Article of the Month -
Innovative Approaches to Spatially Enabling Land Administration and
Gary STRONG, Alexander ARONSOHN and Ben ELDER,
1) This paper was presented
at the FIG Working Week, 6-10 May 2013 in Abuja, Nigeria. This paper
explores how, with only a small amount of investment, the development
and implementation of internationally agreed and recognised measurement
standards will support an improved market efficiency and providing a
wide range of beneficial tools to decision makers.
Key words: International Measurement Standards, Land Rights,
Real Estate, Land Administration and Management, RICS.
This paper explores how, with only a small amount of investment, the
development and implementation of internationally agreed and recognised
measurement standards will support an improved market efficiency,
providing a wide range of beneficial tools to decision makers - from
benchmarking pricing of developments to the identification and valuation
of ownership collateral for the poorest in our societies to an increased
fiscal/tax raising potential from the establishment of a formalised land
and property market (fiscal cadastre).
A properly functioning, transparent and sustainable market in land,
property and construction is a fundamental building block of any
successful economy. The elements of such a market range from
registration of enforcement of land title, to accurate asset valuations
prepared in accordance with International Valuation Standards, to an
adequate supply of professionals working to common ethical principles.
One key missing ingredient that needs further attention at a global
level is a set of standards for the physical measurement of land and
buildings. RICS believes that the creation and establishment of
International Measurement Standards are an essential part of the process
to spatially enable land administration and management.
The open market is the primary vehicle for the allocation of scarce
resources amongst competing needs in almost all economies in the World,
it is beholden on all civilised societies to recognise and take steps to
eliminate or reduce market inefficiencies where and when they occur.
“Market efficiency in economic terms occurs when the marginal cost
equals marginal utility in every market. Resources are inefficiently
allocated when marginal cost differs from marginal utility” (Lipsey &
Harbury, 1988, p. 102). This paper addresses one of the key areas of
market inefficiency, that of market knowledge. “The efficiency of
markets is reduced by imperfect knowledge” (Harvey & Jowsey, 2004,
p.29). Many mature economies have expended enormous energy and
investment on providing knowledge to markets in a variety of forms.
The World Bank estimates that “land and real estate assets comprise
50-70% of the national wealth of the world’s economies” (LARA, January
19, 2000). This being the case, even the smallest improvement in land
market efficiency will generate a significant beneficial effect to that
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) objectives are
“to maintain and promote the usefulness of the profession for the public
advantage in the United Kingdom and in other parts of the world” and
“securing the optimal use of land and its associated resources to meet
social and economic needs” and “measuring and delineating the physical
features of the Earth” (RICS Thought Leadership, 2012, p. 7).
The RICS Foresight Land Use Futures Report (2010) commented on the
need for a better understanding of value in land use governance:
“How we value land, and the services it provides, is at the heart of
decisions on land use change. As priorities for land use and land
management shift (for example, to reflect long-term challenges
identified in this report) these need to reflected in how we govern land
use today.” The report goes on to call for “A more sophisticated
approach to valuing land…to be embedded into policy cycles and into the
governance mechanisms, including future incentives and regulation…The
appropriate concept of value” is seen as “a broad one, encompassing the
full range of ecosystem services, whether or not they are marketed” (p.
28). RICS has also explained (in the UK context) the often critical
issue of ‘land value’ and its calculation and its direct effects on
development viability in the 2012 best practice guidance ‘Financial
Viability in Planning’ (RICS, 2012, p. 23).
Peter Drucker (2009), a management consultant, famously once said;
“If you can't measure something, you can't manage it.” It equally
follows that if we use different measurement systems there is management
time taken in processing comparability and risk that the comparability
is flawed. Measurement is thus a fundamental ingredient of estimating a
value and a valuation is a fundamental means of decision-making through
the market mechanism. Equally it is for ‘what purpose/why’ we measure
that leads directly to ‘what’ we measure and then to the ‘how’ we
Measurement is one of the bases upon which decisions are made.
Measurement is not just about numbers; it is about the thinking and
analysis that the use of numbers enables. The scope of measurement is so
far reaching that it underpins not only all the work that we as
surveyors and land professionals do, but crosses many other fields and
specialisms. There are vast ranges of things that can be measured that
relate to the value and quantification of land and property and the list
below illustrates just a few:
- Floor/land Areas
- Productivity and Productivity Growth
- Agricultural Production
- Trade (Surplus and Deficits)
- Environment (Sustainability and Embodied Carbon)
- Poverty (GDP, PE ratios etc.)
- Market Volatility and price distortions
- Market Value (Measurement of Realisable Price)
- Natural Value
- Cost (both tangible and intangible)
- Embodied Carbon
- Profitability (ratios and absolute measures)
RICS have undertaken primary and secondary research into the area of
real estate measurement and its global application. The research reveals
the absence of international standards for measurement of real estate,
furthermore measurement standards tend to vary on both a national and
regional basis. Certain elements of ‘measurement’ such as geodesy do
tend to be globally applicable and have a consistency in their academic
provision (http://www.iag-aig.org/) and the International Organization
for Standardization (www.iso.org) have created numerous internationally
agreed standards on ‘measurement’ instrumentation use, checking and
calibration (TC172) and on geographic information/geomatics (TC211). Yet
without internationally agreed measurement standards, it is not possible
to have valid and authentic cross border comparison, which would
facilitate both the evaluation and decision making process for land
administration and management.
