The Comprehensive Cadastre

Oct 2015 | No Comment

The Tool comprising the Wisdom of the Ages to master the Challenges of the Modern World

Jürg Kaufmann

Dipl. Ing. ETH Jürg Kaufmann, Kaufmann Consulting, SLM Swiss Land Management Foundation, Rüdlingen, Switzerland

The Statement 1 of the FIG Brochure ‘Cadastre 2014’ stipulates Cadastre 2014 will show the complete legal situation of land including public rights and restrictions.

Based on this statement the author launches the ‘Comprehensive Cadastre’ as a tool for sustainable land management, becoming increasingly important to master the future challenges. The paper explains the design, the content, and the processes of the Comprehensive Cadastre and outlines the criteria and the preconditions for successful implementation with the help of practical developments in this field.

In addition, the paper shows the value of the Comprehensive Cadastre for mastering the Challenges of the Modern World.

Development of cadastres

The first cadasters date back to roman times to recover state owned lands that had been appropriated by private individuals, and thereby recover income from such holdings. With the fall of Rome the use of cadastral maps effectively discontinued. Medieval practice used written descriptions of the extent of land rather than using more precise surveys. In the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries did the use of cadastral maps resume, beginning in the Netherlands. Napoléon, after taking the power about 1800, commanded to survey the parcels and to install cadastral systems for the land taxation wherever he invaded. Since then the official cadastre systems were spreading over the world and they served for the documentation of land rights and for land taxation.

These purposes remained unchanged for a long time until the issues of overcrowding and environment protection became obvious mainly after World War II. Emission cadasters, pipeline cadasters and multi-purpose cadastre arose, in many cases as parallel facilities to the property cadastre.

In view of the developments taking place in the field of cadastre, FIG Commission 7 launched in 1994 a working group with the following terms of reference:

‘Study cadastral reform procedures as applied in developed countries, take into consideration automation of the cadastre and the role of the cadastre as part of a larger land information system, evaluate trends in this field and produce a vision of where cadastral systems will be in the next 20 years, show the means by which these changes will be achieved and describe the technology to be used in implementing these changes’.

The result of the work was published 1998 under the title CADASTRE 2014 – A Vision for a Future Cadastre System by the chair Jürg Kaufmann and the secretary Daniel Steudler with the Working Group 1 of FIG Commission 7.

CADASTRE 2014 after the publication was translated in about 30 languages ( publications) and infl uenced the thinking about cadastral systems.

The brochure Cadastre 2014 launched six statements showing the developments expected in the next 20 years (Figure 2).

Statement 1 describes the idea of a Comprehensive Cadastre being a further development of the traditional cadastre to an infrastructure documenting not only the land property rights but also all the rights restrictions and responsibilities imposed on land by official or traditional whether written or unwritten regulations.

The Comprehensive Cadastre must cover a wider field than the traditional cadastre has since its introduction. The circumstances of the resource land have changed significantly since its inception.

During the development of the legal systems, the private laws were dominant. The constitutions of most countries defined the rights of the citizens, one of which is the guarantee to own property. Civil codes have reinforced this guarantee and defined clear procedures and institutions to protect the rights of citizens against alienation.

The growing world population and the development of new technologies lead to an intensified use of natural resources including land. To protect the natural resources from being totally consumed, damaged, or destroyed, the absolute right to use the natural resources was restricted in the name of the social necessity.

Especially after World War II, the number of new public laws grew significantly. Public law regulation of land use planning, environment protection, noise protection, construction laws, protection against danger caused by natural phenomena, etc. arose.

While these definitions under public law have an impact on the property rights of the landowner, they are not part of the official register. Despite the boundary definition process of the rights and restrictions defined under public law follows democratic legal rules, there is no boundary verification, no title verification, and no registration of the right in an official legal register.

Aside from land objects from private and public law, we can find a third category of legal land objects, namely areas where traditional rights, e.g. tribal land use rights exist. They can overlap other legal land objects, such as private property rights and public rights and restrictions, and concessions for the exploitation of natural resources. A feasible documentation of these traditional, customary rights, creating legal security, is often absent.

The Comprehensive Cadastre must correct this situation, which is becoming more and more precarious. It must document, in a safe manner, all legal aspects of land.

Structure of the comprehensive cadastre

The structure of the Comprehensive Cadastre is to follow the principle of legal independence stipulated by CADASTRE 2014.

