New technology helps to put OSI on the map
Mapping goes to the heart of surveying and development and the amount and quality of information available is changing rapidly. To find out about the latest developments, I visited the headquarters of Ordnance Survey Ireland (OSI) in the Phoenix Park, where Hugh Mangan and Tony Murphy from marketing and business development gave me the lie of the land.
The original survey of Ireland, at a scale of six inches to a mile, was completed in 1846, for land taxation purposes, and Ireland was the first country in the world to be mapped at such a detailed scale. Mapping remained a military operation until the 1970s, when the first civilians were employed. Now, draft legislation has been published to merge OSI with the Valuation Office and The Property Registration Authority (PRA), in a body to be known as Tailte Ireland (Lands of Ireland.) This will bring the State's registration and valuation operations under one roof.
OSI's purpose is to create and maintain for the State, mapping and related geographic databases, which include buildings, roads, infrastructure and electoral boundarie. From January of this year, the National Mapping Agreement gave educational institutions, government departments and public bodies full access to all OSI information and records. As Mangan told me, "It's important that our information is produced in a standardised format and can be used by all."
These days, most information is collected by aerial photography and OSI uses two planes, fitted with specialised cameras, which are constantly traversing the country. These cameras produce high-resolution imagery, including information on heights. While this activity focuses on urban areas, where development is centred, the result is that the entire country is effectively re-mapped every three years.
Technological advances have brought huge changes to OSI's activities. The main use now for printed maps, which are produced to 1:1,000, and 1:2,500 scales, is for planning application purposes and for land transfer maps used by the Land Registry. However, Hugh Mangan told me that the concept now is 'Big Data', which ensures that all of OSI's information is available over the internet, and that OSI has changed from making maps to digital landscape modelling.
OSI has created the State's 'Digital Geography', which provides precise positioning, and other information, on over 50 million objects in the Republic. This ranges from buildings to pieces of infrastructure and even down to the level of detail where every six-foot length of pavement in the country has a unique identity number.
As Mangan told me, 'Ireland 2040 - the National Planning Framework', is very location-centric, and will be visualised against OSI's mapping. New public sector projects will provide further information on types of development in urban areas and will distinguish between land uses and crops sown in the countryside.
My hosts demonstrated the extraordinary amount of information that is available, free of charge, through their GeoHive portal. Apart from detailed maps, one can search for data on population, geology, hydrology, health and education, as the maps are linked to the census data. Historians can do a 'map transition' using old maps, to show how an area has developed. Properties can be measured, annotated and maps printed or shared, all online.
OSI also offer higher levels of detail, through its MapGenie service, where private business data, or public information such as the census, Eircodes and the Property Price Register can be incorporated into customised maps. Thus, an estate agent could produce a map showing every house valued at over €1m, in any location. The Revenue Commissioners use OSI mapping to help identify or explain variances in valuations for the Local Property Tax (LPT).
In the private sector, the wave of development is seeing a demand for aerial photography to track the progress of construction projects. Tom Coakley of Barrow Coakley has contracts to record work on the Luas Cross City Route, various road schemes and several new courthouses around Ireland. This work, together with photographing properties for sale purposes, can see him covering up to 15 properties per day, from heights of up to 10,000 feet.
Surveyors can save a lot of time by using these resources before going on site. There are endless potential applications available to property professionals and I encourage everyone to explore this treasure trove of information.