Living Off The Grid




A simple solution to a the postcode problem?

Only you can decide.

Apart from the UK and Canada, no European country nor the USA, use coded grid coordinates for postcodes. France, Spain, Sweden and Germany use a simpler hierarchical code based around the actual post distribution system.

The argument for Ireland and the UK is that rural dwellers are difficult to locate for deliveries and emergencies as they are not part of the town and street system. However, there is a cheaper and very effective alternative – the national grid coordinate.

A 10-digit code as used by hillwalkers will get you to within 10m of any house in rural Ireland and will work quite well even in towns and cities.

When shortened to eight digits as in my address below, the coordinate is good to within 100m, which would be adequate for most emergency services or a parcel delivery in a rural setting. The national grid is free, simple to understand and is printed on most Ordnance Survey maps.

It can also be found on every GPS and satnav system. The benefits are that no codification is required and ease of use. A 10 digit number is no longer than many telephone numbers with their area codes and an added benefit is that one can estimate the distance or proximity of another address by comparing the numbers. –
George Renolds
Co Wicklow,

There you go now.


Utterly useless postcodes? Use the Irish Grid (Irish Times letters)

Pic: Wikipedia (Irish grid reference system)

52 thoughts on “Living Off The Grid

  1. RobinBoy




  2. The Old Boy

    Great – provided you are happy that the postcode system will be sat-nav (or O.S. map) dependent. It will do little to help rural postmen, though you might say they don’t need any help. Hierarchical codes are a de facto international standard and make much more sense for postal distribution. We effectively seem to have arrived at a point where we seem to need postcodes for everything other than the delivery of post.

    1. Spaghetti Hoop

      Indeed. Still making them up to override the mandatory field on UK-hosted websites.

      While I’m all for modernisation, already we see how marketing companies are easily and eagerly compiling postcode data through competitions, lotteries and the like.

  3. edalicious

    Just read that letter and I’ve gotta say, he makes a good point, certainly in relation to rural areas.

    1. XZ

      No he doesn’t. The whole point of post codes is to describe how to access the property, not to locate it on a map.
      The grid-based thing is great if you’re in a helicopter, but ambulances and postmen generally use ground-based transport, so you need to know what road to use – that’s why post codes are not as straightforward as arguments such as these tend to suggest.

      1. ivan

        But surely the proprietrary system coming in won’t, particularly, tell the service seeking the house which road to use either, will it?

        I see your point – grid coordinates pinpoint a ‘spot’ and you’ve to work back and then find the road that’ll take you *to* that spot, but will the HG4H7U9 code do anything more than identify a spot either? Is there something contained in the coding that dictates what road it’s on, in other words?

        1. neil

          Nope, Eircode is deliberately obfuscated so as to licence the database to commercial customers. Neighbour’s houses will not have incremental codes.

        1. The Old Boy

          It would be cheaper and easier just to pay auld fellas to stand on every rural street corner and give directions.

          1. The Old Boy

            There’s the solution – all ambulance drivers to have at least ten years’ experience as rural postmen.

          2. Medium Sized C

            So… want a postcode system that will tell Ambulance drivers the route to drive?

          3. The Old Boy

            I want the moon on a stick, but I’ll settle for a system that will get emergency vehicles to ambiguous rural addresses quickly and efficiently.

          4. The Old Boy

            As I said somewhere above, postcodes seem unnecessary for the actual delivery of post.

          5. Medium Sized C

            We have a few of them.

            The postcodes as proposed (and I’m not actually a supporter of them as they are) make these systems better, because they specifically identify a dwelling.

          6. Medium Sized C

            Oh and postcodes are necessary for the actual delivery of post.
            They solve at least one very real problem in terms the actual delivery of post.

          7. The Old Boy

            I’m not necessarily disagreeing with you, but my understanding was that An Post’s position was that postcodes were unnecessary as far as their operation was concerned. Obviously there are problems with private delivery services and such.

          8. Medium Sized C

            It was and is sort of. They have a database of all postal addresses. But it doesn’t actually solve the need for the lad on the ground down the sticks to know who lives where. That is sort of solved with the postcode.

            But I designed a post code the other day based on the An Post database that is mostly as useful as eircode. Took about 5 min. But either way you still need access to the database for it to mean anything.

            There is no question there is horrid waste going on here, but I’m not at all convinced by a lot of the criticisms being trotted out are useful.

          9. Joe the Lion

            The real reason is so they can send out water bills and summonses for unpaid water bills
            Most of the addresses in the IW database as it stands are incorrect and a summons can only be legally served on the correct person

  4. Anomanomanom

    So do the codes mean people can no longer use d1,d2,d3 and so on. And the equivalent in other counties.

    1. newsjustin

      There are no equivalents in other counties. It’s only Dublin that gets to use numbers to advertise their locations.

    2. Kieran NYC

      From what I remember, they tied themselves in knots to keep the Dublin ‘D’ system somehow.

  5. Gers

    “the coordinate is good to within 100m, which would be adequate for most emergency services or a parcel delivery in a rural setting”

    No, it would not be adequate. Next?

  6. Dubloony

    Straightforward, sensible, free, already exists – so we can’t possibly use it.

