WELCOME TO COLOURING LONDON
University College London to collate, collect, generate, visualise, and make accessible, statistical data for every building in London.
We're looking for volunteers of all ages and abilities, and from all sectors and disciplines, to join our open data project and help create, test and use our free database, and beautiful colour-coded maps.
If you live in, study, design, build, care for, manage or just love
London's buildings, our open data platform is here for you, and where you can share your knowledge to help make London more sustainable.
WHAT IS COLOURING LONDON?
HOW TO GET INVOLVED
You can click on our maps to access data added so far. You can also also fill in information and make buildings colour and in doing so help us create both our database and beautiful and informative maps for everyone to use.
You can also download our data for free, and use our open platform code.
WHAT ARE WE MAPPING?
We are collecting, generating & mapping twelve categories of data and releasing these in stages. Our aim is to, eventually, provide free spatial statistics for every building in London, relating to age, form, use, construction, protection & planning, performance & sustainability, green context and popularity, as well as dates of previous demolitions
constructions on each site.
COLOURING CITIES PROGRAMME
We are also setting up a Colouring Cities research programme to facilitate
knowledge exchange between research institutions using our open code. Our collective aim is accelerate the production of open data on national stocks, and to increase research, to support global sustainability goals.
ABOUT OUR TEAM & CODE
Find out more about our team, partners, funders, advisors and all those who have helped us set up the project over the past five years here. If you'd like access our code, find out more about the technical side of Colouring London or would like to provide technical help please visit our GitHub site.
WHY IS THE PROJECT NEEDED?
The building stock makes up most of the city's fabric, and is its most valuable capital resource. Buildings are also where we spend most of our time and most of our money, with the quality of our homes particularly having a profound affect on the quality of our lives. However data on buildings continue to be highly fragmented and difficult to access in many countries, including the UK.
Buildings and building construction are also responsible for around 40% of global energy use, and 24% of global material extraction from the lithosphere. Tightening of international energy and waste legislation since the 1990s has led to a major shift in Europe, from a focus on new buildings to one on the existing stock as a whole and the need to to reduce energy and waste flows, and increase resilience within it. This has created an urgent demand from scientists for more detailed data on the characteristics of the building stock, for measurement, monitoring and analysis purposes. Though building attribute data are currently being released by many countries within open property tax datasets, in the UK, these remain heavily restricted even for academic research.
Colouring London and the Colouring Cities programme have been set up in response to this situation, to test a new type of open knowledge exchange platform designed to collate, capture, generate and drive the release of open building attribute data through the provision of open platform code. The aim is also to support the key objectives of the United Nations 2016 New Urban Agenda and promote the development of sustainable, inclusive, healthy and resilient cities.
WHAT KINDS OF QUESTION ARE WE TRYING TO ANSWER?
Colouring London data can be used to explore and address many kinds of urban issue relating to sustainability in the city. Our initial interest is in answering basic questions such as: What kind of buildings make up the city? What are their size, shape, age and use? How are they built? How energy efficient are they? How long could they last if well-maintained?
We are also interested in data that helps us understand which buildings are likely to be vulnerable to demolition and why? Whether there is sufficient greenery around buildings to reduce risk from pollution, urban heat and flooding? Ways in which we can best extend lifespans to reduce energy and waste flows? Which buildings work best in the city, and it what ways?
Colouring London has evolved out of a four year Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) funded study, at UCL, into methods of geolocating and predicting vulnerability and resilience in London's building stock.
WHAT KINDS OF DATA ARE BEING COLLECTED?
We're collecting twelve types of data and around fifty subcategories. You can find out more about these here.
We're grateful to the many expert bodies that have have advised us during Colouring London's first stage, and to the following Bartlett departments: The Survey of London, UCL Energy Institute, The Institute of Sustainable Heritage and The Institute of Environmental Design and Engineering.
We found many overlaps in the type of information people were interested in. We have grouped these into twelve categories to keep things simple. Additions to subcategories are expected as the project evolves. We are always keen to hear of other types of building data of use.
