WELCOME TO COLOURING LONDON
University College London, to collect, collate, visualise, and make accessible, around fifty categories of 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 our free statistical database, and beautiful, colour-coded building maps.
If you live in, study, design, build, care for, manage or just love
London's buildings, come and volunteer your much need knowledge, via our platform, to help make London more sustainable.
WHAT DO WE DO?
VIEWING AND EDITING DATA
As well as adding and editing information, you can also download our data for free, and use our open code. Or just view our beautiful maps of London as they are being coloured in.
Every contribution you make will help improve our understanding of which buildings we should look to
keep, upgrade and repair, adapt, copy, or build anew, to make London as efficient,
vibrant and sustainable as possible.
Meet our UCL team at The Bartlett, University College London as well as our core partners and funders, our advisors, and the many people who have helped us set up the project over the past four years. If you'd like more information on the technical side of the project or would like to provide technical help please visit our GitHub site.
We'll gradually be adding new large datasets as they come to light, and using computational approaches to generate new data on the size and form of buildings.
Over the next year we'll also be introducing lots of new features including our 'Data Showcase' section, top contributor boards, an advanced search facility, an API and a data analytics page.
WHY IS THE PROJECT NEEDED?
London's building stock makes up most of the city's urban fabric, and is its largest and most valuable socio-economic resource. However data relating to London's buildings are highly fragmented and extremely difficult to access.
Buildings and building construction are 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 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 has been set up in response to this situation, and tests a new type of free, online knowledge exchange platform designed to collate, capture, generate and drive the release of open building attribute data in the UK. It's data ethics framework is set out here.
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 London? 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 EPSRC study at CASA 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 information and around fifty subcategories of data, which you can find out more about 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, The 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 data, specifically relating to buildings, that could support sustainability research.
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, community-led planning groups, planners, housing providers 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 built environment related courses and schools.
You can also use view, add to, and download our open data from anywhere in the world. Any spatial data you volunteer is very much appreciated.
WHO IS IT BUILT & MANAGED BY?
Colouring London has been designed and set up at The Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA) as part of EPSRC funded research. CASA is an interdisciplinary urban science research unit at the Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment, University College London.
The platform is managed by the Bartlett and is being developed in collaboration with departments involved in energy, architecture, planning, sustainable heritage, building research and technology, and global prosperity and communications. 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 building outlines for every building in London to be used to collect and visualise data. Without these data the project would not be possible.
The first stage of the project was funded by Historic England's Heritage Protection Commission and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). The project has also received grants from UCL Innovation and Business, and Innovate UK. Our advisors and supporters can be seen here.
CAN ANYONE ADD, EDIT & USE THE DATA?
Yes, we're looking to engage as many audiences as possible in viewing, downloading data and in helping us create our beautiful maps. You don't need a log in to view our maps
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 login. (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 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 help us by adding information on the physical characteristics of your street - such as the type of buildings. If you're a civic society, or interested in historical research we'd love your help with the 'Age' 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 a student studying London, you can upload relevant findings from your 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 strongly influenced by highly 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 including Justin Palmer, Thomas Rhiel, Bert Spaan and Brandon Liu, these illustrate the power and beauty of detailed colour-coded data visualisations on 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.
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. This can already be done by international cities with access to comprehensive open footprint data.
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 are also 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 (as for example the main UCL building which was built over many different periods), we are only able to record for 'Age' for example the year of construction for a single polygon as a whole. In the case of 'Use', multiple uses can 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 valuable feedback, through our discussion threads, on ideas for a more user friendly open version. Feedback 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 collect spatial statistics. So, when we collect data we are not just collecting information on say how many hospitals there are in London and their characteristics but also critically where are they located. All our categories also use dropdown menus, or boxes which reveal text only once moderated to avoid freetext boxes being linked to a building's location.
HOW CAN WE BE CONTACTED?
You can join any of our discussion threads here. We're interested in constructive feedback. Where we find many individuals and organisations are asking for a similar feature or category we'll look at including it. We'll also try to be as responsive as possible to solving technical issues.
However we need to continue to operate Colouring London in a way that is as efficient, sustainable and low-cost as possible. The platform is run by a dedicated but small team.
As well as adding, editing, checking, viewing and using the data you can help us by distributing our site link and encouraging family, friends, colleagues to add their knowledge and join us in building a free educational resource, and sustainable development research tool for London.