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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.

3 ADVANTAGES OF DRONE TECHNOLOGY FOR IRT SURVEYING

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.

ENHANCING IRT SURVEYING: FROM FOOTPRINTS TO DRONE FLIGHTS

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.

Thermal Imaging Part 5: The influence of atmospheric conditions

Thermal Imaging Part 5: The influence of atmospheric conditions

Let'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 temperature 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.

4 elements to unlock grants for your carbon obligations

4 elements to unlock grants for your carbon obligations

 

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.

Managing your expectations for a stress-free IRT survey report

Managing your expectations for a stress-free IRT survey report

 

 

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.

5 signs it’s time for your asset portfolio audit

5 signs it’s time for your 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.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.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. 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.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. 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.

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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Housing stock management made easy

Housing stock management made easy

Housing Stock Management

 

Managing a portfolio of housing stock has never been an easy task.

A task made that much harder when people assume that buildings, by and large, look after themselves and also make the dangerous assumption that the information held about those properties is bang up to date. After all, they are making investment grade decisions using the data – so it must be okay. Right?

Well, what if it’s not? What if there are thousands of opportunities to leverage grant funding.  Millions to be saved by optimising your budget and years to be knocked off your to-do list by exploiting technology?

Since 2002 we have been working in the field of housing stock condition surveys. Not the familiar traditional way, but always by using technology. Firstly, via infrared surveys (hence the IRT of our name) and latterly via software analysis.

Let us explore the options on the table for the already thinly stretched, housing stock manager (apologies for missing out the variety of titles).

The two sides of housing stock management

On one hand the job is simple. Just make sure the buildings are fit for purpose. Keep the tenants happy and ensure the rent flows in on time without complaint. (I said simple didn’t I?) .

The above is hard enough, but consider the other hand – improve the value of the assets, reduce the spend on maintenance, ensure legislative compliance – oh and by the way, we just merged and here are another 10,000 homes to look after.

It’s daunting. Overwhelming even.

Housing stock management without trusted data

In 2010-2012 we surveyed 60,000 homes throughout Scotland for 83 separate housing associations and the findings were startling. Firstly, the information the Housing Associations knew about their stock was varied. Some knew almost everything, others very little, but all had blanks in their data we had to populate with rational assumptions.

Secondly, where a client did provide data such as a SAP or EPC rating from an outsourced supplier, invariably they were inaccurate.

The most revealing aspect of the survey for us was the actions taken. As even though we delivered compelling information and analysis on a spreadsheet, the clients still found it difficult to interpret and action.

Easy to use software for better housing stock management

We love our clients. We love them to bits. Their feedback has led us to create TheHouseSurvey.co.uk. Here they can analyse their stock at the click of a button. Find the best, the worst, the ones they can make the biggest difference to and the ones that qualify for grants. All mapped into Google and colour co-ordinated.

If you are reading this and are a housing stock manager, we would like to hear from you. We can help you meet your targets and take a load off your shoulders. We know your desk is creaking under the workload and we know the variables keeping changing. Just keeping up to date with legislation is a nightmare, let alone getting round to actually doing a retrofit to improve the stock.

What we must all remember in the sector of course is that we are walking a tightrope in two tonne shoes. Social requirements on one side, commercial reality on the other. Let’s not lose sight of why HA’s were formed in the first instance – that need hasn’t gone away. Yes “times they are a changin’” but people will always need a roof over their head, that’s the whole point. But as long as we live in a capitalist society, money will always inform the decision making process.

Our mission at IRT surveys is to align those needs, help you leverage funding, focus on quick wins and help do our part in getting people out of fuel poverty. All whilst improving the built environment for future generations.

We hear a variety of scenarios in the sector: Providers in Scotland are focused on the social impact and meeting their EESSH obligations whilst south of the border the focus is far more commercially oriented. In fact one client said saving energy for their tenants was altruistic – a philanthropic win they weren’t willing to invest in. They will remain nameless here, but it’s a bit of a short sighting view that doesn’t bode well for a long term sustainable portfolio.

Efficient stock is valuable stock.
Tenants spending less on energy means they can more readily afford the rent.
Rent on time, means a more stable company.

Running a viable Housing Association is harder than it once was. There are affordable and easy-to-use tools which can help you with your housing stock management challenges.  Click on the button below to discuss them and get your free, non-obligation quote.

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5 steps to exploit your Assets Big Data

5 steps to exploit your Assets Big Data

Assets Big Data

We live in a world obsessed with data and thanks to the internet, we can track, monitor and report on just about everything.  The more the data the better, and Big Data is now Big Business. The  danger is that  data gets misunderstood, becomes overwhelming then detrimental to your business. Information overload is very real and can have a paralysing effect. Faced with almost infinite data, the choices and decisions can become infinite themselves. Getting your hands on good quality data starts, funnily enough, at the beginning, but also at the end.