WhERE DOES THE DATA COME FROM?
Our data are generated using three different approaches. First and foremost by bringing together existing open datasets, and persuading government departments and relevant sectors of the value of collective data release within a single platform, to improve efficiency within the stock, assist in urban problem solving and support the UK's transition to a low carbon economy.
Secondly by harnessing public knowledge of the stock, particularly that held within the historic environment sector and community planning/heritage groups, through small-scale crowdsourced uploads. (Here the platform also tests new methods of knowledge exchange with regard to data on the age and evolution of the stock, through the transformation of text based information held within the humanities, into spatial statistics for use in scientific research).
Thirdly, by using computational approaches combined with available attribute data to generate large-scale datasets, such as roofshape, floor area, number of storeys etc. which can then be tested and verified.
WHO's It MAINLY DESIGNED FOR?
Colouring London is designed for anyone interested in finding out about and/or sharing knowledge on London's buildings. This includes residents, local authorities, local planning groups, and housing and construction industry professionals involved in the
design, repair, construction, conservation and management of the city's buildings. The platform is also designed for use in education and research, including by academic departments, policy makers, students studying the built environment, community fora and schools. You can also use view, add to, and download
our data from anywhere in the world. The platform code is also designed to be used by any city and is already being tested in Beirut at https://coloringbeirut.com.
WHO IS IT BUILT & MANAGED BY?
Colouring London has been designed and set up at The Bartlett, University College London and has been developed in collaboration with researchers working in urban science, energy, architecture, architectural history, planning, sustainable heritage, building technology, public education, communications and open data. Information on the technical architecture of the platform can be accessed on our GitHub site.
WHO's FUNDING & SUPPORTING IT?
The project has been made possible through a collaboration with Ordnance Survey (OS) and the Greater London Authority (GLA). This has allowed outlines for every building in London to be used to collate, collect and visualise data. Without these footprints the project would not be possible.
The first stage of Colouring London was funded by Historic England's Heritage Protection Commission, and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). The project has also received innovation grants from UCL Innovation and Business, and from Innovate UK and the cabinet Office's Geospatial Commission. Our advisors and supporters can be viewed here.
CAN ANYONE ADD, EDIT & USE THE DATA?
Yes, we're looking to engage as many audiences as possible in viewing, downloading data and helping us create our beautiful maps. You also don't need to log-in to just view our maps.
If you want to edit data you need to be over 13 to sign up or, if you're younger have a parent or guardian do this for you. (We're also working on a teacher signup for schools). Every entry is valuable to us, however we are looking for data that's as accurate as possible. Our easiest category to add to is 'Like me?'-. We've included this to encourage diverse audiences to join in, and to allow people to highlight buildings they think contribute to the city.
If you're a resident you might like to 'Like' a building or help us by adding information on the physical characteristics of your home or street. If you're a civic society, or interested in historical research we'd love your help with the 'Age' and history category. If you're a school you could make a huge contribution by adding information on land use and storeys (schools were in fact main contributors to Britain's first land use survey run at LSE in the 1930s). If you're an architecture student perhaps you could upload relevant statistics from your course work?
If you're a local authority or professional body you can send us bulk uploads for visualisation to support your public engagement work. If you're involved in the property and construction industry you can help by adding information on your past or current
developments, and from your past context analyses from planning applications; and by encouraging others in the industry to do the same. This will help lower costs and increase accuracy of context data in future.
WHAT'S THE DESIGN INFLUENCED BY?
Colouring London has been inspired by many initiatives, in particular by the knowledge exchange project Wikipedia, the work of the open data movement, and open data platforms such as OpenStreetMap, where knowledge is shared for the common good. It has also been influenced by detailed colour-coded historical maps of London, and by property tax maps currently being created by other cities, as discussed below.