The Land Governance Assessment Framework (LGAF) (2012) comprises “a
set of detailed indicators to be rated on a scale of pre-coded
statements (from lack of good governance to good practice) based, where
possible, on existing information. These indicators are grouped within
five broad thematic areas that have been identified as major areas for
policy intervention in the land sector:
- Legal and institutional framework.
- Land use planning, management, and taxation.
- Management of public land.
- Public provision of land information.
- Dispute resolution and conflict management” (p. 2).
An agreed international measurement standard would help bring
transparency to each theme and would “allow follow-up measurement” and
“contribute to substantive harmonisation and coordination” (LGAF, 2012,
p. 21). In many countries, land rights could be strengthened through an
agreed international measurement standard that would allow more accurate
quantification to enable better coordinated spatial planning and land
management through increased land information quality that would make
service delivery more transparent.
In respect of the five broad areas currently being investigated as
part of the World Bank Agriculture and Rural Research Program,
productivity has to be measured by an internationally recognised
measurement standard before you can discuss raising productivity in
rural areas or analysing productivity growth in poor countries. Public
goods and externalities, which comprise the two sub categories of rural
infrastructure and community-based development, would require detailed
measurement to investigate the current situation and measure progress.
Finally, analysis of agriculture, trade and the environment, volatility,
and price distortions would require measurement, but to what measurement
standard? Would we need to be innovative or could we agree an existing
Innovative approaches can take many forms. They can involve, for
example, creating new solutions for old issues such as defining natural
value (a collaborative project currently being undertaken by RICS Land
Group) or looking at old issues in new ways. Trying to spatially enable
land administration and management without agreeing internationally
recognised measurement is a bit a like putting the cart before the horse
as each country/government would choose their measurement basis on the
results they could attain, be it a measurement of productivity, growth
The Land Government Assessment Framework is built around five main
areas for policy intervention: rights recognition and enforcement; land
use planning, land management, taxation, management of public land,
public provision of land information and dispute resolution and conflict
management. International Measurement Standards fit into all these
areas. For example, in order to have effective land use planning, land
management and taxation you first of all need to measure the land, map
the topography (as dictated in previous decades by ‘sale’ and
cartographic generalisation), and calculate the productivity in order to
have effective taxation. The same applies to management of public land
or the public provision of land information. Even rights recognition and
enforcement or dispute resolution would need some degree of
quantification and measurement in order to reach a successful
resolution. RICS is currently working with a number of organisations to
achieve international dispute resolution standards, which would also
assist in this process.
In respect of agricultural growth and productivity, which
investigates the role markets, risk and policy play in determining rural
livelihood strategies and the adoption of agricultural technologies and
the consequences of these outcomes for productivity and rural incomes,
measurement play a vital part. Yet impact and adaptation to climate
change, which focuses on the poverty impact of changing climate
volatility in Southern and Eastern Africa, would not be possible without
some agreed basis of International Measurement Standards. Moreover if we
consider distortions to agricultural incentives, true measurement of the
crops produced by the farmer and of the price deviations prevalent in
the local and international market, it would go some way towards
understanding and dealing with these very real issues and would also
help countries properly monetise their agricultural assets and grow
Land administration functions can be divided into four main
components: Juridical, regulatory, fiscal and information management.
Agreed principles based standards would aid the accurate establishment
of land rights and related security of tenure, which would allow the
regulatory side to operate more efficiently as accurate measurement is a
vital component of both fiscal and information management. The functions
of land administration comprising agencies responsible for surveying and
mapping, land registration and land valuation evidently include
measurement, but to what standard and in which jurisdiction?
Even though International Measurement Standards cannot be
underestimated as an essential building block to spatially enable land
administration and management it is also necessary to be cognisant of
the local measurement standards. In some cases, a dual standard of
measurement could be preferable with locals measuring according to both
local standards and units of measurement and to an internationally
agreed standard. The presence of dual systems can mirror that of a
‘formal’ and an ‘informal’ (but fully functioning market).
The FIG guide on standardisation from 2006 looks at ‘the benefits of
standards’, research undertaken by the Technical University of Dresden
and the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovations (available at
www.din.de/set/aktuelles/benefit.html) found that:
- The benefit to the German economy from standardisation amounts
to more than US$ 15 billion per year;
- Standards contribute more to economic growth than patents and
- Companies that participate actively in standards work have a
head start on their competitors in adapting to market demands and
- Transaction costs are lower when European and International
Standards are used;
- Research risks and development costs are reduced for companies
contributing to the standardisation process.
Further work in the UK in 2005 found that “13% of the UK’s economic
growth between 1948 and 2002 could be attributed to standards.” (DTI,
The UN-Habitat Global Land Tool Networks (GLTN) publication on ‘Handling
Land’ (2012), which looks at innovative tools for land governance and
secures tenure further defines land management and administration as
being sub divisible into the following four categories:
- “Land tenure: Securing and transferring rights in land and
- Land value: Valuation and taxation of land and properties.
