could have a multitude of uses by a multitude of stakeholders. This page presents several examples of operational uses, applications, visualization tools, research and analysis generated with open data on buildings across Canada and, for examples and inspiration, around the world.

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 count 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

This initiative aims at improving the standardization of building mapping across Canada. As a starting point, consider the building tags that are currently used in OMS.

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)
  • Creating building polygons with machine learning techniques
  • Community mapping projects and/or mapping parties (outdoor mapping)
  • Mapathon events (indoor or outdoor mapping)

Some organizations engaged in this initiative are 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.

Remember: there are plenty of resources on mapping techniques and how to map in OSM:

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 Building Import video tutorial
  • 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).

Inventory of Current Building Data Sets

We are creating an inventory of existing building related datasets from municipal and provincial open data sources as well as other sources. The tables and the link below document these datasets in Canada -- openly licensed, proprietary, ODbL compatible, or not. In addition, the Open Government has a table of municipal open data portals that can be reviewed for building data sets:

* See tables of municipal and provincial open data for possible imports.

Creating building polygons with machine learning techniques

This is a new and emerging area of work. This appears particularly promising with areas that are not covered by municipal open data or to maintain the map up to date.

Here are some resources:

Community mapping projects and mapping parties: tools and best practices

This section provides information on how to implement a community mapping project and/or mapping parties, aimed at adding building information on the map. Here you find links to existing tools, toolkits, best practices, and lessons learned. There are examples from Canada but also examples and inspiration from around the world.

Some of the tools that can be used in community mapping activities include:

CODAP - The Crowdsourced Open Data Acquisition Platform - beta version
You can access CODAP here. This is a beta version. CODAP is distributed under the MIT Licence. Code files of CODAP are available online here.

Tools and toolkits: examples and inspiration

Mapathon: tools and best practices

A Mapathon is a coordinated mapping event. It is often held inside (armchair mapping) but can also be an outside or combined activity. Building Canada 2020 can be the theme of a number of events (see: Upcoming events).

Stakeholders of Building Canada 2020 can work towards the development of a set of "How to" toolkits, to help various organizations and educational institutions to plan and implement successful mapathon events across Canada.

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 preliminary plan is to monitor progress by municipality (CSD) (tables are under construction). If you are looking for statistics and the location of a municipality you can search Census Profiles 2016.

Selected tools for monitoring

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

OpenStreetMap Analytics  (Canada)
Overpass turbo
ITO Map - Buildings and structures
 - Buildings and addresses
 - Buildings classification


…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.

Licence compatibility

For data imports, the compatibility of municipal/provincial open data licences with OMS licence needs to be verified. As it appears for documentation listed in this page, Canadian municipalities have generally used a limited set of licences types (OGL 2.0; OGL 1.0; OGL-BC 2.0, etc).

Important note: data for a number of major municipalities have already been used in OSM and licence has been cleared and accepted. See the documentation on the OSM Wiki page "Contributors".

Building Canada 2020 is expected to facilitate the discussion on two fronts. First, with municipalities so that they will adopt a standard licence (a lot of work has been done on this already). Second, the OSMF Licensing Working Group will be engaged in this discussion. The goal of the Building Canada 2020 initiative is to streamline a process of verification of the licence, documenting the different open data licences used by Canadian municipalities and clarify issues of compatibility for each type of licence.

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 (QA)

Data quality has many dimensions. OSM building data can be assessed using the following dimensions: completeness, positional accuracy, temporal accuracy, logical consistency, semantic accuracy, attribute accuracy, shape and size accuracy. There is a substantial literature on quality assessment along these dimensions, as well as on going research, which need to be incorporated in the activities of the BC2020 initiative.
Figure 1. Logical consistency: example of residential building tags used in the Ottawa-Gatineau area. October 2017. (source: ITO Map)

Academic institutions involved in this initiative can provide leadership on research and best practices related to QA for building data in Canada.

The existing OSM tools provide evidence on the QA challenges related to building data in Canada. Figure 1 provides an example of logical consistency (in this case how consistently residential building polygons are tagged with existing tags. By creating a collaborative framework for the expansion of building data across Canada, this initiative can enhance the quality of the data.

Data maintenance and accessibility

These are areas that need further development and thinking. More to come soon.

Current projects and activities

Building Canada 2020 is a community-led initiative, it is not a single project. Over time , several projects and activities may align with the vision and goal of this initiative. Below is a list of specific projects and activities.

  • 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:

Current Data Stories

This section documents how OSM building data are used in Canada, on the ground by humanitarian operators, online with amazing apps and data visualization tools.

  • The Canadian Red Cross and the Gatineau floods 2017. "During spring 2017 when Ottawa and Gatineau experienced severe flooding, the Canadian Red Cross used building information within OpenStreetMap to validate the number of homes impacted by the high-water levels. They also used this data to produce base maps of the affected area for planning and delivering assistance." (Read more ...)
  • Data visualization tool for building property assessment values (Vancouver, Edmonton). "Open data facilitates innovation. I couldn’t have created this visualization without that kind of access to data." says Eugene Chen, of Darkhorse Analytics, (read the full blog post)

Examples and Inspiration

In Canada

  • Happy Valley-Goose Bay. Here is an example of how a small municipality makes a smart use of open source technology and data (QGIS2web and OSM) to create an interactive map.
  • Interactive maps created by Vancouver-based data analytics company MountainMath, show the power of combining OSM and municipal open data to visualize building and housing statistics.
  • City of Edmonton, Building age map. Map created by in partnership with BCYEG, which found a volunteer to redeploy the Chicago Building Age map in Edmonton.
  • Simple 3D buildings is a OSM wiki page that describes tags for basic 3D attributes of buildings. There is a list of amazing Demos (for example, see these F4map versions of Edmonton, Toronto and Halifax)

Around the world


Upcoming events

Past events

Contacts for Groups and Organizations

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

Community Groups and Civic Groups


  • Open North
  • Canadian Red Cross


  • McGill University - Geographic Information Centre
  • Carleton University
  • York University - Lassonde School of Engineering - Geomatics
  • University of Calgary - Department of Geography

Private Sector

  • MapBox
  • OpenConcept


  • ...


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

Communities of the month (experimental and in development)

This section is experimental and in development. It features communities across Canada that have an incomplete map and poor buildings information.

Chilliwack (BC) and Wolfville (NS)