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What Cloud Computing means for the Housing Sector

What Cloud Computing means for the Housing Sector

What’s the fuss about the cloud?

 

More than just big fluffy life giving stores of water floating in the sky, today the cloud gives life to your computer. If you think of the cloud as a vast bank of computers you can use as and when you want to carry out tasks way beyond that of your humble PC then you understand what the cloud in essence is. You basically borrow their processing power to carry out complex time consuming tasks. Unlike having to own a server farm, like the 1990’s, today’s companies can harness the power of the cloud only when they actually need it. Driving down costs, accelerating development and making businesses much easier to scale and to attract investment into.

What is big data?

Turns out Big Data is more than just using a size 18 font in Word, who knew? The actual definition is - "Big data is high volume, high velocity, and/or high variety information assets that require new forms of processing to enable enhanced decision making, insight discovery and process optimization."

Big words huh? We humans have never had access to such powerful datasets and analytics before. Without computers and mathematics we would be overwhelmed and powerless to make sense of the information. Software and the power of the cloud enable an unprecedented insight into statistical analysis. Result? Big data and the cloud are the future of almost all decision making – software, politics, commerce, you name it – people are harnessing data to drive decisions.

What are the real benefits to using them?

Size 18 font docs floating on clouds wouldn’t be too handy, but mass data available when ever and the most powerful computers you can imagine available to you at the click of a browser? – That is appealing. For business, the benefits are immediate and tangible. You can raise investment to create analytical platforms that 10 years ago wouldn’t have been feasible. Investors don’t like spending millions to build server farms ahead of revenues. SME’s get to make big bold plans reliant upon access to the cloud, plans they couldn’t hope to achieve without the processing power enabled by the cloud. End users get access to software and analytics that run faster, cost less, can be updated daily and don’t have to invest in hardware to run the software. They only need access to the internet.

WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR THE USE OF DATA IN HOUSING?

Data drives everything. Without knowing the likely impact of a decision people are paralysed and static. If you knew the road on the left was busy and the one on the right empty, yet they both took you to your destination, you would take the right. You processed data.

Now make some investment grade decisions on a property portfolio that need retrofit measures to become compliant with legislation.

What do you fit? Why? And how much will it cost? Is there something better out there? Who provides the service? How do you ensure best value? And is that solution best for all your stock or just a handful? Are there grants available? If so, who administers them? How do you communicate that information to your boss? The board? Your investors?

Data empowers and enables exactly this sort of decision making process. 

With the additional data the thermal image can provide in conjunction with IRT DREam, you can harness the true power of data and discover the most efficient way forward with your properties.

Drone technology for infrared thermography

Drone technology for infrared thermography

You may want to have an infrared survey carried out for a variety of reasons. Infrared thermal imaging technology is ideal for detecting defects and energy deficiencies of buildings and housing stocks. Combined with drone technology, it becomes a limitless tool.

Let's take a closer look at drones.

ENHANCING IRT SURVEYING: FROM FOOTPRINTS TO DRONE FLIGHTS

For 16 years IRT Surveys have been surveying buildings using infrared thermographic (IRT) cameras. Mostly on foot. This means that when it is a high building or a flat roof which needs surveyed, equipment  such as cherry pickers have to be hired. This has cost implications for our clients and Health & Safety implications for our certified thermographers and anybody or building in the surrounding area.

There are other technologies available:

  • Radio controlled tethered air balloons: wind and power lines make them impractical.
  • Telescopic pneumatic mast bolted to a van:  a relatively successful technology that IRT Surveys used for years. Ideal then to capture an entire flat roof in a handful of images. The downsides are time-consuming set up, dangerous in windy conditions, and taking images at weird and unexpected angles. Also from a practical point of view, parking the van at the correct location for carrying out the infrared survey can be problematic. The whistling noise created when driving the van is also distracting. Today, masts are largely a thing of the past thanks to other technological advances.
  • Radio controlled helicopters have been around for years, but are difficult to fly and terrifying with the blades and internal combustion engines wiring away.

Nowadays we use drones. IRT Surveys have a small fleet of drones in the UK operated by CAA approved, ITC qualified thermographers with night-time licenses.

3 ADVANTAGES OF DRONE TECHNOLOGY FOR IRT SURVEYING

Drones are a breeze to fly and present at least three main advantages.

