Classification of buildings and unidentified places


I am currently mapping in Myanmar and Thailand. I don’t have any particular worries with roads and rivers but I have some doubts about the cartography of inhabited places. Indeed at first I drew several polygons with the tag “landuse=residential”.
But it is a solution that is suitable when you have a large number of buildings (which is far from being the case regularly).

I thought of using the tag “place” with “place=isolated_dwelling” and “place=hamlet” for small gatherings of houses/buildings. Nevertheless it seems that the tag “place” must be accompanied by the name of the place, but it is a data that I don’t have for the moment. So for small gatherings of buildings (up to 3) I draw only the buildings.

Do you have any advice concerning the mapping of habited/lowly habited areas?

Besides, I came across the modifications made by Elijah Filip several times but I don’t really know what to do with this data ( Create a new residential zone?

Hello and welcome to OSM

You can continue to draw a perimiter around groups of buildings and tag them with landuse=residential. If you don’t know the name of the area, don’t add one. There are some who insist that such perimeters must be verifiable, that is, officially recognized and having a high degree of accuracy, however, in places like Thailand and Myanmar such data is next to impossible to obtain.

Sometimes I use the place tag to describe a named locality or other area of interest but in the case of residential areas unless you know the name of the hamlet or village, it’s better not to use the place tag at all. A small residential area containing related buildings can be tagged with place=isolated_dwelling. Usually, these are left unnamed AFAIK.

Elija Filip and his coworkers added many areas in Thailand for a project that used them as a progress metric. There is an ongoing discussion on this list that is working on dealing with them. See this thread for details:

Those areas will be removed at some point. My advice is to ignore them.

Best regards,


Please make sure, that these “isolated dwellings” are actually buildings where people live. Especially in the context of “let’s fight Malaria” I have seen a lot of weather shelters in the middle of fields being tagged as houses.

As a rough hint: If a building has an area of 9 square meters or smaller, it is probably a Sala to shelter from the weather and not a farmer house.

Please also use the functionality of your editor to draw the building outlines properly. That means a corner has usually a right angle. All editors provide help in creating orthogonal buildings.

If you do not yet know names of places, it is fine to leave that out. If there is a reasonably high chance that a group of buildings forms a settlement (enough distance from other settlements) you can add a place node. But please use it reasonably. We do not want to end up with multiple place nodes for the same village. This makes it also very hard when you are on the ground, see a village sign to know which of these place nodes the name actually should belong to.