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International Journal of Digital Earth

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Analysis of built-up spatial pattern at different scales: can scattering affect map accuracy?
P. Tenerelli & D. Ehrlich
a a a

Joint Research Centre, Institute for the Protection and Security of the Citizen, European Commission, T.P. 268, Via E. Fermi, 2749, I-21027, Ispra, VA, Italy Published online: 02 Nov 2011.

To cite this article: P. Tenerelli & D. Ehrlich (2011): Analysis of built-up spatial pattern at different scales: can scattering affect map accuracy?, International Journal of Digital Earth, 4:sup1, 107-116 To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17538947.2010.512431

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International Journal of Digital Earth, Vol. 4, Supplement 1, 2011, 107 116

Analysis of built-up spatial pattern at different scales: can scattering affect map accuracy?
P. Tenerelli* and D. Ehrlich
Joint Research Centre, Institute for the Protection and Security of the Citizen, European Commission, T.P. 268, Via E. Fermi, 2749, I-21027, Ispra (VA), Italy (Received 15 June 2010; nal version received 9 July 2010) Settlement maps derived by Earth Observation data represent a critical dataset for building stock quantification. The accuracy of the settlement maps varies across the different spatial scales and across the space according to specific spatial patterns. The aim of this paper is to assess the accuracy of the settlement map at different scales, and to analyze the relationships between spatial allocation of error and built-up distribution patterns. The paper identifies two general trends. First that the building stock overestimation error increases with increasing values of spatial scattering. Second that at coarser scales the relation between building area overestimation and spatial scattering became stronger. The results have important implications when settlement maps are used to estimate the building stock. Keywords: built-up map; building spatial pattern; multi-scale analysis; map accuracy

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1. Introduction Most of the areas vastly affected by natural disasters are located in developing countries, with limited access to data on physical and socio-economic systems. Those datasets are necessary to assess the disaster risk which is determined, for a given hazard, by the elements at risk and vulnerability components according to the risk equation given by United Nations Disaster Relief Coordinator (UNDRO, 1979). According to the UNDRO definition, the elements at risk are the population, buildings and civil engineering works, economic activities, public services, utilities and infrastructure, etc . . . Remote sensing can be used to derive the physical elements exposed to risk, in particular the building stocks (Ehrlich et al. 2009a). Building stock can then be used to derive the spatial distribution of the population and the demographic exposure to hazard (Ehrlich et al., 2009b, Taubenbo ck et al. 2009) which are key information for emergency response planning. When assessing the physical elements exposed to risk in a given area, two types of products are typically derived from satellite imageries: (1) the settlement map (often also referred to as built-up map); and the more precise (2) building stock map. The settlement map is composed of the sum of the physical elements (buildings, roads, infrastructures, and open spaces) that contribute to define the built-up pattern, including all materials and surfaces (Pesaresi and Ehrlich 2009). The building stock
*Corresponding author. Email: patrizia.tenerelli@jrc.ec.europa.eu
ISSN 1753-8947 print/ISSN 1753-8955 online # 2011 European Union http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17538947.2010.512431 http://www.tandfonline.com


P. Tenerelli and D. Ehrlich

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map represents the geographical location of each building, separated from other physical elements of the built-up patterns. The building stock can be derived from Very High Resolution (VHR) satellite imagery through two approaches. The buildings can be directly encoded as points or footprints, as in this analysis, from aerial photography or VHR satellite imagery. The typical output is a digital building location layer that can be used to rapidly estimate the building stock over a given area using basic Geographic Information System (GIS) analysis. Settlement maps are typically used to derive less accurate information on physical elements exposed to risk, when covering large areas or when rapid assessment is required. Satellite imageries can be processed to derive settlement maps using visual analysis or automatic techniques (Pesaresi et al. 2008).The settlement maps can then be used to estimate the building stock for a given area through a sampling strategy. This procedure uses the settlement map to stratify a number of sample points, the building stock is then estimated by applying a statistical extrapolation procedure (Ehrlich et al. 2010). When assessing the building stock quantity and location, it is critical to understand the errors embedded in the settlement map and its variability across the space. These errors can be grouped in: (1) (2) (3) (4) errors errors errors errors related related related related to to to to data source (inherent image accuracy and projection); the classification procedure; the representation scale (spatial resolution); and the settlement spatial pattern.