- Land use: Planning and control of the use of land and natural
- Land development: Implementing utilities, infrastructure,
construction planning and schemes for renewal and change of existing
land use” (UN- Habitat, IIRR, GLTN, 2012, p.3).
All these categories have some form of measurement running through
their core. You cannot secure and transfer rights in land and natural
resources in a fair and equitable manner without an agreed method of
quantification. Measurement is a vital constituent of any valuation and
also forms the basis of a number of underlying assumptions in respect of
estimated rental values and anticipated growth. In respect of land use
planning and control, productivity cannot be measured without initially
measuring the size, topography and scope of land in the first place.
Finally development is underpinned by measurement at every stage from
pre-implementation to post construction, whether it is utilities,
infrastructure, renewal or change of use.
The GLTN handbook describes the following benefits from effective
land management and administration:
- Support of governance and the rule of law.
- Alleviation of poverty.
- Security of tenure.
- Support for formal land markets.
- Security for credit.
- Support for land and property taxation.
- Protection of state lands.
- Management of land disputes.
- Improvement of land use planning and implementation.
- Improvement of infrastructure for human settlements.
The GLTN see the responsibility of administering land as the task of
a range of “informal and formal institutions including government,
private and non-governments actors.” It goes on to state “unfortunately
conventional government land administration systems do not provide
security of tenure to the majority of the world’s people. They rely on
documents or computerised systems that record information…but most
people do not have legal documents for the land they use or occupy….and
limited land records and lack of information cause dysfunctionalities in
the management of urban and rural areas, from the household up to
national government level, which impairs the lives of billions of
people” (UN-Habitat, IIRR, GLTN, 2012, p. 4). The work of GLTN and
UN-Habitat is also directly connected to the land rights continuum (as
below) and embedded in the recently published Land Administration Domain
Model (LADM) international standard from FIG and ISO.
Figure 1: Land Administration Domain Model (LADM), Source ISO (2012)
If we look at the Property Lifecycle chart below (Figure 2), it
becomes clear that measurement is a key aspect of this lifecycle. Not
only does land need measurement, but also accurate measurements are
required as part of every stage of the process even including eventual
redevelopment of the property, where measurement is once again
necessary. If we look at some less developed countries, large parcels of
land are not even measured, let alone registered and the creation of an
agreed international measurement standard would be the first step
towards enabling land administration and management. From an economic
perspective through land registration, there will be improved land and
asset values, security of tenure, as people will be able to prove and
pass on ownership. This in turn would help to stimulate local investment
and therefore the local economy. Further research into land registration
has been carried out on this topic in the RICS research paper on the
‘Valuation of Unregistered Land’ (2013).
Figure 2: Property Lifecycle, Source RICS (2012)
The development of International Measurement Standards is perhaps the
most vital land tool to take the first steps in contributing to poverty
reduction and sustainable development through promoting secure land and
property rights for all. As part of the development of these standards
one must recognise that “land issues are notoriously complicated and
they involve extensive vested interests. To design land tools that are
pro-poor, gender responsive and usable at scale requires inputs from
various disciplines, professions and stakeholder groups. The land tools
must be applied across different fields. That means the inputs from the
various specializations must be integrated, not merely co-existing in
‘silos. For this reason, land tools are best developed by
multi-disciplinary teams. This requires openness both to the content and
to new ways of working so that different views can be accommodated”
(UN-Habitat, IIRR, GLTN, 2012, p. 14).
There are currently an infinite number of competing international and
national measurement standards not only within the real estate industry,
but also across other fields and specialisms. These measurement
standards are often subject to national variance and regional
interpretation, although measurement underpins all valuation and
The globally accepted standards for asset and liability valuation,
which includes all forms of land, property and real estate, are the
International Valuation Standards 2011 (IVS, 2011). IVS 2011 defines
basis of value as “a statement of the fundamental measurement
assumptions of a valuation” (IVS, 2011, p. 11), yet there is no
definition of measurement within these standards, even though some form
of measurement underpins not only valuations, but also the underlying
assumptions for these valuations. The measurements are subject to
national variation making it extremely difficult to have true comparison
of land valuations without knowing all the national bases and
deconstructing them in such a manner to make a common form of comparison
possible. In some countries, such as India, the situation is further
complicated by regional variations of measurement standards. This
situation could be resolved through the creation of international
measurement standards, which could initially work in tandem with the
existing national standards. In creating these standards it would be
possible to compare land values, productivity, performance and it could
be argued that these standards could act as a fundamental land tool or
cornerstone to spatially enabling land administration and management.
