Open Data Standard For Building Permits Launches


A consortium of technology companies including Accela and Civic Insight, have released a new open data standard for buildings and permits. The standard is designed to collect and provide consistent data points city to city as builders work through the permitting process.

The Building and Land Development Specification (BLDS), is a standardized format for jurisdictions to use when reporting information on building and construction permits as open data. The specification was created by professionals from Accela, BuildFax, Buildingeye, Civic Insight, DR-i-VE Decisions, SiteCompli, Socrata, and Zillow, and applied to datasets contributed by a growing list of cities and counties.

The standard is similar to others already out there like the LIVES standard or GTFS for transportation. “We shamelessly ripped off that approach,” says Mark Headd, a Developer Evangelist for Accela and former Chief Data Officer for the City of Philadelphia, in an interview with CivSource. “We want to support the growth of civic tech by providing a baseline of data that is workable. The BLDS standard is an extension of our core expertise.”

Early adopter municipalities publishing data in the BLDS format include San Diego County, California, the City of Alameda, California, Deschutes County, Oregon, Bernalillo County, New Mexico, Chattanooga, Tennessee, Tampa, Florida, Seattle, Washington, Fort Worth, Texas, and Boston, Massachusetts, among others.

The work to develop this standard is part of a broader effort by the civic technology community to develop shared standards for open data that can be adopted by any government that wishes to use them.

“Right now we can’t get a good idea of the development patterns of a single city, let alone comparing cities of similar size to each other because each development process is different and we don’t have the data. What we want to do is give municipalities a way to see patterns and be able to plan smartly,” added Eddie Tejeda, CEO of Civic Insight.

Going forward, both companies and the other partners plan to work through visualizations of the data and providing templates for municipalities to use. “We want to support the mandate for open data, but we also want to be a resource to cities and developers to ensure they are getting the most out of what those data points mean,” Headd said.