The principle stipulates that:

• legal land objects, being subject to the same law and underlying a unique adjudication procedure, have to be arranged in one individual data layer; and

• for every adjudicative process defined by a certain law, a special data layer for the legal land objects underlying this process has to be created.

The Comprehensive Cadastre is therefore based on a data model, organized according to the legislation for the different legal land objects in a particular country or district.

While the traditional cadastre consists in general of one information layer representing the information about boundaries between different properties, in the Comprehensive Cadastre are added information layers representing the boundaries between land objects defined by different legal topics, which exist in a jurisdiction.

Daniel Steudler and Abbas Rajabifard designate this principle in the FIG Publication No 58 Spatially Enabled Society (Spatially Enabled Society FIG Publication Nr. 58) as institutional independence. With this term, they indicate that this structure is suitable to assign the responsibility for the data layers to the authority charged with the enforcement of a certain Act.

Precondition for the comprehensive cadastre

A further principle stipulated in Cadastre 2014:

To make sure that legally independent organized land objects can be combined, compared, and brought into relation to each other, it is necessary that they will be localized in a common reference system. The combination and comparison of the thus located land objects can be realized by the method of polygon overlaying. This method was published in already in 1973 by Kaufmann and Bigler [1973] (Kaufmann & Bigler: New Techniques in Land Consolidation).

The Comprehensive Cadastre will only function in an efficient manner when the relations between land objects can be derived from their location. This avoids links between land objects in different information layers. According to experience in many cases, traditional and distorted maps are anyway to be replaced by data sets located in a common reference system in order to enable modern geographic information systems be able to render the expected services.

Steps to implement a comprehensive cadastre successfully

Introduce the possibility for the Comprehensive Cadastre in your legal framework

It is wise to fix the principle of a Comprehensive Cadastre before starting with the setup. Switzerland decided to introduce the cadastre of Public Law restrictions on Landownership, which can be considered as a first step of the Comprehensive Cadastre. A short article was introduced in Switzerland’s Federal Act of 5 October 2007 on Geoinformation (Geoinformation Act) http://www.

Cadastre of Public-law Restrictions on landownership

Art. 16 Subject matter and form

1. The Cadastre of public-law restrictions shall contain public-law restrictions on landownership rights which, in accordance with the provisions of the Civil Code are not part of the Land Register.

2. The Federal Council determines which official geodata under federal legislation are entered in the Cadastre of publiclaw restrictions.

3. The cantons may define additional official geodata of proprietary nature that must be recorded in the Cadastre of public-law restrictions.

4. The Cadastre of publiclaw restrictions shall be made available in electronic form either online or by any other method.

5. The Federal Council shall determine the minimum requirements with regard to the organization, management, data harmonization, methods and processes for the Cadastre of public-law restrictions.

In the Principality of Liechtenstein the legal base was laid in the Law on the official surveying as follows:

Documentation of the public-law restriction of the landownership

Art. 57 Basic principle

1) The public-law restrictions with geometric characteristic as, in particular land use and development plans, protection zones or building lines, are represented in specific information layers.

2) The government determines the spheres, were information layers are defined.

Develop an enactment on the Comprehensive Cadastre

Because the rules for the Comprehensive Cadastre are the same as those for the traditional cadastre a regulation can be kept short. In Switzerland we developed an Ordinance on the Cadastre of Public-law Restrictions on Landownership (PLR-Cadastre) with 33 articles regulating the details.

Introduce data and representation modeling as mandatory

One important aspect for the successful implementation is the provision to use data modelling for the description of all data topics of the Comprehensive Cadastre and representation models to define how these data are to be represented on maps or other documents.

Switzerland regulated this in the framework of the Federal Act of 5 October 2007 on Geoinformation. As modeling standard we use INTERLIS 2. Please consult for details.

Determine a responsible authority for the Comprehensive Cadastre

In every country a responsible authority must be designated to organize the Comprehensive Cadastre. To allocate this task to the authority already taking care of the traditional property cadaster seems to be appropriate and advantageous.

Scan your legal framework including traditional rules

A first task of the responsible authority is the scanning of the existing legal framework and also all existing unwritten traditional legal arrangements. As soon as a law or a regulation contains arrangements concerning maps, sketches, schemes, boundaries, building lines, etc., it is to be supposed that the respective land objects are candidates for inclusion in the Comprehensive Cadastre.