The RICS Valuation – Professional Standards (Red Book) are compliant
with IVS 2011 and also make several mentions of measurement. The Red
Book definition gives slightly more detail to the definition of basis of
value, which it defines as “a statement of the fundamental measurement
assumptions of a valuation, and for many common valuation purposes these
standards stipulate the basis (or bases) of value that is appropriate”
(RICS, 2012, p. 29), yet still falls silent on the issue of defining the
fundamental measurement assumptions, on which these valuations are
based. This is despite the fact that the Red Book also mentions the
measurements of the relevant land, the measurements of any such
buildings and the number of rooms in any such buildings and their
measurements. Though both the IVS and Red book are purposely set at a
high level and are prescriptive, providing the rules of valuation
without telling its practitioners how to value, a definition of these
fundamental principles of measurement is vital to bring further
transparency to the real estate industry. Unfortunately at an
international level this is still not possible, as no agreed
International Measurement Standard currently exists.
Both these valuation standards are compliant with International
Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) as valuations are required for
different accounting purposes in the preparation of the financial
reports or statements of companies and other entities. Examples of
different accounting purposes include measurement of the value of an
asset or liability for inclusion on the statement of financial position,
allocation of the purchase price of an acquired business, impairment
testing, lease classification and valuation inputs to the calculation of
depreciation charges in the profit and loss account. IFRS were developed
by the International Financial Reporting Standard Foundation working in
conjunction with the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB).
The goal of the IFRS Foundation and the IASB is to develop, in the
public interest, a single set of high quality, understandable,
enforceable and globally accepted financial reporting standards based
upon clearly articulated principles.
In pursuit of this goal, the IASB works in close cooperation with
stakeholders around the world, including investors, national
standard-setters, regulators, auditors, academics, and others who have
an interest in the development of high-quality global standards.
Progress towards this goal has been steady. All major economies have
established time lines to converge with or adopt IFRSs in the near
future. The international convergence efforts of the organisation are
also supported by the Group of 20 Leaders (G20) who, at their September
2009 meeting in Pittsburgh, US, called on international accounting
bodies to redouble their efforts to achieve this objective within the
context of their independent standard-setting process. In particular,
they asked the IASB and the US FASB to complete their convergence
In order for Land Administration and Management to be truly global in
thinking and analysis, International Measurement Standards are required
for transparency and for more valid and authentic cross border
comparison and regulation. It is for this reason that we are advocating
the creation and promotion of a unified set of International Measurement
Standards, which can be agreed upon and supported by multiple
organisations and professional bodies, as is the case with the IFRS.
There is clear evidence that in many nations, the process of the
efficient and effective working of the property market is inhibited by
imperfections in the quality and transparency of property market
information. The imperfections are normally a consequence of the
technical attributes of the property market including transaction size,
heterogeneity, property rights and transaction costs. Through
development and adoption of truly international standards, we can
address market imperfections, and provide information based on the
highest ethical and professional standards that improve resource
allocation within the market for the public good.
In order to be meaningful, international principle-based standards
need to be developed by experts and be subject to broad and open
international consultation and stakeholder review in order to reassure
society and the international marketplace of the level of service they
can expect. International standards are drafted in such a way as to
allow professional bodies, and other appropriate organisations, to
assess conformity to the requirements.
How do we develop these International Measurement Standards and what
processes should we use? David Andre Singer’s book (2010) on Regulating
Standards looks at the way international standards were set for the
International Financial System. The book researches global regulation in
the three traditional pillars of finance; banking, securities and
insurance. Singer demonstrates that through “international regulatory
harmonisation regulators can impose sufficiently stringent regulations
on domestic financial institutions – and shore up stability while
relaxing the international competitive constraint that normally
prohibits such costly tightening”. He describes regulators as the “new
diplomats” due to their increasing visibility on the international scene
and says in some cases “the creation of international standards ties the
hands of a regulator by limiting its ability to adjust to changing
domestic or international circumstances” (Singer, 2010, pp. 2-3). In
reality, no regulator would accede to an international standard without
carefully considering its domestic environment. In fact Anne-Marie
Slaughter (2004), who is the University Professor of Politics and
International Affairs at Princeton University, makes the point that
“legislators lag far behind regulatory agencies in their international
activities and remain rather parochial in their outlook” (as cited in
Singer, 2010, p.7).
The International Financial System has much symmetry with the real
estate industry, apart from the direct connections that both “IVS 2001”
and the “Red Book” are IFRS compliant. Just as with land administration
and management, at the heart of any financial system is the problem of
asymmetric information, in which one party has more (and more accurate)
information about its own status than another party. Singer (2010)
argues that in respect of regulation the political legislature will
intervene in the financial sector in one of two circumstances: “First, a
bout of financial instability characterised by firm failures, asset
price volatility, or general crisis of confidence will create enormous
pressure to intervene. Second from the financial sector itself by
creating incentives for legislative intervention when regulations are
deemed too onerous compared to those in foreign jurisdictions” (p. 22).
In respect of real estate and measurement, there is a real danger of
political intervention on a national level unless professionals show the
ability to regulate themselves through the creation of an International
Measurement Standard. At present the way we measure property varies from
country to country. This leads to significant discrepancies in reporting
in an industry that, these days, is defined more by global
financial-return than location.