  1. Drones are safe and get the camera to places that are cost-prohibited by any ground based system. From a high vantage point we can also cover large areas in a short window of time.  They are therefore ideal for tall building and flat roof surveying.
  2. They are capable of carrying thermal imaging cameras better than handheld ones to heights that neither a mast nor a cherry picker could reach.
  3. The flight plan can be programmed on a tablet allowing the drone to fly largely autonomously . Since it’s usually us humans that crash the things, this can only be a good thing.

As with any technology, they aren't perfect and and their future will be determined by regulation. Many companies are investing in anti-drone technology now to shoot drones out of the sky. We shall see how this materialises.

CONDITIONS TO USE DRONE TECHNOLOGY FOR IRT SURVEYING

  • The thermographer must have the permission to survey the buildings, the owners/tenants and neighbouring buildings of the activity.
  • An area adjacent to the surveying site must be cordoned off for take-off and landing.
  • A qualified operator has to provide his permissions to operate with certificate from the CAA. Without this the operator will not be insured.
  • They has to carry out risk assessments that are site specific.
  • Finally they also need thermography experience in order to capture the correct data and setting up the correct parameters required for the job in hand.

WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR THE USE OF DRONE TECHNOLOGY IN IRT SURVEYING?

Like all emerging technologies, the sector is full of “give-it-a-go-heroes”. Fast forward 5-10 years they will be gone, the market consolidated and a handful of professionals left doing it properly.

For IRT surveys, it is a nice thing to have available to us. Still 95% of our surveys are still done on foot by thermographers at night in low wind.

Maybe down the line when you call we will simply deploy a local drone to your building and not need the skilled local thermographers to actually take the pictures at all. Their role will become one of convincing you it’s a good idea and to talk you through the findings and recommend solutions based upon technical knowledge and experience.

Looking in the short to medium term, at IRT Surveys, we can’t see the drones replacing a skilled human just yet though. But like the humble hammer, there will come times when you need a drone. It is always handy to have the tool in your box.

Do you have high buildings or flat roofs which require surveyed with thermal imaging? If so, please do contact us for a fast, impartial and clear survey.

Data driven decisions for housing stock retrofit

Data driven decisions for housing stock retrofit

house on scales

 In the social housing provision, decisions for housing stock retrofit are persistently made based upon very little knowledge about the energy performance of housing stock in question. The consequence is that often the results are not what was expected or promised. The popular statement “rubbish in, rubbish out” applies in this sector too.

At the core of this situation is a budgetary reason:

“We can’t afford to carry out a wide ranging, in-depth, analysis of our stock,
so we make do with what we have”.

Consider the real impact of this approach.

Housing stock retrofit: Your challenges

You are an asset, estate or portfolio manager with energy efficiency as core element of your role. You have many challenges:-

  • Multiple assets, many problems,
  • Tight budgets,
  • Not enough staff,
  • Data you don’t trust,
  • Drivers and KPIs to deliver to satisfy environmental legislation and maintain the asset value,
  • Maintaining profitably whilst keeping the tenants safe and warm.

Making decisions that truly deliver savings becomes very difficult when you are under pressure and being pushed and pulled in different directions – let alone the fact you don’t have faith in the data.

Over the years the organisation you work for has merged with others, has acquired, sold and transferred housing stock. You have been left wondering what the true picture of the assets you manage is.

As the trend for merging continues, it will inevitably lead to your new colleagues being let go. They were the ones who understood your newly-acquired stock very well. This will leave  you, as a lone manager, in the unenviable position of getting to grips with both your current stock and the new stock you have just inherited. You will then be asked to make investment grade decisions costing millions.

It is uncomfortable at best. Risky and expensive at worst.

Housing stock retrofit: Adopting the right approach

Which approach are you going to adopt?

  1. Let’s just do the oldest houses first, as they surely must be the worst.
  2. Let’s do the most recent houses first to try and leverage warranties before they expire.

If you make decisions based upon poor data, you won’t get the kind of result you hoped for. Let’s take an example:

If you invest £50M insulting walls with EWI without considering changing the boilers first, or switching the lightbulbs, you could be wasting your money.

Or it could be exactly the right thing to do.

That’s the problem. You don’t know, because you do not have the data to tell you.

What made you decide upon EWI? Your reasons could be numerous: Did it look good? Do the tenants like it? Does it add value to house? Does it improve the EPC?

