Will Your Local Authority Accelerate To Smart City Status?
Warrington Borough Council has developed a digital twin of the town’s buildings and energy systems. Housing Industry Leaders highlights how the uptake in digital twins will help accelerate smart city status across the UK.

Warrington Borough Council has shown its commitment to digitalisation as it begins work with climate technology firm IES and community energy consultancy Pure Leapfrog to help identify energy, carbon and cost-efficiency measures to reach its net zero targets.

Bringing different datasets together from the council, the energy performance certificate data and local distribution network operators, the digital twin, will work with information from each of the borough’s 29 areas individually modelled in IES’s Intelligence Community Design (iCD) tool.

Digital Twins Offer Extensive Insight

Primarily focusing on how a community may evolve over time, the twin tracks the environmental impact of changes such as the installation of renewable energy systems and changes to the massing and form of buildings.

The core benefit of this is to increase the speed at which this type of data is collected, which in turn will enhance the business case for the public and private sectors to invest in renewables as data can collect relevant information not gathered before.

It is hosted on the company’s Intelligent Community Information (iCIM) platform.

On a local authority level, Warrington Council has been using the tool to adapt strategies and policies for each area towards net zero, considering factors such as construction materials and energy capacity.

Encouraging Local Authorities to Adapt Their Digital Strategy is Essential

Digital twins allow local authorities to dive deep into data around energy systems, housing stock, materials for construction and much more. There are strong calls for all authorities to adopt this method of data collection to improve decision making and policy-making.

With impacts already being felt by the authority, it was reported that there would be annual savings of up to 2,500 tonnes of CO2 for two neighbourhoods in the borough, which would take them to net zero with only a very small amount of carbon offsetting.

Using the model to full effect will allow the council to see various possible optimisation scenarios and understand the potential return on investment for associated decarbonisation initiatives

While carbon offsetting is surrounded by controversy, smaller authorities can use it as an addition to wider policy and not a core part of the policy. Arguably the more technology we can implement, the less likely councils will use carbon offsetting to meet ambitious targets.

The council’s cabinet member for sustainability and climate change, Cllr Janet Henshaw, said: “A shared central database and interconnected tools have allowed data and analysis to be easily shared between key stakeholders within this project, laying out some pathways for potential future decarbonisation.

Creating a benchmark for other local authorities who are struggling to implement technologies such as digital twins is also an important aspect of creating a digital network and generating the right environment for growth in the sector. Warrington hopes to help become a benchmark for smaller authorities to better understand its energy systems and housing stock.