Tagging builders / construction companies / civil engineering

Something I’ve come across from time to time is how to best tag construction businesses.

So far we have only stubs in the wiki


A workplace or office of tradespeople who build or remodel buildings. A general contractor.

A workplace or office of a tradesman who performs structural alterations and additions to buildings


Used in conjunction with office=company, this can define a company as a construction company. For the respective subdivisions, e.g. building construction, civil engineering, etc., there are no differentiation options so far.

A construction company; company providing multiple or general construction services


Construction machinery, building materials are stored on the premises of a construction company or prefabrication such as prefabricated building components is involved.

A metalworking industry

:face_with_monocle: that last description might have been a copy-and-paste error??

Discussions going on right now on similar topics: Wiki page for Key:industrial has been completely rewritten. Was this discussed or voted on?
Small scale landuse=industrial vs. industrial=*

I would like to tag the area that is used by the business with something fitting. My gut feeling is “industrial=construction_company” describes it well. The only issue would be that the landuse may not be exactly “industrial” but “commercial”, or “light” vs “heavy” industry, which is talked about in the above topics, too. I’m not dogmatic here, but I would love to see a consensus and have it inscribed in the wiki.

craft=builder makes no sense anymore when the company is really big, it may work on small and midsize companies. I know “craft” has issues in the English speaking world, it probably was introduced by Germans to describe the concept of “Handwerk” :grin:

And company=construction needs an office, which can always be put as a node in the most likely location, but what about tagging the area?

Then there’s a second issue:

These tags describe businesses that are constructing buildings (mostly above ground). How should a company be tagged that does construction on and below ground, but builds no houses?

In German there’s the term Tiefbau, it

“covers large parts of the construction infrastructure. This includes road, bridge, railroad, gallery and tunnel construction, earthworks, hydraulic engineering, mining and foundation engineering as well as the construction of supply and disposal networks such as waterways, dams and sewer systems”

(translation from the de-Wiki by DeepL)
DeepL translates “Tiefbau” as “civil engineering” which may be broader than the German term.

I think “infrastructure_construction” as a value of the industrial key could work well. What do you think?

To backsolve from the description: sounds a bit like what we would call a “maskinentreprenør” in Norwegian. These guys have excavators and trucks, will dig up a trench when a new sewage line is needed, construct short sections of road, construct retaining walls, blow up and move away a minor hill and then flatten the area for a new development, deliver truckloads of gravel. May have a municipal contract for snow ploughing the roads during winter, other heavy machinery etc.

This kind of business?

And company=construction needs an office, which can always be put as a node in the most likely location, but what about tagging the area?

I would use this on the area rather than the node, a node alone is not a good representation for something “big” and where the extent is clear

there are different terms for different kinds of work and specialization, there is also Erdbau, Grundbau, Straßen- und Wegebau, Tunnelbau, Wasserbau, Brückenbau, and companies will either just offer specialized competence or aggregate several of these fields. Then there is Hochbau (for a company this usually means brick and mortar/concrete or more generally could include Stahlbau and Holzbau (structural steel or wood work)). And there are GU (Generalunternehme, company offers all construction and finishing work as a package), GÜ (Generalübernehmer, as before but also make the planning)

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Indeed, I’ve mapped a branch office of a civil engineering company that specializes in sewer construction. You wouldn’t know it, except that the registered addresses of three sanitary sewer districts are also located there. We don’t really have a ready-made word for it in English, but the phrase I just used normally gets the point across. I was content with office=engineer, but if the office were responsible for something more hands-on than the drafting, planning, and project management, then I might be looking for some other tag. (That would be unlikely, since their next door neighbor is a certain fruit company that would be sensitive to the kind of equipment used in sewer construction.)