Other influences include Citizen Science projects such as Penguin Watch and Galaxy Zoo; English Heritage's Historic Landscape Characterisation programme; The British Library's Georeferencer initiative; New York City Library's Space/Time Directory; The Bristol's 'Know your place'; Barcelona's bigtimebcn.300000kms.net/; IHS's 'Layers of London'; The Survey of London/CASA 'Whitechapel' project, and the Building Exploratory's work into community GIS systems in the late 1990s.
Many individuals and organisations have helped us and we will continue to adjust and improve the platform design and content to meet user feedback. If you're working on a similar type of platform anywhere in the world, or using similar categories of data we'd also love to hear from you and to feature your work on our future Data Showcase page.
WHY IS COLOUR SO IMPORTANT?
Colour is a core feature of Colouring London. It is used to stimulate curiosity, as a thank you to users, and to encourage people to add data to reveal urban patterns never seen before. It is also used to create a relaxing and rewarding colouring-in experience.
A long tradition of hand-coloured building maps exists in London. The most spectacular examples include the Booth Poverty Map,The LCC Bomb damage maps, The Goad maps and the interwar maps produced by the City of London. Coloured maps showing
building characteristics for an entire city or town have until recently been rare. However these were produced in countries such as Germany and Austria, as part of urban morphology studies, in the first half of the 20th century,
Since 2013, stunning online colour visualisations of property age have been generated for a growing number of cities, as property tax data are released around the world. Created by independent web developers such as Justin Palmer, Thomas Rhiel, Bert Spaan and Brandon Liu, these illustrate the power and beauty of detailed colour-coded data visualisations of the building stock.
Colour-coded visualisations of changes to the physical composition of cities over time, such as those produced in academic studies by Hiroki Tanikawa and Seiji Hashimoto in Japan, are also becoming of increasing importance in Sustainability Science. These are being used to improve understanding of the 'metabolism' of cities in relation to their energy and waste flows.
Using colour also helps to firmly embed the arts and humanities, alongside science, in the process of urban problem-solving and the development of sustainable cities. Also to add that our work on our colour palettes is at an early stage.
CAN THE PLATFORM BE COPIED BY OTHER CITIES?
We are developing a platform for London first. This will allow us to provide a proof of concept and to identify and address basic problems. As the UK government opens up Ordnance Survey MasterMap data, any UK will be able to use our code to reproduce the project. Reproduction is already being looked at by a number of international cities.
are you only collecting
information on buildings?
Yes, at present, our focus is the building stock owing to its importance, complexity and scale. It has also been identified as the area in which the greatest potential for energy reduction lies. However we will be looking at ways to connect with other open data initiatives.
WHAT IF PEOPLE PUT IN INACCURATE DATA?
Following the examples of Wikipedia and Open Street Map, Colouring London is a self-moderating platform with the opportunity for any logged-in user to edit any data entry. A record of all edits is available under 'Edit histories'. If you don't agree with a change that has been made you can always edit the entry. The platform also requires sources and will in future include a verification button.
To prevent malicious behaviour to the system, buildings have to be coloured individually, though bulk uploads can be submitted to CASA for moderation.
Further information on privacy and moderation are included on our Data Ethics page.
WHAT IF A BUILDING OUTLINE REPRESENTS
MULTIPLE USES AND AGES?
We are using Ordnance Survey MasterMap (OSMM) polygons/ building footprints and are limited to these. If polygons are not subdivided (such as that for the main UCL building which was built over many different periods), we are only able to record 'Age' for example for the single polygon. In the case of 'Use', multiple uses can be selected and entered. Number of self-contained units within the building will also be able to be recorded.
Our hope is that the project will enable OS to gain useful feedback, through our discussion threads, on ideas for a more user friendly open version. Feedback now is also important as the UK Treasury is deciding on the extent to which OSMM data should be opened up.
WHY CAN'T i ADD TEXT
Colouring London is a statistical database needed to increase and support scientific analysis of the building stock. We collate and collect and visualise spatial statistics. All our categories use dropdown menus for security to avoid freetext boxes - where anything can be written- being linked to a building's location. For further information please see our Data Ethics page.