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Development of Spatial Inspection Methods to Support

Building Inspections and Compliance

This research investigates how spatial information methods can be used to support and improve the
building inspection process. In Riyadh, the capital city of Saudi Arabia, building inspections result in
construction violations when approved building plans are changed and building regulations are
disregarded. This research aims to develop spatial methods for building inspections to support the
local building regulations. Moreover, the methods will support enforcing approved building plan
compliance and building regulations and instructions using geographic information system (GIS) tools
for the building inspections. The GIS tools will be used to develop a spatial inspection framework in
the building inspection process. The building inspection framework must therefore be designed to
support Saudi building process in order to manage compliance and maintain some conflict between the
public and the planning department. A case study will be used to explore, analyse and evaluate the
integration and implementation of GIS tools in building inspections. This research will incorporate
some fieldwork, such as interviews and a review of existing records. The study will help building
inspectors to improve their knowledge of the building inspection task and to become familiar with
spatial inspection methods in order to support and enforce approval building plan compliance within
local government regulations.

1. Research Objectives
The aim of this research is to develop an efficient spatial framework and methods to support the
process for building inspections and compliance. To realise this aim, this research has the following
1. Identify the spatial information and criteria that are used in a building inspection process.
2. Design a Spatial Inspection Framework (SIF) to support building inspections and compliance.
3. Develop spatial knowledge-base infrastructure and methods to improve the building
inspection process.
4. Test and Evaluate the Spatial Inspection Framework (SIF).
The research will be conducted using the building inspection processes of the Riyadh Municipality of Saudi

2. Background to the study

Saudi Arabia has undergone vast and rapid development in the construction of various types of
buildings, because Riyadh’s rapid population growth has increased from 300,000 inhabitants in 1968
to 1.4 million inhabitants in 1987, an increase of about 19% annually . To assist in construction,
spatial information methods can be used to support and improve the building inspection process. The
advantages of using geographic information systems (GIS) to support the building inspection
processes include: time savings that allow for the acceleration of official procedures; increased
efficiency; cost-savings through automation; and improved accuracy . Recent rapid developments in
technology have allowed for the increased applications of GIS . While there are clearly many
advantages to be gained by employing GIS, attempts to integrate or develop such systems must also
keep in mind obstacles such as resistance to change by employees; lack of technological know-how,
particularly in less technologically developed societies; and lack of enthusiasm , which may even exist
in more technologically advanced societies due to a deficit of knowledge and understanding of the
potential of GIS by the general public and those in government . Spatial information in building
inspections has a number of characteristics; hence, GIS tools are helpful in tracking the process and
providing comprehensive spatial information to help inspectors make decisions on and analyses of all
the different building defects .

Statement of the problem

Since urban design deals with built-up environments, some requirements are needed to achieve the
minimum built environment standards to design and implement local government regulations .
However, one of the difficult tasks in complex organisations is the sharing of data in inspections
practice . This study will therefore develop spatial inspection methods to consider the different data
used in local government regulations on building inspections . These methods can be used with most
inspection processes for the prediction and visualisation of data , and also enable the linking and
integration of the multi-stage process to enhance the GIS technique in municipalities . In fact, since
1956, building inspection has been an important sector within urban GIS in various municipalities
around the world, such as Burnaby and British Columbia . GIS allows digital map information to be
shared with attribute information to solve composite problems in urban environments .

In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, efforts have been made to introduce GIS in urban areas. This is
particularly evident in the rapidly growing capital city of Riyadh where such applications are being
widely developed across many areas, such as cartography, demographic research, municipal, urban
and city planning, utility management, and ecological and environmental research (Alterkawi 2005).
Despite the benefits of enormous oil-generated funds available to support Riyadh, the city’s
infrastructure remains fairly modest and the planning institutions and laws that guide growth are still
developing. New initiatives are being trialled to bring urban development within the control of the
relevant authorities. However, nothing is available yet that integrates a user’s technical requirements
during a building inspection task with the implementation of the numerous building instructions and
regulations in Saudi society. Therefore, the current research aims to develop spatial inspection
methods to support the building inspection process in the Riyadh municipality of Saudi Arabia.

