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RICS launches new global guidance for ‘Land Measurement’

New guidance on the measurement of land for development projects such as new housing and commercial development have been published by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors on 25 May 2021, which defines common measurements used across the built environment and associated metrics such as density.


The guidance is now available and will be used by planners, surveyors, developers, architects, government and legal administrators around the world.















Titled ‘Measurement of Land for Planning and Development Purposes’, it provides clear definitions for measurements widely used in the property and built environment sectors, advocating consistency worldwide. Five core definitions have now been formalised by RICS to assist with the global measurement of land, they are:

Land measurement is a vital day-to-day component of real estate and this Guidance introduces, for the first time, clear and fixed definitions to assist with that process.

                                              Jonathan Manns

  • Land Ownership Area (LOA): an area of land, measured on a horizontal plane, which is held in a single legal interest or title by one or more legal owners, which may be the subject of a proposed or actual sale, letting or other disposal, valuation or compulsory purchase, and which may comprise all or part of that single legal interest or title.


  • Site Area (SA): the total land area on which development authorisation is sought, measured on a horizontal plane.


  • Net Development Area (NDA): the extent of the Site Area upon which one or more buildings or other operations and their ancillary space can be built, measured on a horizontal plane.


  • Plot Ratio (PR): the ratio of total development floor area to SA. Development floor area may be measured as gross external area (GEA) or gross internal area (GIA) but whichever is used or modifications of them should be clearly stated.


Floor Area Ratio (FAR) and Floorspace Ratio (FSR) are similar terms, used interchangeably in some jurisdictions to reference the same point. For consistency, PR should be used wherever possible. Where jurisdictional requirements are for the use of either FAR or FSR, PR should be reported as well.

  • Site Coverage (SC): the ratio of ground floor area (measured in accordance with GEA) to SA, expressed as a percentage.

A key difference with the new guidelines is that calculations of density should now always be expressed in terms of Gross Density (based on SA), rather than on a Net basis, with Net Density providing an additional and complementary metric for understanding the intensity of development of a site.


The guidance is lead-authored by one of Britain’s foremost urbanists, chartered surveyor and town planner Jonathan Manns, Executive Director at Rockwell, who said:


“Land measurement is a vital day-to-day component of real estate and this Guidance introduces, for the first time, clear and fixed definitions to assist with that process.


“In doing so it establishes international best practice to be used whether buying, selling, evaluating, valuing or developing land.


“This has the potential to profoundly improve consistency, once in regular use, to the benefit of both professionals and the general public alike, in countries around the world.”

With over 130,000 qualified and trainee professionals, the RICS promotes and enforces the highest international standards across the built and natural environment.


Tony Mulhall MRICS, Associate Director of the Land Professional Group at the RICS, stated:


“This guidance offers a consistent way to measure land – whether that’s delivering desperately needed homes, new infrastructure or preparing vacant spaces for future development.”

The RICS Guidance Report states: "International development and planning contexts vary, including variations in national land information systems, which may affect how legal interests and titles in land are verified. In most countries, the legal registration of land title is carried out through a cadastral system. This records details of:

  • ownership

  • tenure

  • precise location and demarcation

  • dimensions

  • area and

  • the value of individual land parcels.

Additionally: "Other forms of land information system include land registries, such as in the UK and Ireland, which primarily record details of land title. The information recorded and protection provided through these systems varies by jurisdiction. There are also locations where land may be in communal ownership, or may not be registered in a formal sense.

Regulation of new development also varies by country. It is usually administered through a planning system, the functions of which operate with varying degrees of negotiation and prescription. Different degrees of approval are also needed before development can start."

Additional Guidance Includes:

Unit of measurement

"This guidance note focuses on the approach to measurement and therefore does not specify a required unit of measurement. The unit of measurement to be adopted must comply with local jurisdictional legal requirements and local market practice. All formal documents should report in the system required by the jurisdiction in which they are produced.

It is recognised that, in some circumstances, jurisdictional requirements operate alongside market conventions. For example, it is common in some nations for professionals to use both imperial and metric units to report the size of property. The jurisdictional standard should be used in all circumstances. However, where conventions exist and the nature of reporting allows, both measurements should be reported for completeness."

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