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Finding and Using GIS Data

The AGS Library's Guide to Finding GIS data and working with it for your specific project needs

Built environment data

Data for the Built Environment

What is meant by "the built environment"?

The Built Environment includes the buildings in which we live and work, the roads that we take to get there, the structures we've built to help move electricity, water, and other resources around the globe--changes that human beings have made to the earth. 

This data can be useful for answering questions like:

  1. What buildings or utilities are present at my place of interest?  What are they and what are they used for?
  2. What roads connect point A and B?  What kind of road are they?  What is the fastest route?
  3. What do we use this land for?  What could I expect to find happening at my site?

These examples barely scratch the surface, but are demonstrative.

Who has this data?  Where can I find it?

Built environment data is often maintained at the municipal to state government level (in the U.S.) and at similar administrative levels internationally. The level of detail required to collect this information often requires expensive surveying as part of long-term, stable programs such as county level Registers of Deeds, Land Information Offices, and Regional Planning Commissions.

In Wisconsin, this data is typically available on county land information websites or web mapping applications, from regional planing commissions, or, less often, on municipal websites. This data is also highly likely to be included in geospatial data clearinghouses such as the collection at the AGS Library at UW-Milwaukee or at the Robinson Map Library at the University of Wisconsin. Much of this data is available on Geodata@Wisconsin

In this section

You will find tutorials for using four frequently used data portals where data related to the built environment can be found:

  • GeoData@Wisconsin - Developed and maintained by UW Madison Geography Department's Robinson Map Library and the Wisconsin State Cartographer's Office.

Includes: Tax Parcels and Assessment Data, Streets, Land Use, Address Points, Municipalities, Zoning, Hydrography, Building Footprints, and more.

Includes: Housing and properties, Land Use, Streets, and more.

Includes: Comprehensive basemap data, real estate and properties, transportation, utilities, and more.

Includes: Buildings, Facilities, Historic Preservation, Parks & Recreation, Public Safety, Sanitation, Transportation, and more.

Most commonly requested built environment data

  • Bike routes/paths/infrastructure
  • Building footprints
  • Bus routes and stops
  • Historic urban growth
  • Land Use
  • Sidewalks
  • Streets
  • Parcels
  • Parks
  • Public Buildings/Schools
  • Railways
  • Real Estate & Property
  • Trails
  • Zoning


The Contents of Finding and Using GIS Data may be reused with attribution for Non-Commercial purposes.

Finding and Using GIS Data by Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License