Parcel Mapping: How nations are advancing towards adoption of 3D data models for efficient land parcel management

By Senthil Rajendran, Published on: 27th July 2022

Access to land and land rights is an important action point both for multilateral such as the World Bank and the UN and the majority of governments across the globe. Efficient management of land tenure security and land rights of the common man is the gateway to the prosperity of a nation. Furthermore, to formalize land ownership and to define the rights, restrictions, and responsibilities (RRR) of the owner of a piece of land, it is essential to have a comprehensive land parcel database.

History of Land Records – The ‘Torrents System’

Several countries follow different systems of records to store the spatial and non-spatial data related to land. ‘Torrents system’ of recordation is one of the most common methods followed by the colonial countries. This system was devised by Sir Robert Richard Torrens (1814–1884) an Irish land reformer. Torrens designed a land registration & transfer system, and according to this system, the State creates & maintains a complete register of land holdings (fabric) which is a conclusive evidence. This conclusive evidence is for the property and its ownership. The person recorded on the register is the owner of RRR. Governments across many countries struggle hard to achieve this status where every bit of the land in the State is mapped as a fabric.

How is it done today?

Over the years, many software like CAD and GIS have been used for mapping and maintaining land parcel information. In addition, most of the land registry offices maintain hard copy registers in which all the land parcel details, ownership rights, development restrictions, etc., are recorded.

The figure below is an example from the Republic of Ireland that shows a freehold property measuring 5.25 hectares. This is a conclusive title for this property that has a folio numbered (RN39574F). This folio contains property description, ownership details, rights & responsibilities, and encumbrances, if any, besides other property details.

The figure shows the location of a cadastral parcel with a freehold title.

What is a strata, and how does it work?

Land parcels are of many types; some are on the ground, and some are in the air (also called strata parcels). Strata parcels have strata title, a form of ownership devised for multi-level apartment blocks and horizontal subdivisions with shared areas. The word “strata” refers to apartments being on different levels.

The figure below refers to an apartment complex with 2 floors (seen only as attributes in the ‘Schema details’ on the left-hand side window). Most of the land registration offices hold information only till this level, wherein 3D representation of the actual apartment blocks is unavailable. This is because of the lack of a data model to store the 3D data about multi-storied buildings (MSBs).

The figure shows the location of the MSB and the registration details of the unit on the 1st floor.

The modern cadastral parcel mapping and management systems are designed to store the multi-storied buildings and the units on each floor level along with the common areas (like corridors, parking, gym, swimming pools etc.). However, the property registration authorities or the cadastral agencies usually do not require high levels of interior details of the buildings. Therefore, it should be possible to identify the building on a cadastral parcel, a floor in a MSB, and a strata parcel (unit) on each floor.

Such 3D strata parcel data for an MSB is created from the floor plan of the building (either from as-built drawings or from the planning drawings). These floor plans are georeferenced and extruded to their design height to obtain a proper georeferenced 3D model of the building.

The figure shown below is a 3D model of a multi-story building with each unit (strata parcel) identifiable. This makes it easy for the registration department staff and the property owner to visualize the strata parcel in a 3D environment. Increasingly, the modernization of land registry programs across the globe targets to achieve this level of maturity.

Figure shows in individual unit (Strata Parcel) selected for which the registration is carried out.

The available tools and advantages

While there are many open source and proprietary software tools to create, maintain and manage cadastral parcel information, this blog focuses on ‘Esri’s ArcGIS Pro Parcel Fabric tool’ which is gaining popularity among the organizations already using Esri tools and organizations aspiring to move into ESRI’s environment for parcel management. Esri has also made this product compatible with 2D, 3D and BIM editing and integration capabilities. Esri introduced this parcel fabric information model in ArcMap, which has been upgraded to ArcGIS Pro.

The advantage of parcel fabric over a conventional cadastral parcel mapping is that in the conventional parcel mapping, all the data necessary for analysis may not be part of the same environment and may have anomalies such as

  • Inconsistent structure
  • Without standardized attributes
  • Line strings and arcs not properly denoted
  • Issues in inversing and populating coordinate geometry attributes
  • Lack of spatially improving source data to edge match with adjacent datasets
  • Absence of topological testing to ensure the Cadastral Fabric topology constraints are achieved

But with the parcel fabric, all these points mentioned above are taken care of, thus, making parcel mapping a holistic solution for cadastral organization’s needs. This parcel fabric is a controller dataset that controls feature classes and topology. Parcels are stored as parcel types (tax parcels, lots, revenue parcels, etc.), and each parcel type has its own polygons and lines.

How can we help?

RMSI carried out a pilot project for a key customers who had cadastral parcel data in Oracle. This data was taken into ArcGIS and later to ArcGIS Prop Parcel Fabric. The figure below shows the land parcels organized as a normal geodatabase. There is no fabric of land created, and all different types of parcels are captured.

Figure shows the cadastral parcel data captured as normal geodatabase in ArcGIS

The migration from the geodatabase to parcel fabric was a fairly easy process. In this figure below, the same land data is captured as a fabric and all the various types of parcels are captured one above the other.

Figure shows the cadastral parcel data captured in ArcGIS Pro Parcel Fabric

Some of the benefits of using parcel fabric for parcel mapping are

  • Customers with the parcel data as CAD files, shape files, or as geodatabase can easily migrate it to ArcGIS Pro parcel fabric.
  • It is easy to maintain the land parcel fabric and integrate the new source datasets into it
  • The parcel layers can be updated by using a repeatable process
  • Advantage of having all the datasets necessary for decision-making all in a single fabric.
  • Parcel fabric is a seamless extent of cadastral information for a complete city or a state
  • It is easy to share and scale up as it is within the Esri framework and suite of products.

RMSI is a pioneer in providing land management solutions with over three decades of experience in Europe, The Middle East, Asia, and Australia RMSI has deep domain knowledge in the land registration processes, land information systems, land taxation, land conveyancing, parcel mapping, besides other land related aspects. We have successfully designed, developed, and implemented many national land information systems for countries across the globe.

RMSI is one of the select few companies to have worked with multiple land & property registration authorities, national mapping agencies, survey and geospatial information commissions across the globe, standing testimony to our land management capabilities.

If you would like to explore more about how you can benefit from parcel fabric mapping for your business, please write to me at


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