Architecture / Cities / International

A blue sky approach to greener cities

A new tool for citizens and policy makers willing to assess and plan the energy management of their homes and cities is being launched within the Central Europe project called EnergyCity.

Far from a common educational project, EnergyCity puts in place a brand new strategy combining science and communication. The pilot initiative involves seven cities in central Europe: Budapest, Prague, Munich, Bologna, Treviso, Ludwigsburg and Velenje, whose skies are being crossed by night flights.

Thermography

Aerial flights gather thermographic data useful to build a detailed map of roof’s heating dispersion in a specific area. Thermography captures the surface temperature of an object, which is illustrated by differing colours in an image

At this stage, researchers know whether the roofs are warm or cold, but that still isn’t enough to assess the energy efficiency of a building.

Giovanni Fini, of the Environmental Evaluations and Control Unit of the city of Bologna (Italy), explains that: “The actual heat loss of the dwelling doesn’t always coincide with the loss of the roof. For example, if there is an empty attic the roof will be colder, but that does not mean that the entire building is well insulated.”

This means the thermography map must be complimented by a second data set, obtained by applying different information about the roof materials.

According to Gabriele Bitelli, professor at Department of Civil, Chemical, Environmenntal and Materials (DICAM) of the University of Bologna, “The actual temperature of the roofs needs to be linked with the roofing materials’ properties. Therefore, we need to get further information through aerial or satellite surveys, to characterize the surface’s characteristics.” The datasets are furthermore processed in order to take account of atmospheric effects.

Web GIS

After implementation, the map is ready to be processed by a GIS (Geographical Information System). This is software designed to combine maps with numerical and qualitative data, normally provided by the municipalities, to produce a very accurate model.

The GIS map of the areas involved in the project will then be available online as a tool for citizens and policy makers, providing importantinformation about the energy efficiency of the buildings.

“Given the project is at a very early stage – Bitelli adds – it’s still impossible to quantify the overall economic effort it requires. But we believe that EnergyCity is a forerunner for the future spread of this kind of technology.”

[click to view gallery]

Communicate energy efficiency

EnergyCity is not only a technology project intended to end up in obscure scientific literature. It also aims to make an impact on culture and urban planning.

“According to our findings – Dr Fini explains – 66% of CO2 emissions in the city of Bologna come from households and offices.”

Local administrations cannot do much about the remaining 34%, consisting of industry emissions and transport, but they can certainly control the condition of buildings, by encouraging citizens to implement retrofitting measures.

“Bologna adheres to the Covenant of Mayors, a European voluntary agreement in which the municipalities undertake to improve their own emissions goals” Fini says. To do so, it is crucial to act effectively on a local basis. In Italy, the project is already online with an interactive platform that allows citizens to roughly calculate their home’s emissions.

Although the results will be available only at the end of the project after a complicated process of data analysis and modelling, EnergyCity stands out among international urban planning projects. It will provide a unique, scientifically accurate angle on the energy efficiency matter one which will be accesible to scientists, urban planners and citizens alike.

By Lou

Images courtesy of EnergyCity

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