Socio-Economic Analysis, Limerick

Date Published

25th May 2021

Karen Duffin
Corporate Communications Manager, IES

As part of the EU H2020 project, +CityxChange, IES have developed a Decision Support Tool (DST) for Limerick that goes beyond energy analysis and carbon reduction targets, to also assess the impact on other socio-economic factors, such as health, sustainable population growth, regional mobility, job growth, and improved GDP. This creates a holistic approach to city/urban planning, which is a core asset of the tool. 

Limerick city currently has a high vacancy rate in its historic city centre core. One of the core goals of the city planners is to create and reinforce sustainable communities in already existing compact urban settlements, incentivising citizens and businesses to occupy these areas, creating thriving neighbourhoods and discouraging any further properties from falling vacant.

However, the city also has the goal of becoming a Positive Energy City by 2050 and, as such, any decisions taken must account for both this target and the impact on the socio-economics of the city. To demonstrate the capability of the IES ICL technology in supporting such decisions, an analysis of an urban area with 900+ buildings with approximately 10% full vacancy and significant partial vacancy within the Limerick Georgian innovation district was carried out. The data was based on CSO data of all the Small Census Areas covering the Georgian innovation district and a City Centre Health check carried out by its Planning Department

The drawback of re-developing these vacant properties is an obvious increase in carbon dioxide emissions, due to the necessity of heating a number of buildings that would previously consume very low to no energy at all. However, city planners need to collect data and insights to better understand the interaction between urban densification and reaching carbon neutrality in cities. In general, these derelict zones will have a longer negative impact on the city and region and hence two factors along with carbon emissions have been analysed - the urban repopulation and the increase growth in jobs.

The analysis showed that by renovating the buildings to an A-rated standard, 450 tons of additional CO2 emissions would be generated across a 30-year projected period, as a direct result of the increase in population over this timescale. However, this would be balanced with a demand for skilled labourers, which would see an overall increase of 4% available jobs within the Georgian innovation district. Finally, land vacancies are well known for being, together with poverty and lack of passive surveillance, one of the main reasons for the spread of crime within a constrained area. As such, renovating this zone would lead to a reduction of the crime rate of about 5 points where the baseline value of 46.9 comes from global databases and is identified as ‘moderate’.

This analysis can provide the city planners with the information they need to present to the local councillors a solution which would impact both the city and the energy and carbon emissions targets, i.e. ensure that any vacant properties are reoccupied first and foremost, while also developing these to a Zero Energy Standard or integrating them as part of a future Positive Energy Block. In this way, both the socioeconomic targets of increasing jobs and reducing dereliction and vacancy can be achieved, while also ensuring the goal of becoming a Positive Energy City by 2050.

Without this information, it is likely that the local councillors would not be equipped with the most relevant evidential proof to allow them bring in innovative, stringent policy measures for their vacant buildings, in a conservative construction industry. This highlights the power of IES ICL technology to both carry out detailed analysis for energy and carbon emissions savings over a future projection, as well as understand the knock on impacts to the socio-economic aspects of the city, providing enough information to inform future policy.

“Limerick City & County Council’s partnership with IES on the +CityxChange project has enabled the Council to work collaboratively with our citizens to progress our ambition of developing a positive energy district in the historic city centre. The Decision Support Tool developed by IES using their 3D digital twin of the Georgian Neighbourhood demonstration area provides the evidential proof we need to understand the impact of the actions we take and is a valuable tool to inform policy making. By enabling us to understand the inter-relationship between how our buildings are occupied and how healthy our neighbourhoods are, IES are helping Limerick to align our Positive Energy City goals with the imperative for compact urban growth.”

Rosie Webb, Senior Architect & Head of Urban Innovation, Limerick City and County Council

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