The phenomenal growth of the city of Riyadh contributes to the problems facing this municipality, and
there is a need for GIS to be designed to facilitate the administration of change in this city. The major
issue is that Riyadh’s infrastructure is still lacking and there is an absence of a firmly established
planning institution and laws to guide the growing city. Moreover, a comprehensive municipal GIS ,
which in particular focuses on the formulation of a comprehensive automated system for the issuance
of building permits and the follow-up processes requisite of such permits. The Building Permit Section
is the authority for the issuance of permits and is responsible for monitoring and inspecting all
construction work in the Municipality of Riyadh. However, the manual system used in the past was
slow, with some applications taking weeks to process or even getting lost along the way. To maintain

the current system, applying GIS should eliminate this and other problems such as misfiled

Building owners and construction behaviours in Saudi Arabia

The key concern of the construction industry is construction defects . There are various different
groups of defects, and the main six groups of building violations in Saudi Arabia relate to construction
design, construction inspection, civil construction, constructor’s administration, construction
materials, and construction equipment. Building defects may occur due to the lack of inspections,
hiring unqualified inspectors, neglecting the importance of inspections, and not implementing
corrective actions during the job execution . The five causes of problems in building construction
inspections are lack of knowledge, information and motivation as well as stress and risk-taking .
Specifically, the violations and defects in the construction process can be grouped as follows: 32% of
the defects happen in the early phases, approximately 41% of the defect costs originate on the site and
in the design, and approximately 27% of the defect costs originate in materials or machines .

Several departments in the Riyadh municipality contribute to and share inspection responsibilities.
Some of the inspection responsibilities come from inside government departments; while some come
from outside, such as building owners, designers and constructors. Building permits must be issued to
implement the minimum building inspection requirements, for instance the Saudi Building Code
(SBC) and Municipal Building Regulations. Both of those rules should be implemented and written in
to approval plans. Building owners in Saudi Arabia still want to practise the old system used in the
last 50 years; these people want to control the construction task before, during and after the
construction process. On the other hand, building owners are completely compliant with all the
building instructions presently part of the approval plan process .

Building violations have grown in the last few years in Riyadh. This proliferation constitutes a serious
violation against the regulations and legislation of organisations and city buildings . This practice
negatively affects the Saudi urban environment and leads to squandering citizens’ rights to healthy
housing in neighborhoods that meet their basic hygienic, social, and environmental requirements.

In Saudi Arabian culture, the owner has control over the builder who constructs the house in order to
enforce local government regulations in the building inspection process. It is not a case of people
wanting to deliberately break the law by modifying the approved plans; it is their way of trying to
follow the law. Although the building inspection processes must be based on how the Saudis build,
they must be allowed to make their building plans with the builder before the planner can design the
final plan for approval for this will reduce or eliminate modifications to the plan after it has been
approved. As seen in Figure 1, the building inspection process in Riyadh municipality consists of the
following: 1) plan and design review; 2) site plan application; 3) civil construction inspection; 4)
engineering and architectural inspection; 5) construction material inspection; and 6) final and
comprehensive inspection.

In building inspections, the inspector’s task, according to Barbanente and Maiellaro (1998, p. 257), is
“to assess the compliance, adequacy and eligibility of proposed projects with the laws and regulations
in force”. Building mentoring is used to ensure that the minimum requirements of building instructions
are achieved. Specifically, building inspections are professional processes which identify faults and
violations in design and construction implementation. Inspection knowledge is the impression of the
different inspection activities and people is practice and know about inspections . There are different
inspection methods and they depend on what the organisational policy is. Moreover, in Saudi Arabia,
building inspection processes have been developing rapidly; thus, building inspection programs must
be planned early to modify the organisational needs .

Figure 1 Building inspection process in Riyadh municipality

3. Significance of the research
Building regulations in Saudi Arabia are complicated, since different rules are generated by the
regulation of different social regimes; namely, Islamic rules, society’s cultural rules and
government rules. Some of these rules are not new; for instance, Islamic rules began more than 14
centuries ago. In Saudi Arabia, the inspection task is a complicated issue; therefore, it was found
that building inspection techniques should give more consideration to the national Islamic culture,
and be developed according to environmental and socio-economical aspects . Many studies have
emerged regarding the details of GIS technology implementations, while other studies discuss
building regulations but not the integration between the spatial inspection methods in the building
inspection task to ensure the implementation of different building instructions and regulations in
Saudi Society. Few of these studies have explained the importance of building regulations.

This research will examine how spatial information affects the local government regulation
aspects in building inspections and what spatial techniques can be used to ensure those aspects
will be protected . Building inspections can be used as a tool to make building quality control
acceptable to the local community in order to address the sensitive concerns of local government
regulations within Saudi Arabian culture. Furthermore, it can be used to develop spatial inspection
methods that support the local government regulations in Saudi Arabian culture to implement
traditional household constructions within the guidelines of the law.