Singer (2010) argues that there are three main types of
harmonisation. “The first regulatory convergence is the organic process
but which countries modify their regulations based on the policies of
other countries or simply converge on a common set of rules
inadvertently. The second type of harmonisation is called core
harmonisation and is the process where a small group of advanced
industrialised countries agree, through overt negotiation, to harmonize
their regulation. The result of successful core harmonisation is an
international standard. The creation of an international standard gives
rise to the third type of harmonisation, peripheral harmonisation, in
which countries outside the core group of industrialized countries
choose whether to accede to the standard or to maintain divergent
standards” ( p. 122).
Although in accord with the three main types of harmonisation
mentioned here, a fourth type of harmonisation that is becoming
increasingly prevalent today is known as forced harmonisation. If we
look at the recent major global recession, we could argue that it was
characterised by various systemic imbalances, which sparked the outbreak
of the financial crisis of 2007–2008. We could highlight a number of
markets where these systematic imbalances were present such as the sub
prime mortgage crisis with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The US Securities
and Exchange Commission are a federal agency, they hold primary
responsibility for enforcing the federal securities laws and regulating
the securities industry. The nation's stock and options exchanges, and
other electronic securities markets in the United States, responded to
these crises by enforcing further regulation within these markets.
Paul Beswick, who is the Deputy Chief Accountant, US Securities and
Exchange Commission made the following comments in his speech on
December 5, 2011 in respect of real estate valuation “Risks created by
the differences in valuation credentials that exist today range from the
seemingly innocuous concerns of market confusion and an identity void
for the profession to the more overt concerns of objectivity of the
valuator and analytical inconsistency.” (Beswick, 2011, p. 4). His
speech highlights two main issues. The first is if the real estate and
those dealing with the real estate do not take the first steps to
regulate themselves, then external regulation will come through other
bodies, who may not fully comprehend the complexities and checks and
balances that lie within the real estate industry and the industry would
lose some of its right to self determination and regulation. The second
main and perhaps more important issue is that market confusion and
analytical inconsistencies are currently embedded within the real estate
industry. This is true of all specialisms and equally applicable to land
administration and management.
Another way of solving market confusion and analytical
inconsistencies within both the real estate industry in general and more
specifically within land administration and management would be the
creation of International Measurement Standards. Measurement relates to
all aspects of the real estate industry and in the majority of cases is
the vital first block on which the foundations are built, whether it be
land tenure, land use, land value or land development. “If there were no
international trade and no international communications, international
standards would hardly be necessary! But international trade and
communications are imperatives, especially in modern times.” (Hunter,
2009, p. 75).
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and
International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) explore in their
Directive 2 “Rules for the structure and drafting of International
Standards.” This directive defines a standard as a “document,
established by consensus and approved by a recognized body, that
provides, for common and repeated use, rules, guidelines or
characteristics for activities or their results, aimed at the
achievement of the optimum degree of order in a given context” and notes
that “Standards should be based on the consolidated results of science,
technology and experience, and aimed at the promotion of optimum
community benefits.” It further defines an International Standard as “a
standard that is adopted by an international standardizing/standards
organization and made available to the public.” (ISO/IEC Directives,
Part 2, 2011, p. 8). The document also looks at a “technical
specification”, which it defines as a “document published for which
there is the future possibility of agreement on an International
Standard, but for which at present:
- The required support for approval as an International Standard
cannot be obtained.
- There is doubt on whether consensus has been achieved.
- The subject matter is still under technical development.
- There is another reason precluding immediate publication as an
International Standard” (ISO/IEC Directives, Part 2, 2011, p. 9).
Hunter (2009) in his book “Standards, Conformity Assessment, and
Accreditation For Engineers” examines standards development and says
that there are three primary processes for developing standards:
- Classical Methods (also called traditional or formal methods).
- Consortia and similar methods.
- Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) methods.
He states, “these methods should not be considered to be mutually
exclusive. Many important standards development projects involve more
than one of these approaches” (Hunter, 2009, p. 51).
RICS have explored the processes for developing standards and
consider classical methods for standards adoption too laborious and
prescriptive at times, especially when there is an immediate need for
measurement standards in many parts of the developing world. RICS is in
the process of establishing a quasi coalition for the creation of
international measurement standards - to achieve a goal that none of the
individual organisations can achieve on its own. Standard setting
consortia, apart from bodies such as IEC and ISO (founded in 1906 and
1947 respectively) are a recent development and the “motivation for the
establishment of such consortia and the relatively long time it
frequently takes for standard development organisations to develop a
standard. Consortia are frequently able to set a standard in a
relatively short time” (Hunter, 2009, pp. 59-60). A good example of this
type of consortia is the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC
We need to ensure the international standard that we create is
globally relevant and beneficial. The World Trade Organisation (WTO)
looked at this issue in the committee on Technical Barriers to Trade
Document commented on this in Part IX, paragraph D, Effectiveness and
Relevance, which states: “In order to serve the interests of the WTO
membership in facilitating international trade and preventing
unnecessary trade barriers, international standards need to be relevant
and to effectively respond to regulatory and market needs, as well as
scientific and technological developments in various countries. They
should not distort the innovation and technological developments in
various countries. They should not distort the global market, have
adverse effects on fair competition, or stifle innovation and
technological development. In addition they should not give preference
to the characteristics or requirements of specific countries or regions
when different needs or interests exist in other countries or regions.