All great, valid reasons, but is it the best bang for your buck? Can you leverage more grant money from schemes such as ECO to flip the boilers at the same time and rally ramp up the retrofit process?

One thing is for sure: social housing is becoming more commercially orientated these days. In a world of survival of the fittest, the smart money is on the provider who can demonstrate knowledge of their risk. A provider who understands the road ahead fully. Business hates risk. Anything you can do to mitigate risk and uncertainty has to be a good thing.

Housing stock retrofit: data-driven decisions

In our time, we have surveyed over 250,000 houses, largely for the local authority and housing association sector, such as Yarlington House Association,  and shown them where they truly are as regards the performance of their assets. We have empowered those clients and enabled them to

  • leverage grants,
  • hit their KPIs and
  • get people out of fuel poverty.

Which all adds up to a profitable business with less exposure to hidden nasties. We can also mention happy warm tenants with more spare money to spend on their rent instead of their utility bills.

We can do exactly the same for you.

Whether you are thinking about changing lightbulbs on 50 houses, or merging your stock with a neighbouring housing asssociation, wouldn’t it be good to ascertain the value and condition of your own assets before those decisions are made?

Make sure you are getting decent returns on your investment by first investing in the tools that will remove the guesswork, provide you with accurate and impartial data about the condition of your housing stock and help you make data-driven decisions about your retrofit programme.

Before you even start thinking about what your next energy efficiency initiative is, do contact us by clicking on the button below.

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Thermal Imaging Part 5: The influence of atmospheric conditions

Thermal Imaging Part 5: The influence of atmospheric conditions

Thermal imaging atmospheric conditionsLet’s look at the influence of atmospheric conditions on thermal imaging surveying. After tech & science, colours, price and company selection, the last episode in our educational series tackles a favourite subject in the British psyche: the weather.

Thermal imaging or infrared  surveys are a hi-tech solution to building surveys. They really do move the game on from traditional methods of surveyors with clipboards or tablets relying upon decades of experience, but they are not infallible. Where a surveyor can survey in all weathers, infrared thermal imaging (IRT) is a bit more sensitive to moisture, temperature and humidity.

The influence of atmospheric conditions on IRT surveys

As you are ostensibly taking a picture of energy radiating from an object it makes sense that you don’t want anything to interfere with that radiation.  Although the word “radiation” may make you raise your eyebrows, it is all safe. If you have nice dry homes, with the heating on, the sun set two hours ago, it hasn’t rained that day, there is little wind, no fog or mist, then you can survey away and you will get awesome results.

The best atmospheric conditions for thermal imaging surveying are: after sunset, little wind, no rain, fog nor mist, and the heating on inside the houses.

Changing atmospheric conditions

Even with the current excellent weather forecasting capabilities, the best atmospheric conditions are often unpredictable. What can happen and how does it affect IRT surveys?

  • Turn up the wind however and all that lovely radiating energy will be blown from the surface you are trying to measure. Poop.
  • Wet the surface and double poop. The water cools the surface and absorbs the energy, then radiates it but with a different emissivity to the dry bits.
  • Switch the heating off and you lose the difference between inside and outside. As a result, the energy has no incentive to move, so your thermal imaging surveying results will be poor. You will think the building is perfect.
    Think about sitting in your lounge nice and cosy; the door to the cold hall gets open and suddenly the lounge feels cold. Why is that? That is due to the large difference in temperature, the heat cannot wait to leave and warm up the hall. Keep them both at the same temperature and you won’t experience this effect.
    Another example: Take your cup of hot coffee outside on a cold day. It will get cold fast!
    Your house is the same. The laws of physics and thermodynamics remain.

Rain and humidity in general are real no-no’s for a professional thermographer.

Educating clients on thermal imaging surveying technology

As IRT surveys, we conduct Continuous Personal Development (CPD) seminars up and down the UK every week for building surveyors raising awareness of the technology, its benefits and the optimal conditions to use it. We often ask people to think of their buildings inhaling and exhaling energy. To conduct an accurate defect or energy audit we need the building to inhale energy from the sun or your heating system, wait for it to absorb the energy then exhale. An infrared thermal image is an image of that energy being exhaled (or emitted). We can use big words, like thermal inversion, but we find it is better to use plain English in our communications and reports alike.

If you need to commission a survey to detect energy deficiencies of for your house stock or inspect your flat roof, do your research and choose a thermal imaging company wisely.

