I have been given a task to include room layouts to my code which currently only displays buildings. The data is generated from shapefiles. I've been looking over the net (Google), and found that .shp is mainly used with GIS software which tend to not contain any indoor layouts. From the looks of it, shapefiles do not support indoor layout specs.

I just wanted to confirm once if .shp files can somehow support indoor layouts (I am in for a long grind otherwise).

  • 3
    the shapefile is just a format - you can draw everything you need considering just the fact, that you cannot draw circles or round objects directly but only as polygons.
    – Juhele
    Jun 14, 2018 at 10:56

2 Answers 2



...that .shp is mainly used with GIS software which tend to not contain any indoor layouts.

Although it may only be used in certain industries, some GIS solutions and data models are specifically designed to handle 'indoor' features. For example, GE Smallworld's 'internal worlds' concept that allows modeling of the internal structures of electrical sub-stations, gas/water/oil valve stations, etc.

Second, Shapefiles are just a specific format for storing GIS data. Saying they can't store indoor data would be similar to saying you can't store a talk radio podcast in MP3 format because it's for music.

The question of 'will it work?' really comes down to how you are trying to use the data and what format your data is in.

If your goal is to simply add internal layouts to the existing buildings that you have, you could draw them in as needed, using GIS or any other tool that supports shapefiles (ie. CAD).

The only issue that comes to mind is projection/coordinate systems. If your buildings are in a geographic projection (lat/longs) then precision and measuring distances could become an issue. But that can also be addressed through using a different projection, which would be worthy of a different question (there are many here already, in fact).

You could even have each building layout in it's own shapefile, with it's own coordinate system, if you really wanted. Again, it's really down to what you are trying to accomplish.

  • For the 'will it work' argument, I am currently using shapefile for generating an xml which defines all buildings in the specified region. Later using the same, we intend to run indoor and outdoor propagation loss models. Hence, I was wondering if we can define the internal layout using the already in place shapefile. The lack of the same would mean my updating the XML file to contain these values.
    – Bhoot
    Jun 14, 2018 at 11:35
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    @Bhoot Again, it depends on how you are using it...It sounds like this is getting at a radio/wifi signal analysis...so are only walls important for the 'indoors?' Furniture? Are all of the buildings assumed to be a single floor? How would multiple floors be accounted for? Would the floor itself need to be accounted for? This is likely a very complex question, and has more to do with your analysis than how you want to store the data (shapefile). Jun 14, 2018 at 11:51
  • Do ArcGIS, QGIS support indoor landscaping?
    – Bhoot
    Jun 15, 2018 at 10:14

Shapefile is a format for geodata, you could use it for anything. the geometric limitation are that you can't draw curve (but can approximate with adding lots of point), 3D are not supported (but Z value (elevation) are so 2.5D is possible) and you can't mix geometry type (point, line or polygon) in the same shapefile.

  • But doesn't Multi-Patch allow you to do that (multiple geometry types)?? I just recently picked up the technical guide and read through it.
    – Bhoot
    Jun 15, 2018 at 4:06
  • No, multipatch is just one of the types.
    – Vince
    Jul 19, 2018 at 11:44

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