Excluding =builder , why do you think the other two are “are constructing buildings” ? I don’t see anything suggesting this. (Disclaimer: I dislike company= even more than industrial= )
The problem with this is “tiefbau” appears to be classifying by “use”. While the possible opposite “building engineering” / “building engineer” or " “architectural engineering” / “architectural engineer” exists somehow (not to be confused with UK’s Building Services Engineering for US’s Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing), it’s a less common classification to speak of. Usually it is specified as simply “building construction” . " Construction engineering" includes both buildings and infrastructures.
Fundamentally, different professions/disciplines can engage in different projects. “Engineering” companies can be classified by their role first (consultant, general contractor, subcontractor), especially as they can be qualified in multiple disciplines. The biggest companies work on both infrastructure and buildings.
The “civil engineering” academic subject or programme can include other content, eg structural, geotechnical, environmental, etc. Those would enable students to work on buildings too. Infrastructure is a signature part of “civil engineering”, but it’s not everything.
“Utility engineer” would mean the person is an engineer of a utilities company. It seems Australia has some institutes of “public works” , but that’s rather unique.
“Excavation” and “earthworks” seem to be tasks to me. They might be found for both buildings and infrastructure.
Basically, it’s not common to have an intermediate classification of “infrastructure engineering” . It is specified for electricity, water supply, hydraulic, drainage, transportation, bridge, tunnel, coastal, marine and port etc directly.

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This could be clarified by changing it to office=civil_engineer : this is the profession of an early OSMF board member. There are a number of major consultancies in the field, such as Arup, who are massive GIS users. I’ve attended a few meetings at offices of such companies as an OSM representative.

Note that I also saw Boston Consulting Group labelled as office=consulting and I’ve changed this to office=management_consulting, as i think the former is too broad.

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You are right, I did not read the pages correctly. So I will stick to using industrial=construction_company

:smile: But you may be fighting windmills there…
OSM tagging is often weird, what a tag is commonly used for is not always what the actual meaning of the words describe.
Changing established tagging is hard, so we should probably focus on making the wiki clear and precise. And from there the editor presets will hopefully follow.

Cool word :grin:

Yes, it describes a lot of what a “Tiefbau” company does. They also do big road construction / earthworks / things, depending on the size of the company and the manpower they have.

I’ve not heard of one having a contract to do the snow plowing (that’s probably a bigger issue in Norway)

Yes, it is the envelope term, see also Construction engineering - Wikipedia
I guess that the wish to differentiate comes from the distinction that German businesses make, namely calling themselves “Hochbau” or “Tiefbau”. But my solution for now is to use industrial=construction_company for both, and put the rest in the name, or if the name doesn’t contain a hint like that, use description

company= is not even the same problem as many others. The difference is office= already exists for what company= is doing. office=company is for office= “which does not fit into another more specific category” yet.

office=consulting is often refined by consulting, but unfortunately the same solution doesn’t exist for office=engineer, because engineer is the name of an engineer (by analogy with architect). Guess we should’ve called it office=engineering. But no matter, we can always fall back to special(i)ty. :wink:

This thread about tagging has been moved to general:tagging.

On that, I don’t understand what’s with office=consulting . The most numerous consulting= is =engineering . Why are they not office=engineer ? I glanced through some Anglosphere examples, and they are described as engineering firms. “Consulting” is sorta form of business, relationship, or role, similar to “contracting” for doing the actual work. Other titles such as system/solution/service provider, integrator, supplier, vendor, reseller, distributor etc come to mind. 's orthogonal to the job content. The examples of KPMG and Accenture evoke accounting and IT first. Maybe people are differentiating the former and Big Four’s accounting, audit, “consulting”, etc offices/subsidiaries separately.
The signature “consulting” is by MicKinsey, and BCG. That’s “management consulting”. And what is the exact difference with “advising”??? =consulting fails to show what the office= is doing.

It’s a good question. I’ve often waffled between office=engineer and office=consulting consulting=engineering when mapping an engineering consultant’s office. I suppose one advantage of the latter is that many consulting firms consult on more than just engineering, so it’s one way to avoid setting a primary feature key to a semicolon-delimited list.