Once you have appointed your thermal imaging surveyor and they turn up to survey during daylight, rain or high wind , please protect your property and financial assets: get rid of them there and then. Contact us by clicking on the button below.

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4 elements to unlock grants for your carbon obligations

4 elements to unlock grants for your carbon obligations

carbon obligations grants

As a housing provider, you are aware of programmes such as CERT, CESP, HHCRO, HEEPS, NEEPS, SEEPS, REEPS, EEC, EESH, ECO and GD and you will have heard of DECC, EST, OFGEM, BG, SSE, EON, SAVA and the CT.

For the lay person, these are meaningless acronyms but for the professional like you they are the essential grant funding schemes helping you to deliver your carbon obligations.

Grant schemes for carbon obligations: The view from the energy advice providers

The last five years has seen major companies and SMEs go into administration trying their best to gear up to service the industry only to find the rug pulled from under them as the utilities companies shift focus to deliver their carbon obligations:  from cavity and loft insulation, to boilers, to external wall insulation and possibly back to cavity insulation again.

For these companies, treading through grant schemes is like “tight rope walking in two tonne shoes” as Chris Cornell’s song goes.  One false move and the company goes under. Focus on something hot right now and next month something else will be the new flavour. It is impossible to gear up for something that is fluid. The demise of the Mark Group and Climate Energy is a sad example of companies dependent upon regulations to survive.

The winning formula to access grants to deliver your carbon obligations

Yet, there are still vast sums of money available through grants to help housing providers save on their energy performance which in turn help people save money.

To unlock these grants, you need 4 elements:

  1. Be aware of the legislation.
  2. Truly understand the state of your housing stock today.
  3. Have your housing stock data ready to react to whichever way the energy wind blows.
  4. Road map a savings journey to logically make the most of the funding and address your priority challenges.

Carbon obligations: Meeting your requirements

For far too long the local authority and housing associations sector has been doing their best Oliver Twist impression and going cap in hand to the utility companies asking for more. For you as housing manager, the result is that you get whatever these companies are willing to give. Things that meet their agenda, not necessarily things that best meet your requirements.

If you get your data in good shape and can react quickly to the shifting demands of legislation then you will find the utility companies and contractors line up to help you. Your in-depth knowledge and understanding of your assets will make it easy for them to deploy their budgets and meet their targets. Knowledge will always be power.

You can join the many local authorities and housing associations that have their 4 components worked out in that magic formula and accessing funding to make a real difference to their housing stock and their tenants’ lives. They are using powerful software tools that IRT surveys have developed to manipulate their housing stock data and combine it with the latest legislation obligations.

To find out more about how these tools can help you ease the strain, contact us by clicking on the button below.

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Managing your expectations for a stress-free IRT survey report

Managing your expectations for a stress-free IRT survey report

Stress-free IRT Survey

Commissioning an infrared thermographic (IRT) survey is easy. We tell you here what you can expect during the survey process so that you have a stress-free IRT survey.

Reasons for commissioning an IRT survey

We have already pointed to a few strategic reasons why you would commission an infrared survey. We have been providing infrared services to the construction professional sector in the UK for 14 years and the reasons are wide and varied but can be distilled down into 3 main headings.

  • You have a problem and nothing else seems to be helping resolve it.
  • You are not sure if you have a problem and want an expert opinion.
  • You definitely have building issues and no-one can agree who is to blame.

More often than not you are seeking a reactive survey to a problem which manifests itself in a new building or refurbishment project. IRT surveys is often called upon as a “silver bullet” solution.

Managing your expectations

Managing your  expectations as a client is part of what’s involved in the process. Most of our clients have little technological knowledge of IRT. They rightly rely on us to know what we are doing and wrongly  do sometimes ask impossible things. No, we cannot find a leak on a roof from a satellite in space. You need a thermal imaging camera mounted on a drone and a thermographer for that.

The technology has its limitations. But you will be blown away by just how useful a tool IRT is for the maintenance of your site. Here are the 4 common expectations from our clients that we systematically need to address if we want you to have a stress-free IRT survey.

Your expectation: ‘My thermal pictures will be really sharp.’

We have already discussed the technology and science behind IRT. Today’s cameras are digital, radiometric (every pixel has a value), portable, un-cooled and affordable. We use FLIR cameras. They fit in our pocket and can be bought for less than £500. That alone is great news for us all.

