Colouring Cities Research Programme


The Colouring Cities Research Programme (CCRP) develops open code for open, reproducible platforms that collect, verify and visualise data on national building stocks.

View the Project on GitHub

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The Colouring Cities Research Programme (CCRP) designs and tests open-source tools that facilitate knowledge and data sharing on national building stocks. The CCRP is run by the Alan Turing Institute, the UK’s National Institute of Data Science and Artificial Intelligence. The Turing’s purpose is to make great leaps in data science and artificial intelligence (AI) research to change the world for the better.

The mathematician and computer science pioneer Alan Turing argued that “the isolated individual does not develop any intellectual power …The search for new techniques must be regarded as carried out by the human community as a whole, rather than by individuals”.

The CCRP programme currently works in over ten countries to bring together knowledge, held within communities, academia, industry, government and the third sector - and across science, technology, the humanities and the arts, to help solve complex urban problems. It does this by supporting the co-creation and co-management of research-led, networked, open data platforms that map data, at building level, on the composition, performance, and dynamic behaviour of national building stocks.

Colouring Cities platforms are designed to:

The CCRP is a branded research programme that helps international academic institutions involved in building stock research and research software engineering, to pool knowledge and resources, and co-develop and test open-source code for Colouring Cities open data platforms. Over 50 academics currently collaborate on the project across ten countries. Each CCRP platform is managed by academic partners at country level, and each follows an agreed set of protocols drafted by the Alan Turing Institute. Academic partners coordinate CCRP research at national level and oversee collaborative maintenance frameworks- as used in Wikipedia and OpenStreetMap- to facilitate engagement from government, industry the third sector and citizens. CCRP core code, and additional country specific code, are released under a GNU General Public License via GitHub. CCRP building attribute datasets are released via individual international platforms under an Open Data Commons Open Database License, and the CCRP Open Manual released under an MIT License.

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Colouring Cities platforms use digital building footprints - of the highest quality, openness and geographic cover available within each country - as their basic building block. As well as providing information on the shape and size of buildings, footprints act as mini filing cabinets allowing information to be easily captured, collated, verified and visualised; live co-creation of beautiful maps through the colouring-in of footprints by community collaborators forms a key feature of platform design. Ethical use of building level footprints to capture data, and the identification of security and privacy concerns relating to the visualisation and release of building attribute data, form key aspects of CCRP work.

CCRP categories are visually grouped into a 12 category grid, which doubles as the CCRP logo, to maximise accessibility. Each Colouring Cities platform is designed to collect, collate, visualise, verify, enrich and release over 100 standardised subcategories of spatial building attribute data. Selection of subcategories is based on analysis of academic papers relating to sustainability science, urban science, resilience analysis and urban complexity, UK stakeholder consultation on the Colouring London prototype (2015-19), international partner consultation, and live platform testing. New subcategories are added in consultation with CCRP academic partners and each also risk assessed in terms of potential negative impact of collection on building occupiers. Four data capture methods are experimented with: bulk upload of open public datasets, live streaming from public sources, computational generation using inference and crowdsourcing from citizens and professional at building level. Through this process issues such as data fragmentation, incompleteness, inaccessibility, aggregation, inconsistency, security and privacy are explored and addressed. Data accuracy is maximised through feedback loops between data capture methods, and verification tools.

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The CCRP looks to harness as much information on buildings as possible from professionals involved in their design, construction, management, monitoring, conservation, and retrofitting, from citizens and civic societies, and from diverse academic disciplines and research programmes. It also brings together international academic institutions involved in research on building stock sustainability and resilience to co-work on platform design. Disciplines represented by CCRP academic partners include: data science, computer science, software engineering, urban science, industrial ecology, urban morphology, physics, environmental science, material science, climate change & resilience studies, building construction, engineering, conservation, housing, planning, architecture, history, architectural history, graphic design and colour theory, open data systems and principles, data ethics, artificial intelligence (including machine learning & computer vision), procedural modelling, GIS and spatial data visualisation.

CCRP academic partners/platform hosts

The CCRP is a research-led programme comprised of an informal consortium of academic partners with similar research interests and values. As well as operating within ethical frameworks set by individual research institutions, all partners sign up to the CCRP’s Ethical Framework and partner protocols. CCCP partners use identical interfaces and main data category keypads to maximise clarity and interoperability of systems, to maintain programme and platform quality, and to maximise user trust. This particularly important as all interested software developer/engineers are actively encouraged to experiment with CCRP open code and data are released with permission for third party use. Clear visual branding is also necessary to allow the purpose, principles, and quality of CCRP platforms to be instantly understood regardless of which country a Colouring Cities platform is operating in. Where platforms differ is in additional subcategory inclusion relevant to national/regional contexts, open-source code for which is also available within the CCRP GitHub repository.

The CCRP also works to provide a welcoming and stimulating space in which international researchers can co-design and test Colouring Cities platforms. Improvements to the governance model, ethical framework, back and front end design, and to content are ongoing and incremental, and build on CCRP research partner knowledge. CCRP academic partners can be identified by their inclusion on this page, and on the Alan Turing Institute CCRP webpage. No other applications of Colouring Cities code, interface design or logo are endorsed by the Alan Turing Institute. Information on CCRP resources provided by The Alan Turing Institute can be found here.

All CCRP platforms are at different stages of development. Information on current CCRP academic partners and live platform links (where available) are provided below. Discussions regarding Colouring Cities platform set-up are also underway with academic institutions in the Philippines, Switzerland, Japan, India and Bangladesh.

Colouring Australia

Colouring Bahrain

Colouring Canada

Colouring Britain/Colouring London prototype

Colouring Colombia

Colouring Germany

Colouring Greece

Colouring Indonesia

Colouring Lebanon.

Colouring Sweden

Academic networks and hubs

As the number of countries involved in the CCRP is expanding, self-managing CCRP Global Region Hubs (GRHs) are beginning to be set-up and co-ordinated by interested academic partners/academic consortia. This helps maximise pooled help-in-kind support available for research teams coming on board, and helps stimulate international and interdisciplinary collaboration. (Two national academic network models for country level academic networks, designed to provide trusted data moderation and drive high quality data uploads at regional scale, are also currently being tested in Australia and the UK). The four initial GRHs are as follows:

If you are an academic institution involved in research into stock sustainability and resilience, and would like to discuss joining the Colouring Cities Research Programme, please contact Polly Hudson at The Alan Turing Institute at If you would like to discuss collaboration with an existing Colouring Cities partner please contact the Principal Investigator, details for which may be found on CCRP Open Manual pages for participating countries.