Estimation of missing building height in OpenStreetMap data: a French case study using GeoClimate 0.0.1

Bernard, Jérémy ; Bocher, Erwan ; Le Saux Wiederhold, Elisabeth ; Leconte, François ; Masson, Valéry

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<p align=justify>Information describing the elements of urban landscapes is required as input data to study numerous physical processes (e.g., climate, noise, air pollution). However, the accessibility and quality of urban data is heterogeneous across the world. As an example, a major open-source geographical data project (OpenStreetMap) demonstrates incomplete data regarding key urban properties such as building height. The present study implements and evaluates a statistical approach that models the missing values of building height in OpenStreetMap. A random forest method is applied to estimate building height based on a building's closest environment. A total of 62 geographical indicators are calculated with the GeoClimate tool and used as independent variables. A training dataset of 14 French communes is selected, and the reference building height is provided by the BDTopo IGN. An optimized random forest algorithm is proposed, and outputs are compared with an evaluation dataset. At building scale for all cities, at least 50 % of the buildings have their height estimated with an error of less than 4 m (the cities' median building heights range from 4.5 to 18 m). Two communes (Paris and Meudon) demonstrate building height results that deviate from the main trend due to their specific urban fabrics. Putting aside these two communes, when building height is averaged at a regular grid scale (100 m×100 m), the median absolute error is 1.6 m, and at least 75 % of the cells of any city have an error lower than 3.2 m. This level of magnitude is quite reasonable when compared to the accuracy of the reference data (at least 50 % of the buildings have a height uncertainty equal to 5 m). This work offers insights about the estimation of missing urban data using statistical methods and contributes to the use of open-source datasets based on open-source software. The software used to produce the data is freely available at (Bocher et al., 2021b), and the dataset can be freely accessed at (Bernard et al., 2021).</p>
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