Don’t expect great resolution as this is still way behind that of your average smartphone though, but that will change. Fast forward 10 years and they will be embedded in every smart phone.

Your expectation: ‘The survey will be conducted as soon as I submit the purchase order’.

How do we take an image properly, i.e. an image you can rely upon to make an investment-grade decision?

Once you have established your need to get a survey done and contacted us to describe your problem to one of our team members, you decide to proceed. Your deadline will be our major hurdle.

The weather is the biggest challenge we have. We need the right conditions to carry out a successful survey. No point promising you that it will be on your desk tomorrow if it is raining today and is too windy the next day. We need cool, dark, dry evenings to take thermal images. This means that you will have to wait until the weather conditions are correct.

Your expectation: ‘You can come and survey at anytime.’

The shape and height of your buildings are not a problem: with our fleet of drones we can survey tens of thousands of metres of flat roofs in under one hour. We even take care of the civil aviation and insurance bureaucracy.

Access to your premises may be a problem though. We need to be able to see the entire fabric externally, internally, in daytime and again at night time. Sometimes special entry permission are required as invariably there will be out-of-hours access required. You need to make sure that security personnel has been informed, that someone is available to open and close the doors, that required authorisation  has been given and recorded. We can’t enter premises without this, and will have to come back if we can’t get access, hence delaying the survey and the reporting.

Your expectation: ‘I’ll get the report the day after the survey is done.’

Once thermal images of your building have been captured, depending on the size of your project, there is in general up to 5 days worth of  skillful analysis to be conducted. We don’t take this lightly and do make recommendations based on the findings so that you can target repairs or refurbishment. This is what your infrared survey report is here to deliver: visual results and impartial advice so that you can make informed decisions.

Managing your expectations for a stress-free IRT survey report

With trouble-free access, the right weather and up-to-date equipment, we stand an excellent chance of successfully meeting your objectives.   If you are contemplating stripping off a flat roof on the advice of your flat roof leak survey report you are paying for, you best make sure you can trust the company providing that advice.

Used properly, IRT is an amazing technology which can save you thousands of pounds on your maintenance budget. By knowing what makes a valuable survey and its subsequent report, you are guaranteed a stress-free IRT survey experience.

Are you looking to refurbish your buildings and don’t know where to start? We will be happy to advise you. Please contact us for your free no-obligation quote by clicking on the button below.

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5 signs it’s time for your asset portfolio audit

5 signs it’s time for your asset portfolio audit

asset portfolio audit

As an asset portfolio manager, you are responsible for millions of pounds worth of bricks and mortar. Your reputation dictates that you need to be fully aware of the value of the assets you are managing so that you can advise your clients on the best course of action for their investment. Here are 5 signs that it is time for you to commission an asset portfolio audit:

1. Time for your asset portfolio audit: You don’t trust the data you have.

In order to make good decisions you must be in possession of the facts. Don’t charge into battle until you are armed and you know exactly what you are up against. Too often businesses are almost forced, coerced or misled to carry out works that simply aren’t required by a corporate version of a dodgy tradesman sucking his teeth and saying ‘x’ when actually ‘y’ would be better and cheaper. If you are being asked to embark upon a major capital programme but aren’t given the resources and tools to deliver results without risk, think again. Abraham Lincoln once famously said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. Don’t rush headlong down a path without truly exploring the data and ensuring it is honest, trustworthy accurate and above all – impartial. In another word, plan well first  with valuable data.

2. Time for your asset portfolio audit: You have a merger looming.

Merging portfolios, merging businesses: It is coming to you and you are about to inherit the motherload of problems. Is their data accurate? Is it better than yours? Will they use your lack of knowledge to beat your price down? Or exploit your lack of understanding of their data to drive their value up. Due diligence is a part of life. Do it better than the other party and you stand a good chance of leaving the room standing tall and confident in your decision. Who knows, you might dodge a bullet and walk away unscathed. Ask Royal Bank of Scotland about their due diligence process on the purchase of Dutch Bank. They did not have one and it almost bankrupt them.

3. Time for your asset portfolio audit: Your client wishes to dispose of their assets.

At some point your client will want to sell on a property or two, maybe even their whole portfolio. What do you advise them? Which ones do you sell? Nothing short of an in-depth understanding of every facet of that portfolio is good enough. Your client is paying for professional advice: you need to be confident that you know their portfolio inside out without any nasty surprises  and that the information you have at your fingertips is up to the minute to provide accurate advice to the best of your knowledge. You must become an asset management Jedi with a crystal ball.