Identify the stakeholders

A further result of this scan shows the institutions responsible for the enforcement of the law. These institutions are the stakeholders to be involved in the implementation of the Comprehensive Cadastre. The further steps will be undertaken together with these stakeholders.

Create data models for all legal topics included into the Comprehensive

Cadastre It is important to describe all data of the Comprehensive Cadastre in a precise and easy to interpret manner in cooperation with the respective stakeholders. The modeling paradigm was launched by statement 3 of Cadastre 2014.

A tool for data modeling is determined in the ISO/TC211 – Geographic information/ Geomatics Standards. The ISO 19152 standard published in 2012 deals with the Land Administration Domain Model (LADM). The standard describes the data model with Entity-Relationship-Diagrams but does not offer automatic model and data checking possibilities.

Switzerland uses since 1993 the standardized data description language INTERLIS, which allows computer-assisted model and data checking. Recently the developers of the LADM from The Netherlands and Swiss data modelling specialists undertook an initiative to combine these modeling approaches by description of the LADM in INTERLIS 2 to profit from automatic checking facilities. Switzerland has developed data models for all data topics to be included in the Swiss PLR-Cadastre. The models are public and can be found on

Identify the procedures for the definition of legal arrangements

Similar to the traditional cadastre the effective procedures are to be learned and pursued by to make sure the Comprehensive Cadastre works correctly. Sometimes these procedures are complicated and in many cases not handled correctly. It is worthwhile to analyze the procedures carefully and to take the opportunity to simplify them, if this is possible.

Develop a feasible IT-Infrastructure

A Comprehensive Cadastre is unthinkable without the help of IT. In a modern environment it makes sense to base the Comprehensive Cadastre on internet-technology.

In Switzerland’s PLR-Cadastre a modern solution GeoApp replacing WebGIS by Web-Application was chosen to realize an integration platform organizing the access to the different information systems of the stakeholders by governing the directories, controlling the access rights, integrate data from different sources, and managing the rules to be applied. Figure 10 shows the possible webapplication GeoApp used for the Swiss PLR-Cadastre. Further information can be found under papers/ss31/SS31_luethy_7031.pdf .

Wisdom of the ages to master the challenges of the modern world

The Comprehensive Cadastre is the tool containing the wisdom of the ages to master the challenges of the modern world. Based on the cadastral principles valid for thousands of years it helps to master the challenges of the modern world.

Base for the economic development

A sustainable economy is only possible on the base of a functioning land market. The traditional cadastre was for a long time the guarantor for the functioning land market. Meanwhile the traditional cadastre, neglecting publiclaw arrangements affecting the property right, tells only part of the truth. The Comprehensive Cadastre is a precondition for a sustainable economic development.

Regularization of informal legal conditions

Many countries suffer from informal conditions emerged in a time when the authorities have lost the control about developments. A reliable documentation of the existing unpleasant situation by a Comprehensive Cadastre is indispensable to master this challenge.

Poverty reduction

Sustainable poverty reduction can be achieved only when the citizen’s ownership rights are protected by a reliable infrastructure. The Comprehensive Cadastre is the tool to guarantee ownership taking into consideration the complete legal situation of land.

Prevention from land grabbing

Prevention from land grabbing implies a sound knowledge on the rights and restrictions concerning land. The tool for this is the Comprehensive Cadastre.

Implementation of Spatially Enabled Societies (SES)

To enable societies to deal with spatial information is a prerequisite for mastering the future challenges. The Comprehensive Cadastre is the base for the provision of reliable spatial information.

Land consolidation

Improvement of the efficient land use and the effective production of food and fibre needs complete and precise knowledge about the situation and the potential of resources. The existence of a Comprehensive Cadastre creates optimal starting conditions for land management measures.

Better planning

A Comprehensive Cadastre helps to improve and accelerate the planning processes.


Kaufmann J. Steudler Daniel (1998) Cadastre 2014 – A Vision for a Future Cadastral System. International Federation of Surveyors

Steudler D. Rajabifard, Editors (2012) Spatially Enabled Society. International Federation of Surveyors

ISO (2012) ISO19152:2012. Geographic Information – Land Administration Domain Model

Kaufmann J. Bigler H. (1970). New Techniques in Land Consolidation

Lüthy J. (2014) Geocentraleapps – an Integration Platform for a Spatially Enabled Society

The paper was presented at FIG Working Week, Sofia, Bulgaria, 17-21 May 2015.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (42 votes, average: 1.14 out of 5)

Leave your response!

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.