Mapping: building control in Norway

Winning combination

20 February 2015

Harald Stangelle and Tommy Veland describe how digital mapping services have been adapted for building control surveyors in Norway


Having reliable geographical data at hand when performing building control duties has long been an ambition in Norway. To help bring this about, Nordhordland digitalt, a group of 10 Norwegian municipalities, has been working together for 15 years to develop electronic services for the public and local government, geographic information systems (GIS), unified procedures for building control, zoning control and unified procedures for surveyors and the Cadastre property registry.

The initiative covers tasks ranging from surveying through planning and construction to building control, drawing on the expertise of people with different backgrounds and experiences.


...photo layers make it much easier to view and monitor actual sites than travelling by boat or car. A group of pine trees can hide a host of activities

In 2010, planning and building control staff also became part of the organisation. A year later a project was set up on unauthorised building in the coastal zone, methods of discovering and systematised controls. Involving surveyors, map constructors and the building control surveyors, the aim was to create a mapping tool that could be used anywhere by computers, tablets or smart phones.

The job started by looking at the tools that were already available. Existing GIS has the potential to show illegal buildings, because only buildings with an authorised building permit number are referenced on the map. But while missing on the 'desktop map', it is a different story to locate them on the ground.

Photo layers

The solution is to combine 2 layers of photos – aerial photos in different year classes and oblique photos along the coast line – and plot them to the map. Buildings and other activities without permits are exposed because they do not appear on the map.

These photo layers make it much easier to view and monitor actual sites than travelling by boat or car. A group of pine trees can hide a host of activities. The 'digital airplane' helps decision making on which plots to visit for control, so fieldwork is narrowed down.

But the surveyors also wanted information about the zoning and the building permit to be available when they were on site. Instant access was needed to both geographical, photographical and dossiers. The solution was to combine the skills of software makers, surveyors and web technology.

Three major elements had to be in place to get this to work:

  • controlled data from the surveyor
  • a distribution system; and
  • a tool to present the data.

This information was already available as PDF files in the system and dossiers had been made available online to the public for years.

An existing system for handling surveyors' data is also able to distribute it. Under the agreed SOSI (Systematic Organisation of Spatial Information) format, data can be transferred to the national geographical databank at mapping authority Kartverket. If data does not meet the SOSI standard the job is redone. The winning factor is that it is all computer controlled.

Digital eagle eye

Figure 1: The digital eagle eye helps the surveyor

Kartverket distributes this quality-checked data via online portals, which reaches consumers as a web map with the Nordhordlandskart tool using Adaptive software from Avinet. The next challenge was to bring the web to the building control surveyor. Nordhordland digitalt developers made a rough model as a plan for the companies to work with. Because the thinking on how to connect the geographical data and the dossiers was done jointly, it was just a question of making improvements to elements such as graphical interfaces.

Another Norwegian company, ACOS, which was familiar with the system, was asked to help. All that was needed was a unique identity connecting the dossiers to the plot in the map, made possible by the SOSI standard, with the Cadastre connected in the same way.

Electronic mapping tool

The electronic mapping tool for the building control surveyor was now ready for use, putting data together as layers in the web map. Huge amounts of geographical data and photos were involved, and in a parallel job ACOS and Avinet ensured that the dossiers related correctly to the plots shown in the web map.

With this last move the developers at Nordhordland digital had fulfilled their wish of simplifying building permits, with direct connection to the filing system from the web map portal, public use of the map from the builder's drawings, filling in the building permit application, and getting the granted permit returned. At all stages, users are kept notified of what is going on with the application, through 'pending', 'at work' and 'granted' on the web map, with access to all the documents.

Further improvements are expected, with almost all information free to the public. With information tagged to a map, there is little that cannot be plotted.

Tommy Veland is Chief Surveyor at Nordhordlandskart and Harald Stanghelle is Secretary General at Nordhordland digitalt

Further information