Whenever possible international standards should be performance based
rather than based on design or specific characteristics.” (WTO, 2002, p.
The creation of a global consortium headed by organisations such as
the World Bank would help ensure that the resulting International
Measurement Standard would be globally relevant and facilitate
international national trade while preventing unnecessary trade
barriers. It would also ensure that the resulting standards are not
partisan to any particular country or organisation and that they are
relevant and effectively respond to market needs without distorting the
global market or adversely effecting fair competition. Finally and most
important of all it would ensure that the resultant standards would
serve the global public interest. The International Bank for
Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the International Development
Association (IDA) both form part of the larger body known as the World
Bank Group. The IBRD aims to reduce poverty in middle-income and
creditworthy poorer countries, while IDA focuses exclusively on the
world’s poorest countries. Both these aims can be furthered through the
creation of an International Measurement Standard that would ensure fair
and effective global land registration that would encourage increased
international investment. Accordingly, an effective land management and
registration system cannot occur without an agreed system for
In order to create these standards though it is necessary to have a
look at the stages for international standards development. The WTO-ISO
developed a stage code system to enable the stages of development of an
international standard to be identified. The five stages of development
were mandated as follows:
Stage 1: The stage at which the decision to develop a standard has
Stage 2: The stage at which technical work has begun but for which the
period of comments has not yet started.
Stage 3. The stage at which the comment period has started but has not
yet been completed.
Stage 4: The stage at which the period for the submission of comments
has been completed, but the standard has not yet been adopted.
Stage 5: The stage at which the standard has been adopted.
In some cases it may also be possible to adopt a fast track
procedure. If a document with a certain degree of maturity is available
at the start of a standardisation project, for example a standard
developed by another organization, it is possible to omit certain
stages. In the so-called ‘Fast-track procedure’, a document is submitted
directly for approval as a draft International Standard or, if the
document has been developed by an international standardizing body
recognised by the consortium, as a final draft International Standard
without passing through the previous stages.
Subsequently the ISO have their international standards developed by
ISO technical committees (TC) and subcommittees (SC) by the following
six-step process. Those most commonly related to surveying and
measurement activities are within TC211, TC172, and TC59.
- Proposal stage
- Preparatory stage
- Committee stage
- Enquiry stage
- Approval stage
- Publication stage
Once the final draft International Standard has been approved, only
minor editorial changes, if and where necessary, are introduced into the
final text. The final text is sent to the ISO Central Secretariat, which
publishes the International Standard. In some cases it may also be
possible to adopt a fast track procedure. If a document with a certain
degree of maturity is available at the start of a standardisation
project, for example a standard developed by another organization, it is
possible to omit certain stages.
In respect of an International Measurement Standard, RICS is
currently at Stage 1 or the proposal stage. RICS has identified a number
of stakeholder coalition partners from all the world regions, who have
identified the global need for international standards and who are
having an initial stakeholder meeting to discuss and agree the processes
for the creation of an International Measurement Standard. Initially the
RICS are focussing on international property measurement standards
comprising Land, Property and Construction. It is hoped that once the
impetus is created through the establishment of these standards the
consortium will widen the remit of measurement and also look at
measurement of Productivity and Productivity Growth, Agricultural
Production, Trade (Surplus and Deficits), Environment (Sustainability),
Poverty (GDP, PE ratios etc.), Embodied Carbon and Profitability (ratios
and absolute measures). These forms of measurement will also assist in
spatially enabling land administration and management, but in order to
apply these international standards and as effectively as possible it is
necessary first of all to focus on one aspect of measurement.
RICS has decided that in order to develop International Measurement
Standards, it should initially look at International Property
Measurement Standards with Property being defined as anything pertaining
to Land, Property and Construction. RICS research has shown that with
the exception of organisations such as the World Bank, there is no
organisation or professional body that deals with measurement in all its
form and even within the Property/Real Estate Industry there is limited
agreement within, let alone across disciplines.
An example of this is a preliminary study, which RICS carried out in
May 2010, focussing on the office market. The aim of the study apart
from serving the public interest was stated as twofold:
- In addition to current codes or standards used nationally (or
regionally), a standard international code of measurement would be a
tool for the consistent reporting of building areas (commercial
space) by surveyors and companies that work across borders and
- For those working in emerging markets or countries (regions)
here there is currently no code or standard in use; an international
code of measurement may form the basis of, and help to establish,
some standard form of measurement standard.
The study looked at the RICS Code of Measuring Practice, Draft
European Measuring Practice, UGEB Code and BACS Code in Belgium, The
standard for calculating the Rentable Value of Commercial Premises (GIF)
in Germany, The Code of Measuring Practice for Spain, NEN 258 in the
Netherlands, Method Of Measurement by the Property Council of Australia,
the USA Unified Approach for Measuring Office Space: For use in Facility
and Property Management, The USA BOMA Office Space Standard 2010,
Measuring Practice Guidance Notes for Ireland, Code of Measuring
Practice or Hong Kong and the Code of Measuring Practice for the United
Arab Emirates. RICS also produces numerous other measurement orientated
best practice guidance documents such as ‘Surveys of land, buildings and
utilities at scales of 1:500 and larger 2nd Ed 1997’, ‘Use of GNSS in
surveying and mapping 2010 2nd Ed’ and ‘Vertical aerial photography and
derived digital imagery 5th Ed 2010’.
