Lazy mapping gripe

Woo look, a google maps mash-up! Look, it shows us, er, well quite a lot of dots on a map. But look they’re all different colours! So? Well, you know, it’s really neat to put different coloured dots on a map, especially as google makes it so easy when you just upload a spreadsheet containing some postcodes or geo-references to a ‘google fusion table’ and click ‘visualise’.

OK, so this rant was inspired by an article in today’s Grauniad data blog publishing the carbon emissions of every public building in England and Wales: . I normally like quite a lot of the stuff they publish in the data blog, but this was just pretty lazy and sullies the good reputation of geography somewhat. A bunch of dots on a map, even if they are coloured in, doesn’t really tell us very much.

The real shame was that there was some interesting data underlying the lazy mapping that went on. Not only were total CO2 emissions per building, per year published, but so were the total floor areas of these buildings, along with various heat/electricity uses, per metre sq and some benchmarks which are typical for buildings of a certain size. This gives anyone with the data the opportunity to compare efficiencies across England and Wales – say for Local Authorities (given that these data are for public buildings…)

Anyway, just as a sampler for something a little more interesting here are the average CO2 emissions per square metre of public building, across local authority districts in England and Wales. It would of course be even more interesting to compare these with the benchmarks to see which local authorities fall above or below what would be expected, but there are only so many hours in the day and proper work beckons…

Average volume of CO2  per m2 (tCO2/m2) across all public buildings in the local authority


5 thoughts on “Lazy mapping gripe

  1. Great post. I would defend the Guardian slightly by saying that they tend to focus on making the data available and use Google Maps as an unapologetically quick and dirty way of displaying it. The emphasis is on us to do a better job (as you have done).

    Carbon emissions maps seem to be a common gripe between us. I did a post about the way that domestic emissions were mapped by the BBC back in 2009:

  2. Interesting… the west country really is green! BTW it would be possible to do a similar map for all domestic emissions using the data from neighbourhood statistics and a model of house sizes based on type and floorplate. Might be interesting, might just show that the north is colder.

    In defense of the original Grauniad map, emissions are building specific, so providing individual point data definitely has its uses. For example it’s not surprising that old buildings have relatively poor energy performance, but you can see at an individual building level that many new public buildings (even those promoted as green like City Hall) don’t perform well.

  3. Like this. Not done in an ESRI product was it?

    That ArcMap 10 is a real piece of… can I swear on an academic blog? Let’s assume not. Anyway, it doesn’t strike me as being particularly good.

    • Er, might have been…! 🙂 It was ArcMap 10 actually – I’ve never really been an Arc user, but 10 seems to be OK. All of the fancy stuff has shifted over from VB to Python, which according to those in the know is a good thing. I can’t really comment as I only really dabble with both… I’m a MapInfo man at heart though! 🙂

  4. “I’m a MapInfo man at heart though!” Now that’s what I like to hear!
    One thing we have to be careful of is using the data to measure local authorities performance in this area – not all ‘public buildings’ will belong to LAs and LAs utilise privately rented offices, so we have caveat the results. However, I haven’t seen the data but the devil is always in the detail!

    Nice map though Adam but stay off the ArcMap, it’s bad for your health!

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