WELCOME TO COLOURING LONDON
Colouring London is a free knowledge exchange platform, designed to collate, collect, generate, visualise, and make accessible, data for every building in London.
We're looking for volunteers of all ages and abilities, and contributors from academia, government, industry and the voluntary sector, to join our open data project and help create, test and use our free database, and beautiful colour-coded maps.
If you live in, research into, design, build, care for or just love
London's buildings, our open data platform is here for you, and a place to share your knowledge to help make London more sustainable.
Colouring London is part of the Colouring Cities Research Programme run at the Alan Turing Institute, the UK's national institute for data science and artificial intelligence. Our partners include UCL, Ordnance Survey, the GLA, Historic England and the Survey of London.
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, use our open platform code and feedback on features you would like.
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 RESEARCH PROGRAMME
We have also set up the Colouring Cities Research Programme, to facilitate
knowledge exchange, and
collaborative working across countries. We are currently working with research institutions in Lebanon, Bahrain. Australia, Greece and Germany. Our collective aim is accelerate the production of open data on national stocks, and to share and increase research to support global sustainability goals.
WHY IS THE PROJECT NEEDED?
The building stock makes up most of the city's fabric, and is a society's most important physical resource. The quality of our buildings, and the streets they form (and particularly our homes which make up over 90% of UK properties), will have a
profound affect on the quality of our lives. However geospatial data on buildings, required to measure and improve quality in the stock, continue to be highly fragmented, and difficult to access in the UK and in many other countries.
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 in turn created an urgent demand from scientists for more detailed data on the characteristics of the building stock, for measurement, monitoring, analysis and prediction. Though building attribute data are currently being released in some countries within open property tax datasets, in the UK, these remain heavily restricted even for academic research.
Colouring London and the Colouring Cities Research Programme have been set up in response to this situation, to test a new type of open knowledge exchange platform, containing an open database designed to collate, capture, generate and drive the release of open building attribute data, and to provide open platform code. A key aim is to support the key objectives of the United Nations 2016 New Urban Agenda and its goal to promote the development of sustainable, inclusive, healthy and resilient cities.
WHAT KINDS OF QUESTION ARE WE TRYING TO ANSWER?
Colouring London has been designed to provide open data necessary to help London to improve the sustainability, resilience and quality of its building stock, and to offer prototype open code for use by other cities and countries. The open platform addresses
questions such as: What are the size, age, form, and use of London's buildings? Where are different types of building located? Which are the most resilient, adaptable and long lasting and why? What types do citizens think work best? And how can we best reuse and retrofit these valuable, complex resources for use in the future, and by doing so reduce urban resource wastage and support global sustainable development goals?
WHAT KINDS OF DATA ARE BEING COLLECTED?
We're collecting twelve main types of data and over fifty subcategories. You can find out more about these here.
We're grateful to our many expert bodies that have have advised us during Colouring London's first stage.
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.
The first seven categories (up to Streetscape) provide detailed building attribute data. The remaining five catgeories all have at least one additional function. 'Team' for example allows the quality of construction to be better monitored. 'Planning' provides the opportunity to live stream data as part of a colour-coded traffic light system which enables the planning status of buildings to be viewed in realtime. 'Sustainability' allows for new data categories such as 'repairability' and adaptability' ratings for buildings to be experimented with. 'Dynamics' generates lifespan data and calcaulates typology survival rates. 'Community' allows statistical data on how well residents think a building works to be gathered, and to track loss of buildings, typologies and uses considered by residents of be of community value.
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.
We are also testing feedback loops to allow computationally generated datasets to be checked and edited by experts, on the platform, to improve the accuracy of algorithms and automated data production methods. The plan is also to live stream planning data in future.
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 by academic departments, policy makers, students studying the built environment, community fora and schools. Anyone can also view, add to, and download
our data from anywhere in the world.
Our platform code is designed to be used by any city and can be seen tested in Beirut at https://coloringbeirut.com.
WHO IS IT BUILT & MANAGED BY?
Colouring London and the Colouring Cities Research Programme are managed by The Alan Turing Institute (ATI), the UK's national institute for data science and artificial intelligence, based in the British Library, London.
Colouring London was launched at The Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, University College London, in 2016, as part of a five year study into data required to assess vulnerability in the stock. Historic England, Ordnance Survey and The Greater London Authority have been core partners since this time. Platform design has also been informed by input from many partners - working in urban science, energy, architecture, architectural history, planning, sustainable heritage, building technology, public education, communications, community planning and open data - as well as by individual contributors themselves.
In 2020 Colouring London moved to the Alan Turing Institute where the Colouring Cities Research Programme was set up in response to interest from international research institutions in reproducing Colouring London code. Collaborative research projects using collected data continue with UCL colleagues, and with other partner universities.
WHO's FUNDING & SUPPORTING IT?
Colouring London's first development stage was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and Historic England's Heritage Protection Commission. The project has also received grant support from the MacArthur Foundation, UCL Innovation and Business, Innovate UK and Geospatial Commission. It has also received significant help-in-kind from the Alan Turing Institute as well as from our many project partners.
The initiative 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.
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 beautiful, informative maps. You also don't need to log-in to just view our data. Colouring London is designed as a giant jigsaw puzzle where you can colour-in each building with your knowledge.
If you want to edit data you just need to be over 13 to sign up or, if you're younger have a parent or guardian do this for you. (We're working on a teacher sign up 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 local areas/and or the city as a whole.
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 'Dynamics' categories. 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 the London School of Economics 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.
Our work at Turing includes looking how we can generate volume open building attribute datasets for the Uk as a whole, using computational approaches. This will mean that crowdsourced input can be targeted towards specific areas where expert individual knowledge/input is required, particularly in the 'Age'. 'Dynamics', 'Community' categories.
WHAT'S THE DESIGN INFLUENCED BY?
Colouring London has been inspired by many initiatives. Its design as a collaboratively maintained, multidisciplinary free tool, built for and by the community, providing detailed information/data on the past and present building stock builds on work undertaken at The Building Exploratory in the 1990s. Open data projects including 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 design the platform, and add data to it (as shown on our Leaderboard) 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. If you are are an academic institution wishing to use our open code do contact us about our Colouring Cities Research Programme.
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 allows us to provide a proof of concept and to tests features and identify and address basic problems. As soon as permission is given by Ordnance Survey for us to use footprints for the UK as a whole we will scale up the project up for use at national level. Our international partners are already beginning to reproduce code across five countries.
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.
All editors are asked to sign our data ethics agreement to ensure constructive input. To increase accuracy, buildings have to be coloured individually using copy and paste tools, though bulk uploads can be submitted to CASA for moderation. Verification tools are also currently being designed.
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, set up in large part to help increase scientific analysis of the building stock. We collate, collect, visualise and generate spatial statistics. Our categories use dropdown menus for security to avoid freetext boxes wherever possible. For further information please see our Data Ethics page.