A Semantic Segmentation Network for Urban-Scale Building Footprint Extraction Using RGB Satellite Imagery

Urban areas consume over two-thirds of the world's energy and account for more than 70 percent of global CO2 emissions. As stated in IPCC's Global Warming of 1.5C report, achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 requires a clear understanding of urban geometry. High-quality building footprint generation from satellite images can accelerate this predictive process and empower municipal decision-making at scale. However, previous Deep Learning-based approaches face consequential issues such as scale invariance and defective footprints, partly due to ever-present class-wise imbalance. Additionally, most approaches require supplemental data such as point cloud data, building height information, and multi-band imagery - which has limited availability and are tedious to produce. In this paper, we propose a modified DeeplabV3+ module with a Dilated Res-Net backbone to generate masks of building footprints from three-channel RGB satellite imagery only. Furthermore, we introduce an F-Beta measure in our objective function to help the model account for skewed class distributions and prevent false-positive footprints. In addition to F-Beta, we incorporate an exponentially weighted boundary loss and use a cross-dataset training strategy to further increase the quality of predictions. As a result, we achieve state-of-the-art performances across three public benchmarks and demonstrate that our RGB-only method produces higher quality visual results and is agnostic to the scale, resolution, and urban density of satellite imagery.

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