All Dublin life goes on disk as database details city


THE Dublin Environmental Inventory, billed as the most comprehensive "geographical encyclopaedia" yet compiled for any European city, was unveiled yesterday.

Costing more than £1 million and jointly funded by Dublin Chamber of Commerce and the European Commission, the inventory currently consists of 2.5 gigabytes of data held on comdisks, which can be constantly updated.

Mr Noel Carroll, the chamber's executive, said it was the equivalent of four full sets of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. "The EU people are very impressed they see it as a pilot project for other European cities", he added.

"It's only when you see it on the computer that you can grasp the full value of it", he said. "The volume and complexity of the material is immense and it will be of tremendous value to anyone who wants to find out more information about the city."

The entire area between the two canals is covered, including every single tree as well as all the streets and many of the buildings. "It covers everything you wanted to ask about the inner city but didn't know where to look", Mr Carroll said.

"For example, you can look up in Ely Place and there are colour photographs of the exterior and interior a well as an architectural plan. But you can also find out what the traffic is like outside the building, as well as the air quality in the vicinity. It's that comprehensive.

"The database also shows all the services going into the building - gas, electricity, water, sewer mains. Because one of the problems in Dublin is that you often don't know what's under a street until you dig it up, so this will be of use to the team planning Luas, for example.

"But it goes way beyond that. Because it includes all the census data for the inner city, you can see where the concentrations of single men and single women are living. It all comes up, because the database covers not only the geography but also the demography of the hole area".

"It's taken all the sources of information under all the headings and grouped them together," he explained. "The way it's layered is fascinating, because you can get almost any profile you want by using the database. So it will be of great value to academics and archivists."

However, the inventory is not totally comprehensive. Its compilers concede that information on property prices was excluded because it would have "required excessive resources to generate", while crime statistics do not appear because they were "not accessible".

The project has taken five years to complete but Mr Carroll said its potential will become clear as it is updated. "The inventory's capacity for development and future use is almost infinite. So the task will be to keep it going by adding more material to it."

The database, which was compiled with the assistance of the Environmental Institute at UCD, will be available to the public in Dublin Corporation's planning department at the Civic Offices, Wood Quay, as well as at the Chamber of Commerce in Clare Street.