Finding the most remote buildings in Britain.

A geospatial big-data challenge using PostGIS, QGIS and open-source data.

Simon Wrigley
The Startup
Published in
10 min readNov 19, 2019

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Introduction

My passions in life all revolve around the great outdoors. When out hiking, running or mountain biking in the mountains, I’ve always been intrigued when stumbling across incredibly remote buildings, imagining the human stories connected to them and how the buildings came to be part of the landscape.

I thought it would be interesting to combine this with my work interests as a GIS Developer to find out where the most remote buildings in Britain are, using Open Source tools & datasets.

Remote
/rɪˈməʊt/
adjective
1.
(of a place) situated far from the main centres of population; distant.

For the rest of the article, I will walk you through how I chose to go about the challenge.

The data:

Building data:

Ordnance Survey buiding dataset (left) and Open Street Map building dataset (right)

The Ordnance Survey is the UK’s national mapping agency and they provide some of the most comprehensive geospatial data available. They have a fantastic open-data portal full of great datasets. We are going to make use of the building dataset available as part of their OS Open Map — Local product. At the time of writing this dataset contains 14,115,477 individual building polygons!

The only downside of the OS data from an openness point of view is that a building classification is not available as part of the dataset so you cannot identify what type of building you are looking at.

Ordanance Survey Building dataset in detail.

Plotting the building polygons alone results in a beautiful depiction of Great Britain, clearly showing the interplay between topography and the built environment.

In an attempt to try and compensate for the lack of classification in the OS dataset, I will also make use of the Openstreetmap buildings dataset which is fully…

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