  7. Omar Sarhan

    glad, you value my opinion buddy.

    ** Cracks knuckles and mentally prepares for rant **

    Ok, there are two things going on here. A grid reference system is good as a grid reference system. If you have a coordinate location, and you want to navigate to another coordinate location on the grid area you calculate a bearings and and find it logically with some simple maths, you can use more complicated maths if you want to take in the curve of the earth.
    When dealing with small areas this isn’t such a problem, hence the reason OS maps are perfect for walking, hiking and sorting out boundaries.
    ( and on why it makes a big difference over a long distance.
    Post codes essentially fulfil a different function, there are also two different ways of thinking about postcodes. In the UK and Canada in particular they are are based on areas. This means that the country is broken down into a ( This is wonderfully logical, it has a clear arrangement, For example we can tell that a post code with RG is related to the Reading area and RG21 is related to the Basingstoke district within it and RG219 is a sector of the district and so forth.
    This is useful as it is somewhat human readable and has clear structure that allows data collected at a postcode level to be related, it also allows for data to be anonymized easily, you may want to publish data on disabilities and cost of patients at a District level as the sector level may allow specific people to be identified.
    It’s also the reason why when you order a Domino’s pizza in the UK you give your house number and a postcode, each postcode at it’s lowest level has 20-100 houses in it.
    The Irish system is different, it is an address point locater, this means that it is used to identify address’s individually. with a portion of the post code at the start as a routing code to help the postal service. For example D06 2L4R will refer to a unique point in the D06 routing area, the 2L4R portion is unique and non-sequential, their is no strict relationship between D06 2L4R and D06 2L4S except for the fact they are both within the routing area.
    So in total the Irish set-up will allow for individual mail/bill/service/tax locations to be identified, it will also be proprietary and as such require a license, you won’t just know where an address is by logically knowing what’s close. In the UK an SW1 7UD is going to be close to a SW1 7UE area.
    I have looked at a sample of the Irish postcode data and I can say it appears robust, they are really making a big effort to sort out the aliases and variation of Irish address’s and non-Irish addresses, so the licensing is not just a charge, it has a purpose, improving the robustness of the database.
    The money being spend on the project is pretty big, and you feel that Capita (the project lead) could do it cheaper, although the hidden aspect of this is that they are going to be updating allot of government systems to take the postcode and use it to lookup the addresses.
    Overall I think it will beneficial and should make a host of things easier (this includes taxation and probably water metering) but I would of liked an area based system. as I feel it allows allow more flexibility and collection and overlaying of varied datasets, a function academics and social scientists like about the UK/CAN setup.
    Now I am going to shamelessly plug my employer that sells a host of postcode data products via their website

    1. Miko

      This. Too much of a rush in this country to damn everything the guberment does without actually understanding the whys.

      1. Omar Sarhan

        Yeah I was highly sceptical at the start and thought it did seem expensive, but as I’ve seen the data and had a good look at the sample data I’m definitely a good deal happier with the project.

  8. Medium Sized C

    It is entirely possible for two houses to be within less than 100m of each other and have the same address.
    In fact it’s really common.

    So really, for the rural case, if we used a geometric based code, with 100m error, we would easily completely fail to solve the problem we are trying to solve.

    It would actually go so far to say that the current proprietary system is FAR better than a geometric based code with 100m error, for the case of similar rural addresses. Which is common.

  9. Simon O'Doherty

    We’ll need an ‘I’ in order to plan a pub crawl following the postcodes DRINK.

  10. Kieran NYC

    Also wouldn’t the grid above mean the ‘E’ square would be someplace in Scotland?

    Not sure we could get away with a system whereby the logic behind it involves locations on a completely different island.

    1. Omar Sarhan

      Gary Delaney is kind of bitter about this whole postcode tender process and Capita’s winning of the contract. In short he wasn’t able to be part of the post code tender process because he did not have the turnover of €40m to be allowed into the process.

      I’ve sparred with him over email about this in the past and I do see his points, he built something years ago that got some level of adoption that could be rolled out nationally. However it never got adopted as a defacto standard as he did not make it open, the generation of LOC8 codes is GD’s process and he owns it, I don’t think what was proposing was any way more useful from the system currently being developed. It’s really a case of whether you want to accept one proprietary system over another.

      He should have made it open from day 0 and got deeply embedded with government bodies and systems and became the standard, rather than hoping for a big contract that made his system the standard.

      I would of preferred a logically hierarchical UK/CAN style system as oppose to a point system. I’m still hoping they come out with some defined hierarchical geography that allows the academic, social science, and statistical mapping.

      1. Ppads

        before you go any further Omar, are you certain that the person you have named
        did actually submit a tender?

        1. Omar Sarhan

          Well he didn’t, I heard him speak only last November and he said he couldn’t apply to be part of the tender process as his turnover was not at the required amount, so no GD did not submit a proposal.

          1. PPads

            Tnx and lets knock this “post code” bullpoo on the head. Post finds its way perfectly fine as it is.

  11. Ppads

    So basically, the most successful geo location system on the Island of Ireland was excluded from tendering . Jobs for the boys just about sums it up. Loc8 works. It may have needed some modifications but it has a proven track record and would have cost a fraction of Eircode.

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