Virtues of Custom-Built Virtual Listing Systems for Surveys

May 20, 2019

How do you build a sample frame that can be used to conduct a survey of commercial buildings nationwide? In the past, the approach was to field an on-the-ground listing operation. But that’s complex and costly.

Today, a virtual listing is the answer to this kind of challenge. This approach uses geographic information system (GIS) tools and data to identify eligible buildings. It enhances the mapping environment, allowing for complete virtual canvassing of buildings rather than having to travel to an area of the country, driving around canvassing, and recording buildings as they are passed.

Creating a Virtual Listing System (VLS)

To establish an eligible sample, Westat can build and add geographic data layers to the mapping environment, including

  • Incorporating point-of-interest data layers. When clicked, they display relevant building characteristics for reference during listing.
  • Adding a feature to store listed buildings as polygons, enabling automated square-footage calculation.
  • This enhanced virtual listing environment is the genesis of Westat’s VLS, a custom-built, fully integrated, web-based system for observing, cataloguing, and documenting study-eligible buildings.

Advantages of VLS

VLS provides a number of advantages over the traditional on-the-ground approach:

  • Reduces time. The virtual listings can be completed in less than half the time.
  • Increases survey efficiency. Guesswork is eliminated out of square-footage estimations.
  • Eliminates travel costs. Virtual canvassing involves no travel expenses, saving projects money.
  • Enhances supervision of listers. With a centralized facility, supervisors can better manage multiple listers and easily answer questions.
  • Virtual canvassing is a significantly better method for today’s data gathering challenges. It saves time and money and improves the quality and coverage of surveys.


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