In examining these existing standards, a chart was made of all the
similarities in respect of office measurement to see if any common
ground could be found. Though there was some common ground between the
different codes, it proved highly difficult to reach an agreement, as
each country was convinced of the merits of its own code and felt that
other organisations or professional bodies should adopt its standards
rather than adopting other organisations’ standards or creating new
standards. In analysing the difficulties we had in respect of this
project it was noted that one of the main issues was that we had in
establishing an agreed standard is that we started from the micro level
(i.e. the actual standards) and tried to find a point of resolution. A
better process, as shown by both psychological and mediation theories,
is to start from a point of agreement. Discussing and agreeing the
importance of measurement and exploring the fundamental principles by
which all forms of measurement must abide could initiate the process.
RICS has carried out multi-disciplinary research to examine the
fundamental principles that lie behind a number of specialisms, all of
which use some form of measurement. The research looked at the following
disciplines: administration and support service activities, archaeology,
construction, education, engineering, financial and insurance
activities, home health and social work activities, land geomatics,
manufacturing, mining and quarrying, physics, professional scientific
and technical activities, water supply, transportation and storage and
waste management and remediation activities. The majority of these
disciplines had numerous measurement and other standards within their
disciplines but no real fundamental principles that lay behind them. In
addition as with real estate there were a number of competing
professional bodies, on both a regional and national basis, each with
their own standards. The exceptions to these were construction,
engineering and physics.
In respect of construction, as with other disciplines, measurement
seems to be largely based on national lines with wide variations in
terms of what is measured and how this is done. In respect of housing
measurement in the USA, the following principle exists in respect of the
measurement of residential square footage in single family dwellings:
“In the calculation, the objective must be to measure accurately,
calculate competently, and identify the improvements in a manner that is
not misleading and describes and/or facilitates an understanding of the
property.” (Hampton Thomas, 2008, p. 12) In the case of engineering the
value of consistent and valid measurement of such properties has led to
the development of standard test methods, i.e., “standards”. Standards
specify measurement details such as specimen design, test apparatus and
calibration, test procedures, data reporting, limits of applicability,
and uncertainty. The standards are usually up-dated with significant
contribution and review by the technical community concerned.
International standards are generally developed through the cooperative
efforts of national or regional standards organisations and reflect the
methods developed for those bodies’ standards.
In order to find true fundamental principles it is necessary to look
at the field of physics, which has the following six guiding principles
developed by the National Physical Laboratory, which one should follow
if you want good measurement results:
- Make the right measurements.
- Use the right measurement tools.
- Use the right measurement procedures.
- Use the right people to do the measurement.
- Review your measurement regularly.
- Demonstrate how consistent the measurement is.
The RICS has analysed these fundamental principles and drafted some
preliminary fundamental principles that we believe would be applicable
to all forms of measurement. These principles comprise high-level
standards that we believe would be acceptable to all professional bodies
and are beyond national boundaries and statutory legislation. In effect
they are fundamental principles that lie behind all measurement. These
fundamental principles, which lie behind every measurement, would need
to be discussed and agreed with other organisations, but an example of
these is shown below:
- The item must be capable of being measured.
- There must be a unit of measurement.
- The measurement must be quantifiable.
- The measurement must be repeatable.
- The measurement must be comparable against other similar forms
- The measurement must be objectively verified.
- The basis of measurement must be agreed.
- The standard or unit of measurement must be agreed.
- The measurement must be transparent.
- The measurement tolerance must be agreed.
Though International Measurement Standards that deal with all forms
of measurement as outlined above do not currently exist, it would be
possible to create both these standards and agree the fundamental
principles of measurement by working collaboratively with the World Bank
and other international and national, Governmental and Non-Governmental
bodies and professional bodies and organisations. In order to achieve
International Measurement Standards, RICS is gathering the leading
international stakeholders in measurement (of all asset classes) at a
round-table discussion to address existing fragmentation and assist in
the resolution of this industry wide issue. The agreement of these
standards would play a vital role in spatially enabling land
administration and management.
Initially RICS is focussing on broad based real estate measurement
standards, which are applicable to all asset classes. Examples of these
types of real estate measurement standards are site area/land area/plot
area/development area, all of which are vital to effective land
registration and administration. We can then continue to work
collaboratively with other stakeholders in order to agree further
International Measurement Standards by updating existing standards,
negotiating agreed standards, adopting existing standards and agreeing
high-level standards with other professional bodies. This will not mean
the disappearance of national standards as in many cases national
standards need to exist due to local government legislation and it may
not be possible to agree an international standard. In these cases it
would be possible to agree a dual reporting system, where the countries
report their measurements according to both an agreed international and
the appropriate national measurement standard.
RICS believes the creation of International Measurement Standards
would be a vital tool for all five broad areas currently being
investigated by the World Bank Agriculture and Rural Research Program.
