Realising the E in ESG – The Future of Buildings: Unleashing the Power of Data
March 31, 2023
As the property industry continues its uphill battle to reach net carbon zero by 2050, new solutions are being explored to solve thorny problems. When it comes to optimising the energy efficiency of new buildings, Baulogic believes there is untapped potential in building data that can be accurately gathered by smart technology. We wanted to interrogate the idea that harnessing data and unlocking the DNA of buildings is an underutilised and valuable tool.
Baulogic invited seven leading property industry experts to its inaugural breakfast roundtable event to discuss the future of buildings and unleashing the power of data.
Guy Adderley, Director of Sales and Operations, Sentry Interactive
Kelly Bream, Co-founder, VervLife
Serena Croxson, Director, FourFourSixSix Architects
Alex Dietrich, Executive Director, Goldman Sachs
Paul Dipino, Chief Innovation Officer, Joseph Homes
Laura Montgomerie, Head of Customer Experience, Mount Anvil
Mike Nisbet, Head of Development, Landsec
Stephen Chard, CEO, Baulogic
Chair: Neil Robinson, Director, Baulogic
Broad challenges faced by the property industry
The backdrop to the discussions was a universal consensus of the significant and broad challenges faced by the property industry right now. From rising construction costs to development viability across the board, as well as constantly changing building regulations and failures in government legislation, it was agreed that the landscape is undeniably difficult.
“The primary challenge is viability across the board – making things work. We’ve got to get increasingly more inventive – to own and build more, which makes it more challenging in planning, higher risk, and with cost savings potentially impacting quality. There’s a vicious circle.” – Mike Nisbet, Landsec
Despite the push for more housing stock, existing legislation holds back developments. There is frustration with the lack of political will to make changes. There is also concern about the huge lack of supply of affordable rental properties and the effect this is having on young people.
“There is nobody being brave enough in government to have a joined-up conversation about it. Even with high rises in London, apart from very high value locations, it’s very hard to make it stack up and that’s why very little is being built right now.” – Paul Dipino, Joseph Homes
Building relationships with boroughs is also viewed as a key challenge as some are suspicious of developers. There is a lack of understanding about the benefits of new BTR developments for the wider community. They are still perceived as being transient rather than genuinely becoming part of the community.
“BTR is a new product for boroughs, they haven’t got first-hand experience of it. It’s up to us to convince them that it really works and is going to be a good thing for the borough and will lead to more regeneration.” – Serena Croxson, FourFourSixSix Architects
There are exceptions such as Barking and Dagenham, which has shown a truly entrepreneurial approach and a willingness to do things a bit differently.
Similarly, the evolution of Manchester is a great example, with Mike Nisbet citing the importance of personal leadership. Chief Executive of Manchester City Council Howard Berstein lead a phenomenal transformation of an area of industrial wasteland with his approach to development on council land working alongside partners.
Using data to overcome sustainability challenges
Amenity use and future building design
There are some clear areas where data can be of significant benefit, particularly in the BTR space where a more long-term view is taken. With ongoing operating costs in mind, information about how the BTR development is being used is incredibly valuable. Understanding the use of amenities helps to inform future design, especially where certain features that are expensive to operate prove of little interest to consumers, e.g. gyms or pools.
Heating/cooling energy consumption
Some of the broader applications of building data include understanding how much energy goes into heating/cooling a property, which will also inform future building design. According to Laura Montgomerie consumer surveys confirm that complaints of being cold are a thing of the past, now they are too hot. Developers can gain valuable insight from data that prevents over-engineering the insulation and over-costing with triple glazing.
Meeting the demands of energy-conscious consumers
There is growing recognition of the changing attitudes of consumers who not only want to monitor their energy in real-time to reduce their bills but also demand transparency so they can make more environmentally-conscious decisions.
“Consumers are becoming more conscious, everyone is watching what they spend. When they start looking at the granular detail, people are going to want to know how much things cost to run or how efficient they are. People are going to want that data as they start to make more conscious decisions.” – Laura Montgomerie, Mount Anvil
Reporting requirements of investors
The reporting requirements for investors includes energy performance data and gathering this intel is currently onerous and time-consuming. In addition, the ‘Be Seen’ energy monitoring guidance from the GLA requires energy data reporting which is currently really hard to get hold of.
“The requirement for data is huge, particularly around energy. Some funds offer inclusive of utilities and in these cases, we get a lot of requests – how much does it cost to run each apartment? Where can we make savings? That level of info is really useful.” – Kelly Bream, VervLife
Adapting to carbon net zero targets
In the operation of developments, there have been good strides in working towards net zero targets – behaviours, perceptions and understanding are changing.
The bigger challenge is how do you build to net zero. There is a gap between the progress being made on embodied carbon compared to operational carbon. There is a desire to meet the targets but we are not there yet with the embodied carbon in the build process.
“Embodied carbon, the construction element, accounts for 75% – 80% of overall carbon of a project and the operational element is the remaining part. For many years we have focused on the operational part because we understand it and can have a personal impact on it. How we build them is a much bigger challenge.” – Mike Nisbet, Landsec
For investors, carbon net zero is key. They simply won’t invest in developments if it is not at the forefront of net zero targets.
However, in addition to this, the industry needs to remember that in ten years’ time, it will be selling or renting to people who have carbon net zero targets front of mind, they will be well educated on it.
“We can’t rest on our laurels because there will be a massive change and our customers will be 20 years olds looking at the likes of Greta Thunberg and making active decisions on life.” – Laura Montgomerie, Mount Anvil
Take-up of smart controls
The industry has been slow to take-up smart controls as developers have had their fingers burnt previously. There is acknowledgement that the future lies with smart adaptive buildings, but developers are slow to do things differently. Perceptions are now changing.
There were also questions around education and training to ensure that operators and consumers are getting the most from their smart controls.
“In my experience the smart technology is sold to the buyer but then it gets handed to the user and they don’t know how it works. They want to understand how to use it efficiently and what is costing the most money as this can make a huge impact. We need to make sure the education gets passed on.” – Guy Adderley, Sentry Interactive
If you would like to find out more about Baulogic’s roundtable events, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.