This research will explore spatial methods of developing building inspections. It is necessary for
this project to understand the possible integration of applying GIS techniques in building
inspections with local government regulations. Spatial Building Inspection measurement tools
will be reviewed in this study, particularly in examining the main issues relating to enforcing local
government regulations in the building inspection process. This research will apply and evaluate
the Spatial Inspection Framework.

This study will present empirical evidence to explain the importance of the integration between
building inspections and spatial information . Furthermore, this research will contribute to
resolving the lack of enforcement of approval building plan compliance within local government
regulations in Saudi Arabia. Likewise, this study will develop a spatial inspection framework to
support the enforcement local regulations in the building inspection process. The solutions in this
research will aim to be acceptable to all stakeholders concerned, ensuring owners are happy, and
facilitating the work of building inspections. When the system is developing, it will support and
justify the operational systems.

In the Riyadh municipality, one of the problems in construction inspection is how to detect
violations and how to represent the violations within a spatial format. This study will use
different scales of digital maps to examine how spatial information can be used to detect the
construction violations in the building inspection process. This study focuses on the identification
of spatial components of the building inspection in Saudi Arabia. Therefore, this research will
contribute a better understanding and application of a spatial framework of building inspection
concepts, and effective and efficient spatial information in building inspection tasks. This research

project extends the knowledge in this field by investigating and developing spatial methods to
improve building inspection quality rather than enhancing the accuracy of violation detections.

4. Research method
The study targets random building practices showing the nature and the forms of various breaches
of building regulations. Discrimination will be made between violations occurring due to the
impossibility of gaining a building license, and breaches occurring despite obtaining a license.
The study further presents an analysis of what motivates such breaches of building regulations
and provides spatial solutions . The study sets out to show the effects of violations of the
regulatory framework of buildings on the architectural environment, focusing on the built
environmental impact on adequate housing conditions, coverage area, encroachments against
streets, and then tackles their social impact and their effects on the constructional and architectural
character .

4.1. Study Design

This study will use an exploratory case study method to explain the physical phenomena . The
research project will investigate specific building layouts that violate building regulations,
specifically, the design and implementation. These building inspections operate in a multilayered
system, such as the building inspection process, spatial information, and municipal performance,
planning department behaviour, different users’ behaviours, administrative strategies, the Saudi
Arabian culture, and the wider international context. This study also includes various aspects of
teamwork, plans, events, processes and policy. In Saudi Arabia, the many stakeholders involved in
design and implementation are the owners, designers, different decision makers, inspectors,
constructors, and suppliers.

4.2. Context of the study and data collection

Interviews will be undertaken with some of the building inspectors and inspection decision
makers in the Riyadh municipality, including the head office of the Riyadh municipality and other
sub-municipalities. Moreover, some of the inspectors and consultants of the building inspection
department will be included in the interviews. There will be an effort to understand the
requirements of all people who have an effect on building inspections in the Riyadh municipality.
In the case study approach to research, multiple sources of data are used , which in this study will
include documents from national and international organisations. Data will be collected from the
inspectors and managers who deal with the inspection tasks. In addition, interviews will be
conducted with the decision makers and directors of the building inspection units in the Riyadh
municipality. Additionally, building inspection recorders represent a key resource in this study;
they will be used to understand the spatial information and how it involves different regulations in
the building inspection process.

4.3 Study area

This study will cover the different spatial problems samples within urban area in Riyadh city, the
capital of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which has a municipality responsibility in built-up areas.

4.4. Data resources

The study relies on certain key departments for data sources, which include the Municipality of
Riyadh, Arriyadh Development Authority, Saudi Building Code (SBC), Ministry of Municipal and
Rural Affairs, Communication and Information Technology Commission, and King Abdul-Aziz
City for Sciences and Technology. Application has been make to access the data.

Figure 2 Research Method

4.5 Research activities - “five stages”

Stage 1: Identify the different spatial information and criteria in the building inspection process

This stage seeks to identify the different spatial information and criteria in the building inspection
process that affect construction violation detection in the Riyadh Municipality. Furthermore,
diverse spatial information in the inspection process will be compared and contrasted to
understand which criteria affect the building inspection process enhancement and how the
integration of different information and criteria improves that process . The current criteria of
inspection and construction assessment will be reviewed through different departmental records in
the Riyadh municipality, such as those of the building inspection department and building license

Stage 2: Design the Spatial Inspection Framework (SIF)

The SIF will include the spatial information within the process of building inspections in the
Riyadh municipality. All phases of the SIF will be developed within a spatial format; for
example, maps and inspection processes. This stage has two main parts: design and development
of the SIF, that is, all of the spatial rules and criteria of building inspections in previous stages will
be developed and implemented in this framework. After development, the spatial criteria and rules
will be compared with the existing rules of construction inspections.