Errors related to data source and classification procedure are not addressed herein. This study addresses the error related to settlement spatial pattern and spatial resolution, using a building stock map as reference data. In this investigation, the built-up maps always overestimate the building stock due to the different geometric generalization of the buildings at the different representation scales. The map comparison will thus always refer to the overestimation error. For the purpose of analyzing the influence of settlement spatial patterns on the error, a spatial metric which gives an indication of the buildings distribution over the space was defined. The analysis is of high relevance when settlement maps are derived over regions with very diverse settlement spatial patterns and when derived from imageries of different spatial resolution. In each situation the different sources of error and its spatial variability should be understood before accounting the building stock. This work was conducted on a natural hazard hotspot area in the Eastern Caribbean Region, severely affected by cyclones, sea level surge floods, and landslides. The study area is the main island of Guadeloupe (Basse-Terre and Grande-Terre), with a surface of 129 km2. The island is characterized by five major urban areas (Pointe-a ` -Pitre, Basse-Terre, Sainte-Anne, Petit-Bourg, and Le Moule) and 27 secondary communes. More than 90% of the population lives in urban areas, with a density of 272 inhabitants per square kilometer (United Nations Statistics Division 2010). The built-up area covers the island with different density levels with a major concentration and building size on the main communes (Pointe-a ` -Pitre) which counts 19,000 inhabitants.

International Journal of Digital Earth 2. Methodology


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This study compares a building footprint data layer, used as reference building stock map, and four built-up maps at different spatial resolutions. The building footprint layer was derived by visual analysis of aerial photography (Ehrlich et al. 2009c). The built-up maps were derived by intersecting the building footprints layer with grids at different sizes. For this purpose, four nested grids were generated within the Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) reticulate at the following grid cell sizes: 12.5)12.5, 25)25, 50)50, and 100)100 m. For each grid all the cells that intersect the building footprint surface were retained as built-up. Four built-up maps, entitled gridded built-up maps, were thus generated (B12.5, B25, B50, and B100) (Figure 1). Each map overestimates the building stock and this overestimation error depends on the grid size, which define the spatial resolution, as well as from the settlement spatial patterns. The relations spatial scattering/spatial resolution, and map overestimation error are the focus of this paper. The 1)1 km UTM reticulate cell is the reference spatial unit for the analysis (sample unit). This standard unit allows relating the maps to other global settlement layers that work with this same areal unit. The cell area of the UTM 1-km grid is used to derive the statistics (error and spatial pattern) for the four-gridded built-up maps. The map overestimation error (E ) for each spatial resolution (j ) was calculated as percentage over the gridded built-up area. For each 1-km cell (i), the total overestimation error was computed according to the following formula: Ej
n X Agj Af k 1



Ej B100


where k01, . . . , n building footprints within the i spatial unit of 1 km2; Agj is area of the gridded built-up at the spatial resolution j; and Af is area of the building footprint. The hypothesis to be tested was that the error depends on the spatial resolution (G), and that within the same gridding size the error is related to the footprint area (A) and the building spatial scattering (isolation of building) (S). In a gridded builtup map, those factors combine within each other affecting the map error in different ways at different gridding sizes. As a general rule, E increases with decreasing building area, hence E and A are related with a negative function. The spatial scattering is related to the error in the built-up area at the different gridding size. When building footprints are generalized to a grid with lower spatial resolution their area is overestimated. At the same time, the gridded built-up area may overlap when building footprints are closely spaced. The overlap between gridded built-up areas reduces the area overestimation error, so that when buildings are isolated (highspatial scattering) the error is higher than when they are proximal (low-spatial scattering). Therefore, E and S are related with a positive function. Figure 2 shows two samples of spatial patterns with the same number of buildings, but very different spatial scattering and overestimation errors. Figure 2(a) shows a very scattered spatial pattern where the distance between the buildings is always ]200 m. In this sample, the gridded built-up areas never overlap and each building is represented by a different cell at each gridding size, this spatial pattern corresponds to the maximum


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P. Tenerelli and D. Ehrlich

Figure 1. Map subsets. (a) Building footprint map; gridded built-up maps at different spatial resolutions: 12.5 )12.5 m (b); 25 )25 m (c); 50 )5 0 m (d); and 100 )100 m (e). Gridded built-up is shown in light grey and the building footprints from which the gridded built-up is derived is shown in black.

