Open data platforms enable access to high quality national building footprint data


Image courtesy Alan Turing Institute

Policy approach(es) used to catalyse investment: Development of a national, regional, or sectoral InfraTech strategy; availability of a government-sponsored innovation sandbox

Technology approach(es) used to catalyse investment: Implementation of a data platform or digital twin for greater transparency over performance; reuse of existing technology to produce low-cost open data, visual platforms integrating crowdsourcing, building performance tracking, and emergency support tools

Finance approach(es) used to catalyse investment: De-risking mechanisms or blended finance

Key benefits: 

  • Climate mitigation 
  • Enhanced social inclusion 
  • Improved infrastructure delivery and performance 

Additional benefits

Allows for multidisciplinary work across sectors  

Scale of deployment: 


Project value: 

Alan Turing Institute (core funding) circa GBP200,000 p.a.
UKRI AI for Science and Government grant circa GBP200,000 p.a.

Individual countries secure their own funding/secure help in-kind at national level

Project start/end dates: 


Current status of the project: 


The Colouring Cities Research Programme (CCRP) is developing a model for open data platforms that uses an open-source code for easy-to-set-up-and-run platforms (managed by academia) that enable access to the highest quality, comprehensive national building footprint data available. The data platforms address issues relating to building attribute data fragmentation, omissions, quality, interoperability, range, geographic coverage, granularity, security, and accessibility. The building footprints are used to collect, collate, capture, verify, visualise, analyse, and release comprehensive spatial data, at building level, on the composition, performance/quality, and lifespan/dynamics of national building stocks. Footprints colour as data are added. This is a novel deployment of existing technologies.

Colouring Sydney and Athens

Images courtesy UNSW and NTUA

The CCRP is unique in that it:

  • Brings together international academic institutions involved in building research to co-work on open data platform design, and to set up and manage platforms at country level able to be enriched and maintained by local stakeholders
  • Develops a model for platforms able to integrate comprehensive data on the composition, performance and quality, and dynamics of the stock, at building level
  • Provides a highly efficient model for low-cost open data repositories that double as data visualisation, building performance tracking, and public auditing tools, and free public education resources and mechanisms for data capture in disaster situations
  • Tests diverse data capture methods to improve data richness and quality
  • Uses colour to support inclusivity, promote diversity, and bring together and celebrate the expert knowledge of citizens and professionals working across sectors and disciplines, and within science, the humanities, and the arts. 


All international Colouring Cities Research Programme partners sign up to test/replicate/co-work on Colouring Cities platform code and design. The CCRP currently works with academic partners in Australia, Bahrain, Britain, Colombia, Germany, Greece, Indonesia, Lebanon, and Sweden, and is also exploring research collaborations with China, Switzerland, and Bangladesh. 

Challenges experienced/overcome in implementation

One of the key challenges faced by the CCRP has been securing and retaining high quality software engineering expertise across the project lifespan. Attracting sufficient funds to manage the project in a sustainable way has also been challenging, despite the rapidly growing international interest. While a significant number of platform features have been designed at Turing they have not yet been implemented for reproduction by CCRP partners because of the limits on funding and engineering services.  

It has taken seven years to enable international rollout to be supported with relative ease. However, the project is still considered to be at an early development stage, particularly in terms of interface design, feedback loops designed to improve data quality, and application illustration. 

Other approaches that enabled investment

The CCRP continues to maintain low management costs by relying upon co-working arrangements with international academic teams already involved in funded building stock research, on open platform design and code. The initiative allows for grant applications directed at diverse funding sources such as: 

  • Research grants relating to building stock analysis (energy, housing etc.)
  • Industry collaborations to support efficiency and innovation
  • Government grants to support sustainable policies relating to housing, construction and retrofit, planning, conservation, risk assessment.

Relevant funding sources also exist in the context of data ethics, innovation in community engagement and the use of AI and machine learning for revealing underlying relationships and patterns in complex urban systems.  

Funding is not/cannot be generated from the sale of data or code, both of which are open. Using this code, demo platforms for countries can be quickly and cheaply built. These are used to lever funds and expertise at city, regional or national level, to enable content and interfaces to be tailored, stakeholders to be consulted and data uploaded. As the number of national platforms grows, and an increasing amount of data becomes available, joint applications with CCRP partners will be sought to analyse collected data across countries.  


Note: This case study and all information within was submitted by the Alan Turing Institute in response to our global call for InfraTech case studies.

Last Updated: 21 October 2022