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Leeds City Council tests new thermal imagery to support work on decarbonising housing

Thermal and aerial images of Hawthorn area of Leeds
Thermal and aerial images of Hawthorn area of Leeds
Image source: Satellite Vu

Leeds City Council and the MCS Charitable Foundation have supported the test flight of a new thermal imaging camera that could help to target work on upgrading and decarbonising the city’s housing stock.

MCS, which encourages the adoption of renewable energy and low carbon technologies, funded the flight last month to train the technology from Satellite Vu in advance of deploying it on the company’s satellites to collect data on heat loss from individual buildings.

It has a constellation of miniaturised satellites using the high resolution infrared cameras to collect temperature data in the natural and built environments. It said the images are less than one tenth of the size and cost of those from other satellites, and make it possible to measure the heat signature of a building multiple times a day.

Satellite Vu analyses the data to produce a rooftop heat index through which the heat loss and energy performance certificate (EPR) rating of each property can be established. This is claimed to provide an unprecedented level of detail and scale for local authorities to more effectively target funding for retrofitting homes.

Leeds could use the data to identify priority areas, encourage the private sector to carry out retrofitting on a local area basis, and help residents to better understand heat loss.

Transforming understanding

Its executive member for infrastructure and climate, Cllr Helen Hayden, said: “This is an innovative project that could transform our understanding of building heat loss at the city-level, potentially unlocking additional investment in energy efficiency measures that cut energy bills and help us tackle climate change. 

“It is hugely exciting that Leeds is able to be part of this cutting edge work. Leeds already has a strong track record of delivering energy saving improvements to thousands of homes in recent years, but we know that plenty more needs to be done. By giving us street-by-street insight about heat loss, this new technology could help us do just that.”

Dr Richard Hauxwell-Baldwin, research and campaigns manager at MCS, commented: “With 29 million homes in the UK urgently needing upgrades to be fit for the future, we need detailed data on building conditions on a massive scale. This proof of concept could provide that data for the first time and will be game changing for investment in whole-street and whole-area retrofitting programmes.” 

Leeds has been making significant efforts to improve energy efficiency of local homes. . After updating energy performance certificates (EPCs), it was found that each property on average saved 2.5 tonnes of CO2 per year. This translates to a total saving of 84 tonnes of carbon across the lifetime of each home, as well as a financial saving of around 25% or £350 per year.

It has also developed a priority approach for retrofitting homes at scale in certain parts of the city.

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