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Green Buildings in California

Published in KML  |  6 Comments

I like taking data that is thrown up on a map in a completely ad-hoc format and freeing it into an actually usable format. In this case, I recently saw the new State of California’s Green Building Directory (via geospatial reddit).

What is particularly funny about this project is its use of the term “GIS Technologies” to describe a very archaic map with stand-up pins. A GoogleMap is not GIS. The original site does allow users to search by specific attributes, but not really in a dynamic way.

The map is created by directly building markers up in Javascript. Assumedly the back-end is powered by a database, and it would have been nice of them to share out an actual listing of the underlying data. This is a perfect example of the study .gov web sites should focus on RSS, XML—not redesigns.

California Green Buildings Database

So instead I just created a KML version that uses Extended Data to call out the various attributes on the features such as LEED rating and number of buildings. You can see my own mashup and grab the KML file.

As I said before, this map I made isn’t “GIS”. But consider I spent about 5 minutes with the original Javascript and a bunch of RegExps to create the KML. It’s up to you to make something useful with it.

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  1. Andres says:

    June 6th, 2008 at 12:49 pm (#)

    Hi Andrew,

    Nicely done. I’m the one that posted the news story for the green buildings on gs reddit. Debated whether to use the state’s original “GIS” label for their little mashup, but ultimately decided that although primitive, the mashup does likely tap into GIS data (though not dynamically).

    You’ve brought up an interesting thought/question: ‘A Google Map is not GIS.’

    I’m curious where you draw the line?

    In my opinion, Google Maps is a basic representation of a GIS (data, software, hardware, network, standards, etc.). If a Google Maps mashup taps into a PostGIS db serving up KML via featureserver, is that GIS? Or if someone sets up an ArcGIS 9.3 ‘Javascript API’ site that mimics Google Maps, is that GIS?

    I could argue, though not definitively, that the map you made in 5 minutes is GIS, albeit at a basic/simple level.

    Thanks for posting the link to Ars Technica…hadn’t seen that.



  2. Andrew says:

    June 6th, 2008 at 1:40 pm (#)

    A GoogleMap, or Map in general, does not make something GIS. Is a Road Atlas “GIS”? It is a cartographic representation of geospatial data.

    And I assume for the CA Green Buildings that it’s just placing markers from a database, this perhaps *starts* blurring the line towards GIS, but personally I think of GIS as having more analytic or precision information.

    And obviously this meaning changes over time as the technology becomes more commonly available. Interfacing with a network through a terminal used to be Information Technology, not it’s just “surfing the web” 🙂 Obviously there are aspects of IT (or GIS) utilized to generate the tools and data sources, but the actual simple display or utilization of these tools in a lightweight way seems like a very loose use of “GIS”.

  3. Andres says:

    June 6th, 2008 at 3:32 pm (#)

    I think the line is very blurry at present. Although a Google Map (output) is not GIS, the Google Maps app (and API) running in the ‘background’ seem to me to be a GIS. Same goes for a Road Atlas…it is the output of a GIS…

    So I guess it depends on whether you include an “a” before GIS in those sentences. As in: a road atlas is not “a” GIS, but a road atlas is (part of) GIS (i.e., a part of the whole). A Google Map is not “a” GIS, but the Google Maps application/system/platform (whatever you want to call it) is GIS.

    Back to my original question: where does one draw the line? Hmmm…I may need to ask the general question via a blog post.

    How’s that for semantics? 🙂 Anyway, good food for thought.

    Have a good one.


  4. John Fagan (Multimap) says:

    June 9th, 2008 at 7:53 am (#)

    It is a GIS, as are other mapping API’s (application/system/platform).

    If you look at most definitions of a GIS you could argue that mapping API’s fulfill those requirements.

    … and on the analytical side, is a route calculation not “analytical”? For instance, the Multimap API can do standard route, optimised multiple waypoint routes, and matrix routes (search by driving distance). This is GIS analysis to me.

    If Andrew extended his demo to allow routing between the buildings and allow users to add their own buildings or edit existing, then i think the argument would be even stronger.

  5. Matt Priour says:

    June 12th, 2008 at 12:53 pm (#)

    Apparently, you can actually get to the actual data:

  6. David says:

    August 14th, 2008 at 1:53 am (#)

    I’ve often wondered about how to explain GIS vs Google Maps – as whilst I don’t have a wealth of experience with either, as a project manager you sometimes get asked to justify the difference.

    Correct me if wrong, but I didn’t think Virtual Earth or Google Maps provided APIs to do any spatial queries (i.e. can you do a point-in-polygon query?)

    I tend to think of VE/GMaps as a presentation tool rather than a query engine (which is where a GIS comes into it’s own)…..

    To elaborate – suppose one had three sets of spatial data

    1. stations/rail lines
    2. Main roads.
    3. Homes for sale…..

    Now I want to query this data to find “all homes for sale, within 2mile of a rail station, but not on a main road and not having the railway line come within 1 mi of the home”…..(now that’s what I call advanced query for a property search!).

    VE/GMaps as far as I can tell don’t provide for this kind of query, one would need something like MapInfo.

    Of course I am happy to be corrected…..

    If my understanding is correct, then perhaps the term GIS needs to be expanded…..

    Perhaps we could have GLAS (Geographic Location Analytic System, which just handles the spatial querying) and a GLPS (Geographic Location Presentation System, taking the result set as geocoded points and displaying against map)