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GLA commission team from UCL to develop the London Building Stock Model

As part of the London Mayor’s commitment to reducing fuel poverty & increasing the energy efficiency of buildings, the GLA commissioned a team from UCL to develop the London Building Stock Model

photo of london map showing energy efficiency

21 October 2020

The nation’s building stock accounts for around 40% of the UK’s energy use, well above the amount used by sectors we might think consume more, such as industry and transport. All that energy is used to heat and cool and light and power our homes, offices, shops, factories and a whole host of other buildings.

What’s more, our built environment contributes around 40% of the UK’s total carbon footprint, according to the UK’s Green Construction Board (GCB).

However, the amount the built environment contributes to green house gases in London is believed to be significantly higher than that, at around 76%. You can see, therefore, how improving the energy efficiency of London’s building stock could have a valuable and positive environmental impact in the Capital and beyond.

London Mayor calls upon UCL expertise

As part of the London Mayor’s commitment to reducing fuel poverty and increasing the energy efficiency of buildings across the Capital, inline with his zero carbon city status ambitions, the Greater London Authority (GLA) commissioned a team from UCL to develop the London Building Stock Model (LBSM).

Philip Steadman, Emeritus Professor of Urban Studies and Built Form Studies, and Professor Paul Ruyssevelt, at UCL’s Bartlett School of Environment Energy and Resources (BSEER), led the work which was carried out by groups at the UCL Energy Institute and the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, both parts of the Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment.  

The LBSM includes data on all buildings – domestic, non-domestic and mixed use – in the 32 boroughs that make up Greater London plus the City of London. This equates to some 1.5 million houses, 1.9 million flats and around a quarter of a million non-domestic premises. 

Reducing energy bills and environmental impact

Professor Steadman has been developing the 3D Stock modelling method with his colleagues at the Building Stock Laboratory of the UCL Energy Institute for a number of years, while the GLA’s LBSM was developed as an independent product utilising datasets which were not in the 3D Stock Model, such as those from UKBuildings.

The LBSM combines and contains detailed information on the Capital’s many types of property. The data ranges from ages, heights, volumes and wall areas to the distribution of activities between different floors, construction materials and (in some instances) their servicing systems.

The model will support the GLA’s boroughs in their enforcement of the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard (MEES), which has just come into force. It will allow poorly performing non-domestic buildings to be identified, and will help small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as individual property owners and householders, make energy improvements to their premises to reduce their utility bills and their impact on the environment.

The maps in the GLA’s LBSM also include all the information in Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) and Display Energy Certificates (DECs). Although there have been maps of buildings’ EPCs before, the LBSM links EPCs with other information on buildings. And as only about half of properties have EPCs, Professor Steadman’s team has created virtual ones by using statistical estimates based on nearby properties of a similar character.

Drilling down for further detail

The model enables users to define an area on a map and request, for example, all the information on offices over four storeys with steel construction. There are two versions of the model, one for the GLA which carries more data and analytical facilities, and a public web-based version, which carries less information but will allow individuals to look at their own properties.

The GLA version also includes maps that enable users to cross reference with economic opportunity areas, conservation areas, district heating networks, energy efficiency programmes, census data, air quality data and low emission zones.

In a second phase of the project planned for 2020/2021, benchmark values for annual electricity and gas use, calculated from actual consumption, will be attached to all dwellings and premises. This will provide the GLA and other users with a comprehensive and interrogable building stock analysis tool.

Measuring the potential for solar power

the Team are also working on a second model, the London Solar Opportunity Map, which will provide estimates of the total annual direct and diffuse solar radiation falling on all roofs and areas of open land in the Capital. The power of this feature is that it will provide figures for the potential electrical and thermal output of any solar energy generation equipment sited in those locations, depending on the technology used.

This resource will even take into account over-shading from adjacent buildings and trees and, through links to LBSM, will enable users to find the use of the buildings beneath the roofs as well as the character and uses of the open land. Armed with this information they can better understand the potential for solar power installations in various sites. 

As Professor Steadman commented,

We’re calculating the amount of solar radiation on every surface and the electricity that could be generated via photovoltaic (PV) panels positioned on them. And with the price of renewables falling dramatically – they’re already competitive with fossil fuels in some parts of the world – this information and those price reductions could be a major driver of energy change in London.’

Toward a carbon-free London

The LBSM will provide the GLA and each borough with a powerful data-driven tool to identify homes suffering fuel poverty and poor energy efficiency.

Fuel poverty – whether it’s because of low incomes, high fuel costs or inadequate energy efficiency - means too many Londoners cannot afford to keep their homes adequately heated which, in turn, can lead to poor mental health, childhood asthma and excess winter deaths. 

What’s more, the LBSM will also help the GLA to enforce the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard (MEES) and locate the worst performing non-domestic buildings – so those businesses can be targeted with energy efficiency programmes.

Much of our building stock, whether homes or business premises, is used for many decades, often for a great deal longer. So anything that can be done to our built environment to increase energy efficiency and reduce fuel poverty and environmental impact – through retrofitting appropriate technologies, for example - has got to be positive news for people’s finances and the planet. The GLA’s LBSM will be an invaluable enabler of that change.

UCL Consultants, a part of UCL Innovation & Enterprise, provided support preparing proposals for and contracting on both projects.

Carlos Huggins, Senior Consultancy Manager at UCLC, said ‘the UCL Energy Institute team have been developing their models and accesses to underpinning robust data for years, and it is fitting that they have now a direct impact on the evolution of energy efficiency in London, opening a path to maybe supporting other cities in the future.’


The 2D version of the London Building Stock Model

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