Tuesday, 10 September 2013

The Age of Buildings in the City of Chicago

Following my last post, on the geography of New York City, I've been exploring other building-level datasets to see what they can offer us in relation to telling us more about the fabric of the cities we live in. This time, I've focused on Chicago's 'Building Footprints' dataset. It's not nearly as detailed as New York's PLUTO data but it does include variables on (e.g.) number of floors and year built. As with the NYC data, it is not perfect but we can still make good use of it to understand the development of the city and its structure. I've mapped the city using number of floors as a proxy for height and shaded it by building age to produce the following overview (blues = older buildings, reds = newer).

Besides looking relatively interesting, the above graphic also reveals something about the phased construction of the City of Chicago and - possibly - something more about the data itself. As with the New York City PLUTO data, I produced a chart of the 'year built' column just to give me some idea of its distribution. It looks better than the New York City chart but I'm still not convinced it is 100% accurate (the year built data run from 1852 to 2010). 

Were there really nearly 15,000 buildings constructed in 2006 and only 78 in 2000? Possibly, but it would be good to know more about the accuracy of the data. In total there are 820,154 building footprints in the dataset and there are a range of different columns - which you can read more about in the metadata file. Once again, it's pretty cumbersome to work with in a normal desktop GIS setting but my machine can just about handle it. 

Thursday, 5 September 2013

The Geography of New York City

In June 2013, the city of New York released as open data one of the most detailed, fascinating and user-friendly datasets ever. The Property Land Use Tax lot Output (PLUTO) dataset is essentially a record of every parcel of land in the city, what is on it and who owns it - but this is only part of it. See the full PLUTO data dictionary for more on this. Wired said the mapping elite were 'drooling' over it and there have been a few impressive visualisations already but I was keen to look at the data in more detail and then map land use patterns and get to grips with the dataset more generally. So, as an initial experiment, I mapped all 11 land use categories for the whole city in 3D (PLUTO has a field for number of floors so the maps below are extruded on this basis). Click on an image to enlarge and then flick through the images to compare land uses.

I've also put these images in a PowerPoint file in case anyone finds it useful... These visualisations in many ways tell us what many New Yorkers already know but the PLUTO data (n.b. I've used the ready-made MapPLUTO shapefile) offers everyone for the first time the opportunity to explore this open data and examine the geography of New York City as a whole in much more detail. 

Some further information about the dataset. There are 857,879 rows in the complete dataset and the MapPLUTO version has 85 fields so if you want to work with it then you better have a good computer. When you go to the download page you'll notice that the PLUTO dataset is available as one csv file while the MapPLUTO data is split into the five boroughs of New York City. 

This is an amazing resource but it is not perfect - as the Department of City Planning recognise when they say 'PLUTO is being provided ... for informational purposes only'. The data are only as good as the sources, and sometimes when you look closely things seem a little strange. For example, here's what you get when you chart the YearBuilt column for all buildings constructed since 1800 (click to enlarge). It's hard to tell but I reckon that from about 1980 onwards the YearBuilt column is pretty accurate but before that is is something of a best estimate - though I'd be happy to be proven wrong on this!

I'll probably come back and explore this again soon but that's all for now...

Footnote: 0.4% of tax lots and 1.0% of land remains unclassified. I produced the 3D maps in ArcScene and then annotated them in GIMP. I've just done these to explore at a basic level the characteristics of the dataset and the geography of land use in New York City.