Data that will boost the transformation of cities

At the end of 2017 the first Building Market Brief Report (BMB) for Switzerland was successfully launched by EIT Climate-KIC, CUES Foundation & partners. This was just the start of a whole series: France, United Kingdom, Germany, The Netherlands, Poland, Italy and Spain.

In the meantime, the consortium developed a new product: The City BMB, as the call for data in cities grows rapidly. The data gathering and the condensed report for the first city is still under development, but it sure is time to reveal the concept. We talk about it with Project Lead York Ostermeyer.

What kind of challenges are cities facing?
“Cities have ambitious CO2 mitigation targets, but because of lacking data they often do not know where they stand in that matter. It is important to know where the city is now in terms of quantified data, conditions of e.g. building stock and energy systems. To make it even more complex, some key decisions on mobility, waste and decarbonization of the electricity net are not made at city level but by external stakeholders. Cities are struggling with mapping these trends and if they have the data, to then identify feasible ways/strategies to achieve their goals 2030 or 2050.”

(Big) data is called the ‘new oil’.  How can it serve the local government and future cities?
“For a city it is a way to assess where they are now, identify hotspots and monitor the effect or progress of measures they want to implement. Do we want data commercialized? With other words, do I want our data to be ‘the oil’, is a key question. I think we best serve the local government by giving access to an objective and anonymous database in the form of synthetic data. That is what we do at CUES Foundation. But one thing is for sure; cities need support on dealing with data and carbon mitigation.”

Does the mayor need certain skills to read the City Building Market Brief Report?
“No, that is not the case. CUES Foundation spends a lot of effort to display the data in a very intuitive form. Even if a specific indicator is not clear, you can always simply compare yourself to other cities that are similar to your own. After all we don’t want to compare metropoles to villages. CUES methodology enables this based on transparent academic methods. In the City Building Market Brief Report (City BMB) we provide the mayor with essential information to inform decisions and strategies for a future proof, climate neutral city.”

What kind of data is to be found in the City BMB? What is it, what is it not?
Firstly, the reader will find data on the status quo of the building stock in a certain city. What typologies of buildings does the city consist of? What is their age, what the energy efficiency level? In an ideal world the city has all of this data, but it is often on paper and has severe gaps. We then take national statistical data to fill the gaps via logic links. This gives a pretty exact basis for any discussion on buildings, and helps to understand the city’s energy demand. 

Secondly, we do the same with the energy supply system of the city. How is heat and electricity created and supplied? What are the options for change? What is the contractual situation?

Thirdly, we assess the renewable energy potential. How much renewable energy can be created with what technology? This sets a good baseline for what type of energy a city can afford and how efficient it can become. After all it’s not about saving energy – it’s about reducing the consumption to the point that you can cost effectively supply it with renewable.

Depending on the data available, we add the spatial dimension to the previous analysis, to better couple demand and supply and tailor the solutions to the urban tissue of the city.

Finally, we do an assessment of the organizational structure of the city. Especially in big cities we often have several departments and offices addressing the same topic.

All this together gives a good basis, not only to generate the most cost-effective pathways to decarbonization, but also which ways are actually feasible given the political setup and organization and what policy measures are needed to support this.”

The first City BMB is on Leuven, Belgium. Why this city?
“We are co-operating with the ‘One Million Building Refurbishment Mission’ of the EIT Climate-KIC, Europe’s largest private public partnership on low carbon innovation. Together we’re intensively working with the city of Leuven in one of its’ flagship projects. Leuven combines what we need: a high ambition, the willingness to co-operate and interest in an evidence-based approach. All in all, a great setup to fine tune our concept.”

What are the advantages of the City BMB?

  • “It contains robust information on which the local government can develop a realistic and cost-effective strategy and actually have a good chance to meet the 2030 targets;
  • It increases the opportunity of (co)financing the change in the city; any kind of fund giver will ask for quantification for the things to be changed and where the money is spent at. They will ask questions such as ‘What will be the effect’? For that the local government needs data; the City BMB can thereby be an entry point to funding bodies such as the European Investment Bank EIB;
  • It provides an entry point for cities into EIT Climate-KIC’s Deep Demonstration Projects such as ‘1 Million Homes’ and in this way to – what is probably Europe’s largest knowledge base on carbon mitigation innovation embedded in – a system thinking perspective.”

Talking of EIT Climate-KIC, what is its role in the City BMB?
“EIT Climate-KIC is the inspiration of our international network at CUES Foundation. We use the full capacity of that network to design and produce the current Building Market Brief reports. One of EIT Climate-KIC’s areas of focus is Urban Transition. Experts in this team advise cities and districts on how best to transform urban environments into decarbonised and climate-resilient beacons. As EIT Climate-KIC drives this systemic change, it acknowledges the importance of data and use our input for its Deep Demonstration Projects on cities. It’s a natural combination.”

When can we expect the BMB Leuven? Where to find it?
“My optimistic guess is that we have a draft by the end of 2019. This will then go into a review process via local experts and then will be layouted. Around March 2020 it then will be available at our homepage www.cuesanalytics.eu. If you download any country report there and leave your email address you will also be notified of any new reports or updates.”

What if you want a BMB report for your city?
“It depends. If you just want the report, please contact us. We’ll sit together and see how we get this started. Do you aim for a parallel engagement in Climate-KICs’ ‘1 Million Homes Mission’ and with us? In both cases, please let us know via our mail: info@cuesanalytics.eu  and we jointly see how to best set this up for your city.”

 
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