4. Time for your asset portfolio audit: Brexit impact

2016 has brought a fresh challenge for the property world. We have witnessed the Brexit vote result. Now there are talks of a possible Clexit, where Britain bows out of all the climate change targets. This will trigger yet more unwelcome uncertainty. We all saw the effect the Brexit vote had on share prices and the unprecedented action taken by the likes of Aberdeen Asset Management. Investors like bricks and mortar for the long term stable nature of something physical. Brexit and Clexit are speeding things up to say the least. The risks and their impact are very real. Of course the market will recover, but the long term effect of the likelihood of sudden and dramatic risk is toxic for us all. Yet here we are. The world is still turning and people still want to invest and make decent returns. Brexit didn’t bring about a revolution overnight. If you are currently trying to dispose of a portfolio, you may consider putting it on the back burner for a while and instead use the time to ensure your portfolio is the very best it can be and use technology to increase the assets value.

5. Time for your asset portfolio audit: Legislation presents a risk.

As mentioned above, legislation is so fluid at the moment it represents a credible risk to the market. Remember ESOS? Ever even heard of it? 12 months after Energy Saving Opportunity Surveys were introduced and implemented by the brave few, they were abandoned. What a waste of money for all parties. Will MEES / MEPS go the same way? (Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard and Minimum Energy Performance Standard) Same thing two different names. They are major pieces of legislation with Royal Assent that say you can’t sell rent or lease a building with an F or G rating. It is estimated that 31% of the built environment falls into that space. (Source WSP on Aberdeen Asset Management’s portfolio).

I can tell you first hand from three of our clients their thoughts:

One said: “we need to provide professional advice, this is of grave concern we must deliver rapid cost effective energy audits at scale to satisfy our client’s needs”.
Another client said the exact opposite: “the legislation won’t come. If it does it will morph into something else, I am not advising my clients spend needlessly when I have no faith in the government following through”.
A third client literally took me to a 30-storey building erected in the 1960s with uninsulated roof, concrete precast modular walls, single glazed, original heating system etc. He then proceeded to show me the £250 EPC certificate boasting about his C rating.

Why invest millions when a £250 piece of paper will suffice?

If you are seeing one or all of the above signs, help is at hand. Today, rapid portfolio evaluation and impartial, solution-independent advice is a phone call away. Technology has progressed to the point where infrared images can be quantified, data augmented and calculations carried out by sophisticated algorithms – all for much less than you might think. Drones and software advances have meant surveying is easier, reporting online and the deliverable all dynamic and interactive. Experts are being replaced by sliders and speedos on dashboards. Simulations that were once a black art practiced by experts only are now child’s play. If you can catch a Pikachu you can conduct an energy audit on a portfolio.

Are you seeing the signs? Then please do contact us to discuss your requirements by clicking on the button below.

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3 steps to housing stock energy management with IRT

3 steps to housing stock energy management with IRT

Housing stock energy management

As a housing stock manager, you have energy targets to achieve for the housing stock you manage and you have to make retrofit decisions with a limited budget and timescale. Applied InfraRed Thermography (IRT) will help  you take some of the stress out of this decision-making.

In a previous blog we explored how an IRT camera can see energy, but quantifying it for energy loss, that is the Holy Grail for thermographers and something that can be done. In fact IRT surveys received a patent for just that back in May 2013. It’s not easy though and it’s not idiot-proof. Here we will reveal just how we do that.

Step 1: exploring pixels captured

Today’s IRT cameras are digital and radiometric. That means every pixel records a value when you take an image. Every pixel is a temperature. A typical camera then has about 76,800 thermometers. Because everything is digital those temperatures are stored as metadata behind the visual bit of the image. So what? Well, this data can be accessed and interpreted. If you record how far away you were from the object you photographed then, with basic trigonometry, we can tell you the size of a pixel. Once you know the size, it’s easy to add them up and say ‘You have 2.15M of red pixels on your wall’. That’s not quantified, I hear you scream. Hold ‘yer horses, I say. Step two involves capturing other data beyond the cameras abilities.

Step 2: adding building data

To truly quantify the images you need to know what the building is made of. We ask questions such as:

What is the U-value of the wall supposed to be?
How do you heat the building?
How much does that heat cost?
What’s the weather like?
How efficient is the boiler?
What’s the temperature inside and outside?
What’s the humidity?
What’s the emissivity of the material – in other words, how readily does it emit its energy?

