London councils urged to use thermal imaging tech

The Audit Commission has challenged London's local government to reduce its carbon emissions using thermal imaging technology, both improving efficiency and reducing carbon footprint.

During the annual London Connects conference in Westminster, Chairman Michael O'Higgins talked on behalf of the Audit Commission, an independent body responsible for making sure public money is spent economically, efficiently and effectively.

He said that London councils had a responsibility to use technology such as aerial thermal imaging, which was already being used by Leicester City Council. Using infrared thermographic imaging, it was possible to see the amount of heat leaking from individual buildings and to plot data on maps of the area.

He used an example of a map from Kirklees in Huddersfield which did a similar exercise showing areas in red being where the most amount of heat was being lost from properties, with the least leakages coming from buildings coloured blue.

O'Higgins said: "On the website you can zoom down to the level of the individual houses and see which of the biggest emitters are. It can identify which private residential buildings are energy hotspots or waste spots, and offer programmes to people living in those houses to reduce heat loss."

Kirklees was already offering insulation free to people in the worst areas, with Leicester offering some 100,000 affected home owners free roof insulation and upgrading. Leicester Council had given 250,000 to pay for it, with British Gas matching that figure.

"I believe that it will be of benefit of all London councils did the same as Leicester, Kirklees, South Derbyshire or indeed Haringey which are doing this," O'Higgins said. The commission's estimate for the carbon footprint of all London's boroughs added together is 30 millions tons of CO2. That's a lot of carbon."

O'Higgins responded to a question that people might be unhappy that councils would be in affect spying' on residents and their buildings, similarly to the recent controversy over the photo mapping tool Google Street View.

"With something like thermal imaging, what we are doing effectively is bringing something to people's attention that they might not be full aware of. They may know they may like to improve their insulation but they may not know they are twice or as bad as they could be, which would cost them twice as much" he said.

"I don't think we've got to the point yet where anybody is proposing legislation or to make it mandatory."