Stage 3: Develop the data knowledge infrastructure and algorithm within the GIS environment

A major part of this stage is to build the spatial rules of the building inspection and apply an
algorithm of those rules within the GIS environment to support inspection spatial information and
criteria. Different regulations operate as a rules base for the construction of buildings in Riyadh;
namely, the Arriyadh development authority zoning regulation, Saudi Building Code and
municipality regulations. All spatial information and existing criteria in stage 1 will be used in
this stage to create the spatial rules of building inspections. Moreover, an algorithm of the spatial
rules of the building inspections within the GIS environment will be developed and tested during
this stage.

This research will build a Geodatabase to support a research solution and spatial inspection
framework. All data types collected from the field will be built in the Geodatabase. There are two
different data types, namely, spatial data and non-spatial data. The reason for creating a
Geodatabase is to provide a safe environment for the collected data. The Geodatabase model will
support the object-oriented vector and raster data model. Spatial datasets will use CAD building
plans, different digital maps, high resolution satellite imagery and aerial photographs. These data
are expected to reflect the real data that affect the building inspection process in the Riyadh

Stage 4: Develop integrity checking algorithms for digital building maps and approval plans

This stage seeks to compare digital building and cadastral maps to digital approval plans to
identify what is complied and what is not complied :
• Sample 3 neighbourhoods
 More than 90 % built-up area.
 Between 50-75% built-up area.
 Less than 30% built-up area.
• A digital map for approval plans (DWG) AutoCAD Format.

The main purpose of this stage is to explore construction violations and activate the defects
detection (Riyadh Municipality 2006). In addition, the sample of violations will be examined by:
1. Increasing the percentage of coverage area-main building, upper building and outside
2. Adding new features within the cadastral-swimming pool, outside garage, etc.
3. Backyard and front yard dimensions and area.

Stage 5: Test and evaluate the Spatial Inspection Framework (SIF)

This task will be completed through a prototype that will be designed to evaluate SIF; some
testing will be carried out in stage 4 above. Inspectors in the Riyadh municipality will contribute
to applying the prototype to aid in the evaluation and test of the SIF. Logical framework testing
will use different spatial resources, such as the Geodatabase and digital maps, for example, 1996,
2000 and 2006 aerial photography and satellite imagery.

5. Ethical issues
Ethics approval will be requested from the Ethics Committee at Curtin University of Technology.
Approval will be sought from the Urban Planning Department in Riyadh municipality to interview
potential participants. Furthermore, permission to access record files in the Building Inspection
Department and other departments will be acquired from the Riyadh municipality. Finally, the
respondents’ privacy, anonymity, confidentiality and freedom will be assured.

6. Facilities and resources

This research will use aerial photography, high resolution satellite images, and some GIS software
as well as some equipment such as personal computers. All of facilities are available in
Department of Spatial Sciences Curtin University or Riyadh municipality.

7. Data storage
All data gathered for this research will be saved in digital format on hard disks at the Department
of Spatial Sciences at Curtin University. All interviews and field notes, and any electronic data
collected during the study will be stored on computer protected by passwords. Any paper format
data collected will be stored in locked filing cabinet in both my home and work office. Only my

Thesis Committee and I will have access to any data. All electronic and paper format data
produced will be stored in a safe and secure location in the Department of Spatial Sciences Curtin
University for a period of 5 years after publication of thesis.

8. Research timetable
The study will be completed within three years. Modification of the proposed timeline, if
required, will be carried out with the assistance of the supervisors. The research timetable is
presented below.

Table 1 Research Timetable

2009 2010 2011

7-9 10-12 1-3 4-6 7-9 10-12 1-3 4-6 7-9 10-12
Literature review
Research design and methods
Review the related theoretical approach
Planning and preparation of data collection methods
Spatial Inspection Demo Preparation
Papers writing and presentation
Data collection
Building inspection department record review
Maps and approval plan collecting
Municipality decision makers meeting and interview
Building a Geodatabase
Design and Develop the Spatial Inspection Framework (SIF)
Evaluate and test the Spatial Inspection Framework (SIF)
Data Analysis
Comprehensive validation and evaluation phase
Research writing and submission

Data Collection Period