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Demolition is becoming an increasingly hot topic in the drive to make our cities more sustainable. Since the 1990s the shift in focus in the European construction 

industry, from new build to reuse, has also driven interest in the extension of building lifespans. This keeps building materials, and their associated carbon reserves, held within stocks. In turn this reduces emissions, waste related extraction, and processing associated with replacement. Throwing away complex and valuable resources, which cannot be replaced, and that have evolved, adapted and been tested over time, particularly without proper assessment, is of increasing concern.

In London the constant churn of buildings, especially in high value areas, is still not tracked spatially.  Demolition permits are used to notify residents of dust and dirt but remain unpublished. Only non-spatial data on the number of dwellings demolished are collected. Demolition data for non-domestic buildings are not captured. Under a fifth of buildings in London are protected by any type of demolition control. No requirement currently exists for either embodied carbon, or embedded ‘value’ within a building to be assessed as part of the planning process.

Though poor physical condition is often used to justify demolition, recent scientific research has demonstrated that building lifespans are rarely related to their materials or methods of construction. Instead it is the 'value' placed on a building it by society that largely determines how long it lasts . This may be monetary value, historic value, community value or potential value in terms of supporting future economic growth. Ideas of 'value'affect every aspect of a building lifecycle, from its initial design, to regularity of repair, to its adaptation and reuse, and decision to protect it from demolition. In cities such as London one of the greatest threats to a building comes when it stops delivering the highest value for the land on which it is built. 

Colouring London's 'Demolition' category has been set up for the following reasons.  Firstly, to collect spatial statistics on demolition for London, and to allow the location of demolition to be tracked and visualised for the first time. Secondly, to enable the socio-economic and environmental impacts of loss of specific typologies to be more easily measured. Thirdly, to support the protection of local buildings, tried and tested by local communities and considered by them to be of long-term local value. Fourthly, to support local authorities in conserving urban resources of value, and in meeting energy and waste targets. Fifthly, to capture historical data on demolitions for use within predictive computational models to inform long-term sustainable planning and design strategies. And sixthly, to stimulate interest in the collection of historical data, to produce animated urban metabolism models and 3D evolution animations for London, to enable us to better connect the past, present and future of the city.


'Proposed' demolition 

The 'proposed demolition' category allows local councils to notify residents, at an early stage, as to whether buildings in their area are proposed for demolition. This helps provide time for communities to feed back local knowledgeand increases transparency within the planning system.  It also gives London residents a new planning facility, that enables communities to add and update information on proposed demolitions themselves.


'Pending demolition' and 'Demolished' 

'Pending demolition' can be ticked where permission is known to have been granted for demolition. When this happens, information in the 'proposed' demolition' box above will clear. Here a planning portal reference number is required. Ticking the 'Demolished' box means the building has been demolished. This will automatically move all information on this building to the 'Historical construction and demolition' section. (OSMasterMap footprints will be updated every 6 months). 

'Historical construction and demolition'

In the 'Historical construction and demolition' section, pairs of dates - estimated construction date and demolition date - are collected. We are seeking information for all previous constructions and demolitions ever built, on, or touching the current building plot. This information is probably our most difficult data to collect and requires investigation of planning applications on the Planning Portal and of historical texts and maps identified on our 'Age' page.

This is also where data for any building in London (collected within Colouring London), but demolished from 2019 onwards, will be archived. 

Colouring London is an open data platform and we can only accept data from unrestricted sources. Just use first-hand knowledge of the building wherever possible, or, check your source is open and free for third party use.