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Figure 2. The gure shows two different spatial patterns for four building footprints in a given space. The building footprints are represented in black, while the gridded built-up area at the different sizes, 12.5 )12.5, 25 )25, 50 )50, and 100 )100 m, are represented in scale from light to dark grey.

overestimation error. Figure 2(b) shows a spatial pattern characterized by very low scattering, with a distance between the buildings which is always 512.5 m. In this case, the gridded built-up areas always overlap, so that the four buildings are represented by the same single cell at each gridding size, therefore this spatial pattern corresponds to the minimum overestimation error. In order to consider both the area and the building spatial scattering in a single model, a Mean Scattering Index (MSI) which depends, with an inverse relation, on the distance (m) between building and the building size was implemented. The index was calculated within the 1-km2 cell. The MSI was computed according to Equation (2), which is modified from the Mean Proximity Index (MPI) (Whitcomb et al. 1981, McGarigal and Marks 1995). This index considers for each building the size and proximity distance of all buildings whose edges are within a specified search radius. In this application MSI equals the total number of buildings within the 1-km2 spatial unit, divided by the sum, over all buildings whose edges are within the search radius, of each building area (m2) divided by the squared (m2) nearest edge-to-edge distance from the considered building. For the purpose of this work, a fixed search radius of 200 m was identified. This distance equals twice the maximum gridding size (100 m) and it is considered as the radius within which an overlap may occur when resizing the building footprints to the spatial resolution of the gridded built-up maps. MSI ni n n PP
j 1 s 1

100; 000 MPI >0

aijs h2 ijs


where aijs is area (m2) of building ijs within specified neighborhood of building ij; hijs is distance (m) between building ijs (located within specified neighborhood distance of building ij) and building ij, based on edge-to-edge distance; and ni is number of building footprints within the i spatial unit of 1 km2. MSI increases as the buildings became more isolated (scattered) and their surface area decreases.


P. Tenerelli and D. Ehrlich

The model was applied to the total surface of the main island of Guadeloupe. A 1-km2 grid was overlaid to the building footprint map. The cells with no buildings or only one building were then deleted from the samples set as they were not suitable for the application of the scattering index. All the other samples were included in the model with the aim to consider both urban (high-building density) and peri-urban as well as rural zones (low-building density). A total of 1200 sample units were thus used for the analysis. The scattering index was computed using the public domain software for spatial pattern analysis FRAGSTATS (McGarigal et al. 2002). This software works in a raster environment, therefore the building footprints map was rasterized with 1)1 m spatial resolution. 3. Results and discussion After computing the MSI for the building footprints map (Equation (2)) and the error for each gridded built-up map (Equation (1)), the data were plotted (Figure 3). The data distribution in the scatter plots shows a positive exponential relation between the error and the MSI, with increasing error values from lower to higher gridding size. Moreover, the plots show as the variance is higher for the smaller gridding size, indicating a stronger relation between E and MSI at the larger gridding size. This is due to the fact that the higher level of generalization of the built-up area most likely causes an overlap between the gridded built-up areas. The samples distribution in the scatter plots also shows that the relation between overestimation error and spatial scattering is critical for MSI values ranging from 0 to 2. In this value range, a positive exponential relation between E and MSI can be observed for each scatter plot, above this MSI value range (from 2 to 10) the variation of E became smaller. This indicates that when the buildings reach a certain spatial scattering level (MSI more than 2), the overestimation error reaches the maximum value range (90 100% at 100 and 50 m gridding size, 80 90% at 25 m gridding size, and 70 80% at 12.5 m gridding size), with a variability that no longer depends on the scattering. The outlier analysis for each scatter plot shows that the main limitation of using the MSI to predict the error is the building area influence for spatial patterns with a few large buildings (Figure 4). Those outliers are representative samples of actual settlement spatial patterns in peri-urban and rural areas, including industrial areas. Figure 5 shows the Error Map at the different gridding size. The qualitative comparison of those maps with the MSI map (Figure 6) shows a similar distribution between the cell with low-spatial scattering and those with high errors. Figure 5 shows that a higher concentration of low error values is located in the middle part of the maps in all of the four grid sizes (30 70% at 12.5 and 25 m gridding size and 40 80% at 50 and 100 m gridding size). At the same locations, Figure 6 shows very low MSI values. This area corresponds to the main urban area (Pointe-a ` -Pitre) with the highest built-up concentration. Figure 5 (E100 and E50) also shows that the lowest overestimation error occurs on the same cell both at 100)100 and 50)50 m gridding size (the only blue cell in both the maps), this 1-km2 cell corresponds to the one with the absolute lowest MSI value (0.052). However, the cell with the lowest error at gridding size 25)25 and 12.5)12.5 m (the only blue cell in Figure 5 E25 and E12.5) differs from that at 100)100 and 50)50 m gridding size. The cell with the lowest error at 12.5 and 25 m is characterized by the presence of a few very large