Step 3: feeding templates

Over the past 6 years we have developed 250 elastic templates we can move around the country. Stretching or shrinking them to fit clients buildings. We need to augment known variables from energy software such as SBEM, SAP, Energy Plus or EIS into the algorithms to arrive at a meaningful quantification. Weather data from the last 25 years is built into the models.

Boiler efficiency ratings from SEDBUK are added. Age and geographically relevant building regulations are taking into account. Eg. A home built in 1883 will most likely be solid, have high ceilings, large doors and a chimney. It’s likely more drafty than a more modern home.

The tricky bit for us as software developers was creating dynamic software that meant we didn’t have to physically enter a home to ascertain the internal temperature.

Our software re-calibrates itself to allow for differing internal temperatures constantly. Eh? What I mean is, when we survey 1000’s of homes we can’t ask all of them to be the same temperature inside, rather the software has the ability to moves its expectations. Double-eh? Missing insulation makes a difference of about 1-2 degrees to the surface of a wall. The difference between 18 and 19 is 1. The difference between 21 and 22 is also 1 – so we focus on the difference (the delta to get all “mathsee” on you).

Housing stock energy management: the right data matters

Quantifying the number of pixels at a known size and known temperature becomes a lot more simple thereafter. Is it accurate? Yes.  Is it perfect? No.

Input the wrong heat source – say gas instead of electric – and the results are wild.
Input the right data, and the results are quite startling.

In a  recent survey of 60,000 homes for 83 housing associations we were never more than 3 SAP points away from full on investigative results. In the vast majority of cases we were bang on.

Being able to quantify energy for an entire housing stock is a rapid process that will help you

  • make informed decisions,
  • spend your budget wisely and
  • help you apply for funding and grants  for your investments.

Is housing stock energy management giving you headaches? Is your data ready to be fully exploited to ease your decision-making process? Please do contact us to discuss your energy management challenges  by clicking on the button below.

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Budgeting for your IRT surveying services

Budgeting for your IRT surveying services

Budgeting

After careful consideration, you have decided to go ahead and commission an IRT survey. Now you are turning towards budgeting for it. Here we provide you with the information you need to unlock the finances and place your order.

We have already discussed what is included in the price of an IRT survey. Let’s look at it again and explain the value of the elements comprising IRT surveys services.

The price of infrared cameras

Back in the 1980’s cameras were the preserve of universities. They cost close to £250,000 and you had to be kitted out with the car battery to power it, liquid nitrogen on your back to keep it cool, periscope to look through, VHS to record video footage and a hand held sensor.

Fast forward to the millennium, cameras were £40K, hand held, digital, un-cooled and offered a truly portable solution.

By 2010 the same camera technology was closer to £10K, more ergonomic, lighter, sleeker, had more features, in some cases higher resolution and were being integrated into the main stream.

Today,  the same camera is 50% less at around £5-6K – but a myriad of low end cameras have been introduced to the market place. You can spend less than £1,000 and get a piece of a high-performing equipment.

But just because you can – should you?

The price of expertly using the technology

Owning a camera does not make you a photographer. In all likelihood you are reading this and have an impressive camera on your desk, would you therefore describe yourself as a photographer on your LinkedIN profile? The same can be said for low end IRT cameras.

For the plumber and electricians out there having an IRT camera in the toolbox will be as everyday as their screwdriver and spanners, the tech will save them hours hunting for overheating cables and leaking pipework.

There will always be a market for consultants with high end equipment, providing a service to building owners and occupiers who regularly need the service. Clients who need to rely upon the advice in a court of law or to arrive at a cost-effective refurbishment solution for their portfolio. Those surveys can’t be done by low end IRT cameras. More than that though, they can’t be done at all by unskilled labour. You need to understand the physics going on within a building if you are to successfully survey it using IRT techniques.

You can buy a camera for less than a survey these days, but you need to carefully consider the hidden elements such as software, training, calibration, insurance and most importantly – liability. That’s without mentioning health and safety. As an asset manager, would you sleep at night if, using a £500 camera, you advise a client to rip off his roof and spend £500,000 to refit based on your advice?

How much are IRT surveys services for an asset manager?