It’s a good question. I’ve often waffled between office=engineer and office=consulting consulting=engineering when mapping an engineering consultant’s office. I suppose one advantage of the latter is that many consulting firms consult on more than just engineering, so it’s one way to avoid setting a primary feature key to a semicolon-delimited list.

Maybe consulting means someone else takes the responsibility and you only suggest what they could do?

For the people planning in this field (Tiefbau), civil engineering is fine as a generic term, but the OP asked for construction companies. What is the (general) term for a business executing the works planned by a civil engineer? I guess there are terms like tunnel construction company, bridge construction company, road construction company, … but what’s the generic term?
Oh, and there are also engineering & construction companies.

The generic term is civil construction company. I should know because I have been working for some of those for half of my life.

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thank you. Regarding the engineering and construction company, is this a type of its own or office=civil_engineer plus company=civil_construction on the same object? Or what is the key?

That’s one way to look at it. An important consideration to be aware of is that some jurisdictions heavily regulate who can call themselves an engineer, especially a civil engineer, while other jurisdictions have comparatively laxer rules. In the stricter jurisdictions, people use approximate terms for engineering-adjacent work. Maybe consulting is one of them? OSM may not be rigidly bound by these laws, but I think it’s reminiscent of the considerations around who we’d be willing to classify as a doctor.

Most of the ones I’ve mapped would call themselves construction contractors or general contractors, which is broader and would include building construction. However, “civil engineering company” would be understandable for what was asked earlier.

It’s confusing. I saw some description of “civil construction” including buildings. It might include municipal services, eg schools. That won’t be covered in this tiefbau.

It is confusing because the terms used for construction business are overlapping in many cases and different companies use different terms for the same job they offer. If you look at some of the major global players in construction business you will find wordings like

China Communications Construction Company
Hyundai Engineering & Construction
China State Construction Engineering
Hochtief AG (which is a combination of Hochbau and Tiefbau in the name)

and all of them cover the whole range of building activities. Usual generic terms for such companies are

  • civil construction company
  • construction contractor
  • general contractor

which covers all aspects of construction, building construction as well as engineering construction, which are the 2 main fields of construction business

  • building construction engaged in constructing buildings, where the design of the object is of major importance, usually created by an architect (in german this is called Hochbau)

  • engineering construction engaged in construction of non-building structures where the function of the object is predominant and as such usually designed by an engineer (in german called Ingenieurbau)

Engineering construction again is subdivided into lots of disciplines like underground construction (Tiefbau), tunnel construction (Tunnelbau), steel construction (Stahlbau), bridge construction (Brückenbau) and the like.

Fun fact

In Germany the correct term “Ingenieurbau” is not very common, most people generally call this “Tiefbau” whereas the latter covers only a part of the former. There are even different terms for the foremen working in this 2 different disciplines: Foreman “Hochbau” = Polier and foreman “Tiefbau” = Schachtmeister (which means “master of the ducts”).


  • Also building construction requires engineering work because an engineer has to make sure that the building designed by the architect will fullfill all the technical requirement to be strong and safe to use.

  • Also engineering construction is often supported by an architect if an extraordinary design is requested.

AND the scope of work is overlapping an many cases:

  • The part of a building below ground level (basement, parking decks etc.) normally is an underground construction but in many cases understood as part of the building construction.

  • Structures like roofs are normally building constructions but in some cases understood as engineering construction (like the roof of the olympic sports ground in Munich).

  • Steel constructions are normally part of engineering construction (bridges, towers, tanks etc.) but can also be part of building construction (steel frames for skyscrapers).


Summary (tl;dr);
As I said: It is confusing and impossible to clearly demarcate the different construction disciplines from each other which makes separate tagging very difficult. My own approach is to just tag such companies als “construction_company” + name + website where everyone interested may find all the details of the kind of work offered.