Raising productivity in rural areas, productivity growth in poor
countries, public goods and externalities, agriculture trade and the
environment and poverty and price distortions all require measurement,
but to which standard? If an agreed International Measurement Standards
is not used, the temptation would be to pick the measurement standards
that gave the best results and the best impression of the government and
its policies. If this where the case any reported figures would be
discoloured at best.
In addition as illustrated four of the five main areas for policy
intervention within the Land Government Assessment Frameworks (i.e.
rights recognition and enforcement, land use planning, land management
and taxation, management of public land and provision of public land)
are all related to measurement in some way and would benefit from an
agreed International Measurement Standard. In fact it could be argued
that measurement of land would be a vital and fundamental component of
the land rights recognition process.
Moreover the five broad thematic areas, that have been identified and
discussed in this paper as major areas for policy intervention, would
substantially benefit from an agreed International Measurement Standard.
This would help bring transparency to each thematic and “would allow
follow-up measurement” and contribute to substantive harmonisation and
coordination” (LGAF, 2012, p. 21).
As already mentioned Global Land Tool Networks (GLTN) research, which
looks at innovative tools of land management and secure tenure, divides
land management and administration into the following four categories:
Land tenure, land value, land use and land development. All these
categories have measurement running through their core, yet there is no
agreed International Measurement Standard which focuses on the why, what
and how of measurement that would allow cross border comparison.
Furthermore in many countries there is not even a national measurement
standard, which would allow comparison between states. The RICS Property
Lifecycle Diagram (Figure 2) contained within this paper further
illustrates this point. In fact it could be argued that the development
of International Measurement Standards is perhaps the most vital land
tool to take the first steps in contributing to poverty reduction and
sustainable development through promoting secure land and property
rights for all via accurate quantification.
In our examination of the relationship between International
Financial Reporting Standards and International Valuation Standards (IVS
2011) and the RICS Valuation – Professional Standards (The Red Book) we
have noted that though these standards define the basis of value as “a
statement of the fundamental measurement assumptions of a valuation”
(IVS, 2011, p. 11), none of these standards defines either measurement
or the basis of this measurement. There is clearly a need for an
International Measurement Standard to spatially enable land
administration and management. Through exploring the methodology for
creating international standards and looking at examples of standard
setting within the accounting, engineering and financial regulations
industry RICS has concluded that the best process for establishing an
International Measurement Standard is via the creation of a consortia or
Our preliminary research into office measurement standards illustrate
the variety of measurement standards that are currently available within
each specialist niche of the real estate industry and the difficulties
that this can create in respect of agreeing an international standard.
Our research has led us to conclude that in order to create an
International Measurement Standard, which will spatially enable land
administration and management we need to agree the fundamental
principles on which all measurements are based, rather than getting
embroiled in each countries or organisations particular standard. RICS
has therefore carried out a cross specialism research on the fundamental
principles that lie behind measurement and has discovered that at this
point in time the most relevant fundamental principles that could be
applied to measurement come from the field of physics. We have therefore
analysed these principles of measurement and drafted a set of
fundamental principles, which could apply to land administration,
management and the real estate industry as a whole.
In conclusion, the creation of internationally recognised measurement
standards would help bring transparency to the field of land governance
and would be a key stepping stone for the research currently being
carried out by non governmental organisations such as the World Bank
Agriculture and Rural Research Program, which examines the following
areas; raising productivity in rural areas, productivity growth in poor
countries, public goods and externalities, agriculture, trade and the
environment and poverty, volatility, and price distortions. We would
therefore like to invite FIG and other organisations attending the FIG
working week 2013 to collaborate on international measurement standards
as part of an innovative approach towards spatially enabling land
administration and management.
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Gary Strong BSc(Hons) FRICS FCIArb FBEng FCILA FUEDI-ELAE
Qualified as a Chartered Building Surveyor, and practicising as a
surveyor and arbitrator for 29 years. Qualified as both an arbitrator
and loss adjuster additionally. Highlight of a varied career was the
landmark House of Lords case of Delaware Mansions (Flecksun Ltd) –v-
City of Westminster.
Gary commenced his interest in surveying at the age of 14 when he
undertook an O-level in surveying, subsequently pursuing this interest
in surveying with a building surveying degree at University of Reading.
On graduation in 1980, he went to work for the PSA (DOE) where he
qualified as well as gaining experience on MOD and Civil Estate
Moving to London in 1984, he became a Partner in Filby McCann &
Bracken a chartered building surveying practice and then moved to
Crawford & Co to become Surveying Director of a large international
company with over 10,000 staff.
For 10 years he was Subsidence & Surveying Services Director at GAB
Robins a large multi-disciplinary international organisation prior to
joining RICS in 2007 as Director of Practice Standards & Technical
Guidance heading up Professional Groups & Forums.
Gary is a member of the Senior Management Group at RICS and is a
regular spokesman & conference speaker on built environment issues.
Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors
London SW1P 3AD
Tel. + 44 (0)20 7695 1522
Fax + 44 (0)20 7334 3712
Web site: www.rics.org