At IRT surveys, thanks to the unique way we have grown across the country we are able to offer uniform pricing. From Inverness to Plymouth a survey costs the same. The service, speed and cameras are the same. The surveyors have undergone the same training regime. The cameras are FLIR and all are annually calibrated. Every office is insured to the same level.

Most critically of all, the reports are written centrally by qualified analysts who do nothing other than analyse images.

We charge our services at £1200 for surveying time on one site and £650 for office time. We don’t add anything to those prices. No mileage. No expenses. No hidden anything.

This flat pricing structure means you can budget for the survey accordingly and build it into your bill of quantities at an early stage.

Need to survey the roof of a building? One site and one office day. Simple.
Want to add the walls whilst we are there? Thank you – it adds £650.
You would like to quantify the images for energy loss? No problem – it adds… you guess it: £650.

The pricing model also allows us an economy of scale if you wish to survey multiple buildings. The same rules apply.

How much are IRT surveys services for a housing stock manager?

The same level of expertise and diligence applies as for built asset surveying.

Pricing for a housing stock is more complex as it depends on the size of a housing stock and the breadth of services required.

However, for budgetary purposes for you as a housing stock manager in a local authority or housing association, prices start at £20 per house. Pricing are based on the volume of houses, the level of surveying and the data exploitation thereafter using  our bespoke software.

Should you want to discuss your IRT surveying requirements, please contact us  by clicking on the button below.

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Innovative surveying technology for built asset management

Innovative surveying technology for built asset management

Innovative surveying technology

Seems you can’t move these days without hearing about drones, apps and thermal imaging, but are they truly helpful or just gimmicks? We managed to get almost all the way to 2016 without them.

Like every new industry that erupts from an emerging technology, there are people who take it seriously and do it professionally and those who charge in to make a quick buck. And like every other example in history, the cream rises to the top, the market consolidates and the cowboys are eventually driven out by the sheriff who is usually better known as legislation.

Innovative technology: Thermal imaging

Thermal imaging, or infrared thermography, has – and still is – going through this process. Companies like iRed, Thermascan, Ti and IRT surveys have been around now for more than a dozen years each. There is a healthy respect and competitive market out there. But there are a myriad of smaller companies buying low end equipment, not training themselves properly and going to market with nothing more than a nice looking website. This is why asking the right questions when making your research on infrared companies is important.

Innovative surveying technology: Drones

The same can be said of the drone industry, only it’s 20 years behind the infrared world. It is experiencing a lot of negative press also with an emerging industry to shoot them out of the sky – yep – anti drone tech is also out there. It is a little known fact that over 80% of drone pilots don’t renew their license after year one. It either means the vast majority of the market are novices, or that the failure rate is enormous.

Innovative surveying technology: IoT

The IoT industry is the next big thing for the built environment for sure. If you haven’t come across the anachronism before, it stands for the Internet of Things. Everything from your toothbrush to your fridge will be connected to the net. Lightbulbs will tell you when they become inefficient. HVAC systems will call the engineer themselves and tell him what parts they need, before they brake. Fuses will alert the electrician, or some form of R2D2 unit to repair them before they blow.

When the building itself senses that something isn’t quite right, drones will be deployed to survey a building at night, equipped with an infrared thermal imaging system. Smart meter and sensor technology is moving at an alarming pace. Or exciting pace depending upon your perspective. I love the idea that a sensor will send me a message with GPS co-ordinates to a defectuous building that we can survey and report on.

Innovative surveying technology: Caution required

Huge caution though. Just because things get all high tech and whizz bang, doesn’t make the operative an expert. Interpreting the cause for failure and understanding what the tech is telling you still requires a skilled person. No software will ever replace an experienced RICS qualified surveyor with 20 years under their belt. A sensor or thermal image may say your insulation is 20% saturated on your flat roof – a common defect – the image may point clearly to the origin of the leak but only a human can see that the roofer lapped the felt the wrong way, or didn’t seal the lap joints correctly.

Technological innovation for surveying is unstoppable.

The technology is coming, some of it is here already. It’s unstoppable. Best embrace it, swimming upstream is exhausting. But fear not: the dystopian Star Trek world, where no-one has a job and everything is leisure time, is a long way off. De-skilling mundane tasks and de-bugging our built environment will free us up to focus on bigger challenges!

Would you like to know more about how thermal imaging and drones can ease the management of your asset portfolio? Click on the button below to contact us to discuss your surveying requirements and for your free and no-obligation quote.

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