Colouring Sydney

Colouring Sydney is a free knowledge exchange platform designed to provide over fifty types of open data on Sydney buildings, to help make the city more sustainable.


Colouring Sydney is the prototype of both the Australian Housing Data Analytics Platform (AHDAP) and Colouring Australia, which is affiliated with the Colouring Cities Research Programme based at the Alan Turing Institute in London. The programme works with local, regional, national and international partners to develop open platform code also of relevance to other cities.


New datasets and features are added all the time. Any help you can give, colouring-in our building maps, and enriching and verifying our open datasets is very much appreciated.


All our data and code are free to download, use and share under our open licence terms.

What is Colouring Australia?

Colouring Australia is a free knowledge exchange platform, designed to collate, collect, generate, visualise, open spatial data on every building across Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart, Perth, Brisbane, Adelaide and Canberra. It also releases open platform code to enable its design to be easily reproduced. 

If you live in, research into, design, build, manage, care for, or just love Australia’s buildings, this platform has been designed to help you share your knowledge to make the city more sustainable. We're looking for volunteers of all ages and abilities, and contributors from academia, government, industry and the voluntary sector, to help colour-in the city's buildings, to create beautiful, informative, and accurate maps.

Colouring Australia is part of the international Colouring Cities Research Programme. It is headed by the City Futures Research Centre based in the University of New South Wales, one of Australia’s leading research institute for urban research and spatial data science. 

Our Australian academic partners also include the Curtin University, the University of Queensland, the Australian National University, Swinburne University and the University of Melbourne and the University of Tasmania. The platform also brings together, for the first time, the key Federal agencies responsible for researching and monitoring national housing and planning policy –National Housing Finance Investment Corporation (NHFIC), Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) and the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), Australian Urban Research Infrastructure Network (AURIN) – together with eight Universities (UNSW, University of Melbourne, University of South Australia, University of Canberra, University of Tasmania, University of Queensland, Swinburne University and Curtin University).

Other partners include the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, The NSW Government (Spatial Services) and Omnilink Pty Ltd. The project is funded under the Australian Research Data Commons (ARDC) Platforms program with funding contributions from Project Partners.

What are we collecting?

Our platform collects data on the physical form, quality and performance of Australia's buildings, as well as their lifespans and history. This includes temporal data on building age, energy usage, accessibility, building type, and their planning context. Over the next several years our goal, with your help, is to provide free spatial statistics on the location, use, age, size, street context, designers/ builders, planning status, sustainable performance, repairability, and site history of all buildings in Australia

Why is the project needed?

The building stock makes up most of a city's fabric, and is a society's most important physical resource. The quality of our buildings, and the streets they form, and particularly of our homes which comprise the vast majority of buildings, will have a profound effect on the quality of our lives. However geospatial data on buildings, required to measure and improve quality and performance in the stock, continue to be highly fragmented, and are difficult to access in the Australia and in many other countries.

Buildings and building construction are responsible for around 40% of global energy use, and 24% of global material extraction from the lithosphere. Tightening of international energy and waste legislation since the 1990s has led to a major shift in Europe, from a focus mainly on new buildings to the stock as a whole and the need to to reduce energy and waste flows, and increase resilience within it. Tracking the demolition and retrofit of buildings, which are complex finite resources, and measuring the scale of material extraction and energy and waste flows generated through churn in the stock are now of increasing concern.

This has created an urgent demand from scientists for more detailed data on the characteristics of buildings for analysis, monitoring, and for simulations and forecasting models. Though large-scale building attribute datasets are being released in some countries (e.g. property tax datasets), in Australia, attribute data remain heavily restricted even for academic research.

Colouring Australia and the Colouring Cities Research Programme have been set up in response to this situation, and test a new type of open knowledge exchange platform. This centres around an open database designed to collate, capture, generate and drive the release of open building attribute data, and to provide open platform code facilitating platform reproduction. The key aim of the CCRP is to work across countries to support the objectives of the United Nations 2016 New Urban Agenda and its goal to promote the development of sustainable, inclusive, healthy and resilient cities and stocks. 

Data Categories


Location data is the first type of data collected. Coordinates, addresses and building footprints for every building are collated in the Colouring Australia platform as an accurate relational item that allows other data be collected, mapped and spatially analysed.

In Colouring Australia, the greater the number of location categories collected, the darker the building colour is, allowing you to quickly see where more data are required.


Use data provides information on building usage,  floor space and tenancy  types. This allows a count of building types and space allocation to be developed.


The kind of activities and number of people a building was originally designed to hold, as well as the period in which it was built, will affect a building's form, including its size, shape, decorative features and layout. Such characteristics are also used to group buildings into specific types or typologies, where copies or versions also exist. Understanding the location of different building typologies is important in areas such  retrofit of buildings to improve energy efficiency, allowing retrofit methods and budgets to be more accurately targeted and understanding how buildings and packed together.  Understanding survival rates for different typologies, and identifying and retaining adaptable ones, is also necessary to reduce unnecessary waste and energy in construction, and to learn from the past to build more long-lasting buildings for the future.


Building age is also commonly used, and recorded, by architectural historians, building conservationists, heritage specialists and urban morphologists. Information on building age, generated from date of construction, is extremely important for geolocating building types. More recently building age data have also become increasingly used in energy and urban sustainability research, particularly in emissions analysis and urban heat assessments. Here construction date is often combined with other attribute data to help describe the building's form, particularly its geometry and volume.


Data on the size and geometry of a city's buildings have many applications ranging from use in 3D digital city models, to understanding implications to changes to the height of a city's buildings, to analysing and predicting energy use, and greenhouse gas emissions, and the build-up of urban heat.Data on the dimensions of buildings are also relevant to many other areas of urban research, from analysing housing capacity and identifying areas suitable for densification, to observing (within urban science and urban morphology) long-term patterns of change within urban form.


Construction data focuses on the materiality of each building, including the type of materials used, the construction method, and its facade. This data has applications in fire safety, energy efficiency, and has further links to advancements in construction technology over tiem.


Context contains information on the form and use of the building; in particular, its greenscape, plot type, geology, and services. These are relevant to multiple applications ranging from calculating and predicting volume of energy emissions, to assessing housing quality and supply, to predicting structural failure or informing the development of local plans. Using these data, open 3D rule-based city models can also begin to be be built.


Team data captures data on developers, designers and builders. For most buildings this requires expert input from professional and amateur historians, as over 85% of London's stock is estimated to have been built before 2000. For annual new builds (which represent under 1% of the stock) we encourage construction firms and professional bodies to add and update data.


Planning captures data on whether a building is protected from demolition or change, and also includes a link to the UK planning portal, where recent historical planning application information is kept.


Sustainability includes data on the efficiency of services within individual buildings. It includes energy rating performance, waste and disposal ratings, as well as water ratings. This complements city sustainability goals and accounts for buildings that may require upgrades to bring buildings up to code.


Dynamics captures data on the evolution of the city, on incremental development within plots over long periods of time, and on building lifespans. These are needed to track rates of change, assess  typology survival rate, predict lifespans and anticipate vulnerability to demolition and system failure. Lifespan data  includes constructions and demolition date pairs for history of site.  Dynamics categories have been designed, in consultation with historians and heritage experts, to encourage input from architectural historians, civic societies, building conservationists and others with expert knowledge of building history.  We are also experimenting with automated approaches to age data generation which allow faster coverage of the city.


Community data encourages the public to constribute their sentiment of buildings to the Colouring Australia platform. This includes local input on the contribution of buildings to the city in services and its social value to the city.