If you live at number one, you might expect the next building to have the number two. Or for that building to be number three with the number two opposite. In many countries this building numbering pattern is the norm – numbers going up one side of the road and down on the other, or with all the odd numbers on one side and even numbers on the other.
As with much to do with international addressing, though, this pattern is by no means universal. Even where this basic pattern is used, when new buildings are added and the streets are not renumbered, numbers may have to take a suffix – a or b, for example, or even a fraction – ½ . Or both.
In many small Eastern European villages buildings are not numbered along a street but each building within a village gets a different number with the village name taking the place in an address block where the street name is normally written. In some East Asian societies, where streets are unnamed but blocks are numbered, buildings are often assigned a number in the order in which they are built, making locating an address for the uninitiated quite a challenge! I have not been to Japan but the same system is used in Venice and I can testify that it was hard (in my case, usually impossible) to find anything there on the basis of the building number!
In some countries, such as the Czech Republic, houses have two numbers (a registration number and a descriptive number), just to add further spice.
Addressing down under
In some newer countries, such as Australia and the USA, planned urban areas and street patterns often formed on a grid system, building numbers may relate to the distance along a street. A building number may be 2, 6, 10 or even 100 numbers higher than the number of the building next to it. Where numbers are related to a block within a grid system, numbers may suddenly jump where blocks meet – it would be no surprise to find number 863 cheek-by-jowl with number 901. And because streets can be very long and numbers jump up by multiples, house numbers in, for example, the USA are often much higher than those we are used to in Europe.
Saudi Arabia is trying a new system where building numbers are assigned on the basis of latitude and longitude, further influenced by the direction that a street runs and a direction of travel. As a result the building numbers on streets that don’t run exactly north/south or east/west also tend to jump around – 2762 is next to 2773, then 2793, 2802, 2813 and so on. Useful for an organisation with the means to decode it, less so for the people on the ground.
This is just a taster of the variation that building numbering takes throughout the world. Are you prepared for all possibilities when collecting and storing your address data? Do you allow for building numbers to contain non-numeric characters and fractions in your data files? Do you allow for numbers which are longer than 5-digits? Do you allow punctuation, which is essential in interpreting numbers in many countries? Let us know below.
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