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International Journal of Digital Earth


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Figure 3. Scatter plots: MSI distribution in relation to the error at the different gridding size (G100, G50, G25, and G12.5). Outliers are labeled with their MSI value.

buildings which are also very closely spaced (less than 10 m apart). This confirms the low influence of the spatial isolation and the large influence of building size on the overestimation error at lower gridding size.

4. Conclusions The settlement map is widely used to generalize the accounting and location of physical elements exposed to risk. This kind of map is in high demand (Gamba and Herold 2009) especially by the global disaster risk community including the Global Earthquake model community. A settlement map is semantically simple and can thus be derived in a robust manner using machine-assisted algorithms over large areas.


P. Tenerelli and D. Ehrlich

Figure 4. Outlier analysis: (a) MSI 0 9.24; (b) MSI 0 5.77; (c) MSI 0 2.19; and (d) MSI 0 0.16.

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The error embedded in the settlement map needs to be taken into account to be able to statistically assess the ultimate information on the buildings exposed to risk. This paper addresses the error that is related to the spatial distribution of the settlement at a given spatial resolution and quantifies it through empirically derived relations. The results of this analysis show that the overestimation error varies with the spatial pattern at different spatial resolutions (the gridding size in this analysis), according to specific relations. The errors are quantified in the empirically derived spatial scattering/spatial resolution functions. According to these functions, there is a positive exponential relation between the MSI and the overestimation error, and with higher resolutions the spatial scattering effect on overestimation errors decreases. When the building stock is to be computed in peri-urban and rural areas, a lower gridding size should be used because the built-up spatial scattering is typically very high and this causes a high-building stock overestimation error (over 50% at 12.5 m resolution and over 70% at 25, 50 and 100 m resolution). In the core urban area, instead, a lower spatial resolution can be used to obtain the same level of overestimation error as in the peri-urban and rural areas. If the built-up map is to

Figure 5. Error map at 1 km2 for each gridding size (12.5, 25, 50, and 100).

International Journal of Digital Earth


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Figure 6. Mean Scattering Index Map: spatial distribution of the MSI at the 1 km2 resolution.

be used to estimate the building stock in dense urban areas and peri-urban or rural areas alike, the built-up (BU) will have to be stratified in different density classes to reduce within stratum variability in the statistical assessment procedure. In general, this analysis focuses on the error related to spatial resolution and spatial patterns in binary built-up maps. The very high overestimation error, more than 50% for core urban areas and more than 80% for peri-urban and rural areas, which can be observed on the 50 and 100 m resolution maps, demonstrates how the building stock cannot be derived from such coarse resolution data, as confirmed in other studies (Potere and Schneider 2009). This work may find application beyond the assessment of the building stock. Settlement maps are used for urban planning to quantify urban sprawl, in support to census statistical sample allocation, as well as for delineating urban/rural divides. The index of built-up spatial scattering could be considered together with other parameters (i.e. built-up density) to better characterize and quantify built-up patterns in cities and rural areas. Notes on contributors
Patrizia Tenerelli graduated in Forestry and Environmental Science at the University of Bari where she also gained her PhD on Agro-forestry Engineering. During her PhD, she carried out research studies on natural resources evaluation and land planning for rural development. In the industry sector, she worked as geospatial analyst, developing useroriented geo-information products based on Earth Observation data. In 2009, she started a post-doc at the Institute for the Protection and Security of the Citizen of the European Commission JRC, working as GIS modeling specialist for disaster risk assessment and settlements exposure to natural hazards.


P. Tenerelli and D. Ehrlich

Daniele Ehrlich holds a PhD (1992) in Geography from the University of California, at Santa Barbara, USA. He joined the Joint Research Centre in 1994 and is now a senior staff with the Institute for the Protection and Security of the Citizen. In his scientific and professional career, he has used optical Earth Observation data for crop area estimations, tropical deforestation assessments, land cover changes at broad spatial scales, refugee camp mapping, and more recently, post-disaster damage assessments. His current focus of research is on the use of VHR imagery for settlement mapping and geo-spatial technologies for disaster risk modeling.

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