How mapping the world’s buildings makes a difference

“With building footprint data, we can see which are the priority areas for electrification, estimating where commercial centers are, and areas with large population, or areas with essential services like schools and hospitals,” says Ernest. Some of these are settlements “which otherwise might be overlooked because they are literally not on the map.”

Today we’re updating Open Buildings to add new regions in South and Southeast Asia: Data is now available for Bangladesh, Indonesia, Laos, Nepal, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam. With more information about where buildings are located, governments and aid organizations operating in these countries will be able to better understand the needs of residents, both in everyday life and in crisis situations.

We’ve also been working over the last year on improving the accuracy of the dataset. Detecting buildings around the world can be quite challenging, because there are so many different types of structures, and because satellite imagery can be difficult to obtain. We’ve made significant progress, especially in challenging settings such as dense urban areas, and rural or informal settlements.

In addition, each of the identified buildings includes a Plus Code, an open-source system that provides a unique address for any location in the world. This enables both residents and authorities to search and locate individual buildings or households in order to, for example, receive deliveries, access emergency and social services, or just help other people find them.