A ray of hope for the “death-ray” building

A London skyscraper – nicknamed ‘The Walkie Talkie’ – which unwittingly projected scorching sunbeams onto the streets below has highlighted the need for city planners to use a “plug-in” tool pioneered by a Birmingham City University-led consortium.

The European-wide KIC-Transitions (KIC-T) project will bring together data, modelling and visualisation tools to provide a comprehensive simulation framework that will assist urban strategic planning.

The integrated platform will allow cities to “plug-in” a wide range of information sets for analysis of key environmental impacts, including energy needs, noise pollution or carbon emissions.

“Designers behind the Walkie Talkie building have cited climate change and even the lack of analytic tools as potential reasons for the so-called ‘death-ray’ effect,”

said Professor Keith Osman, Director of Research at Birmingham City University.

“This has highlighted just how important our project will be in helping urban planners to better assess the impact such ambitious buildings will have when built in real city environments.”

Professor Osman said the enhanced modelling capability being developed through KIC-T will allow city planners, designers and city-dwellers to better understand the full implications of planning decisions.

“KIC-T is defining standards and software to allow city data, models and visualisation tools to be readily plugged together, allowing more comprehensive models to be created which can be applied to cities around the world.

“Currently it is often extremely difficult to reuse or combine existing tools to investigate resource consumption, sustainability and assess the environmental impact and quality of life for citizens.”

Professor Osman added:

“KIC-T demonstrates the commitment that Birmingham City University has to the wider sustainability and climate change agenda, and shows how we are able to provide some of the cross-disciplinary expertise required for these challenging topics with global significance.”

The KIC-T project team includes Birmingham City University (Coordinator), ETH Zurich, Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research, plus large international companies including ESRI and IBM, small companies like Aria, SBC and Greenhill and the three cities of Birmingham, Rotterdam and Zurich.

The Climate-KIC is Europe’s largest public-private innovation partnership, working together to address the challenge of climate change. The Climate-KIC is funded by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) which has a wider mission to increase European sustainable growth and competitiveness by reinforcing the innovation capacity of the EU.