Step 1 Exploit your Assets Big Data: acknowledge need for data

Let’s assume you are a housing stock portfolio & asset manager. You have a task list as long as your arm, targets and KPIs to keep you focussed, a finite budget and still only 24 hours in a day. So, how will you hit those targets with the resources at your disposal? Data would be great, wouldn’t it? It could help you focus your efforts and optimise your budget. This is an excellent starting point – just understanding the need for accurate data itself means you are serious about the challenge. The next step is to decide upon what it is you want to measure.

Step 2 Exploit your Assets Big Data: agree why you need the data

Now you have decided “wouldn’t it be great if …”, it’s important you review and agree “why”. Why gather all this data? To start a successful data management programme you sometimes have to start at the end: what is your overall objective? what do you want to achieve?

Let’s continue the example of a housing stock portfolio manager. If you have a stock of 1,000 houses and 10% of them are not meeting the government’s energy standard, you will most likely want to identify those homes and tenants in most need of help and support. In parallel to that objective you will most likely want to know if there is a sub set of those homes with tenants in fuel poverty, which of that sub-set are eligible for grant funding, and for what? Walls? Roofs? Boilers? Loft insulation? Once you have that data, you might also want to cross reference those homes with your maintenance budget and see if the items you wish to implement tie in with any scheduled maintenance programmes that may exist, but be beyond your remit.

The same applies for an asset and facilities management companies. Brexit and the fall of the pound sterling created opportunities for assets transactions. New owners, attracted by a lower price, will want to know how their new buildings are performing, how to decrease energy consumption, how to improve the fabric of the buildings to make get a decent ROI. Prospective owners may want to know how the buildings they are planning to buy are performing so as to drive the price down or to make sure they are getting a good deal.

Today’s climate and variables at play in the energy sector mean understanding your data and optimising your budget are no longer luxuries – they are essential.

Step 3 Exploit your Assets Big Data: decide data collection

The next thing is to decide what data you are going to collect, who will be collecting it, what you will do with it and how you will store and maintain it.

It is all very good to collect all this data, but there are maintenance decisions attached to it. Do you know what you want to do with it once you have it? Have you agreed a format for keeping it up to date, for ensuring the accuracy of what you have? Let’s assume yes! Assumptions are dangerous, but let’s move our scenario along.

How will you collate the data? Who do you trust do it? What’s the most economical way to get info on your 1,000 homes or the buildings you manage? Building surveying is one of the options.

Do you currently employ an ICT manager who can help you integrate, cleanse and augment what you already hold? After all, you may already have most of what you need.

Businesses grow organically or through merger and acquisition. Many great asset management companies and Housing Associations have grown this way. That can mean several things. On the positive side, with everybody on board, change may be embraced quickly and the best of both parties taken for the benefit of the newly formed organisation. On the negative side, organic growth can be slow and poor practices are likely to be ingrained culturally.  Rapid, funded, growth can mean growth at all costs with poor systems and processes, leading to a mash-up of two or more systems vying for attention. This is in turn will create conflicts both in terms of the data itself and the team tasked with managing the stock.

Exploiting and understanding your assets big data is imperative if you are to make good quality decisions on their future improvement.

Set out what you need to know, what you would like to know and what you do actually know.

Once you have established these points , it will make asset management easier.

Step 4 Exploit your Assets Big Data: decide about exploitation

We are very fortunate in 2016 that software exists to help. Technology is evolving rapidly, both how it is designed and how we consume it.

Still today, many RSLs, ALMOs, RLs, HAs and LAs are perfectly happy to manage their stock using Microsoft’s Excel via a series of linked – or not – spreadsheets. Often these are ill-suited to the task. Others have designed and implemented extremely expensive software solutions, bespoke to their needs.

In life, there will always be extremes. Manage you stock for free on Excel or pay vast fees for a bespoke solution being a case in point. Extremes can be extremely cheap / expensive, extremely good / bad and the output can vary just as wildly.

The same exists when it comes to data.

Too much and you are paralysed into inaction.
Not enough and you have no choice but not to act – how can you? You don’t know enough.

Neither solution helps improve your assets, get people out of fuel poverty, save money or reduce the carbon footprint of your organisation or your clients’.

There is however a middle ground, a solution which is right to exploit your data meaningfully. Our approach to data with our clients is much like starting a journey. We establish where you are today, where you want to go then use our software and algorithms to help you work out the shortest route to that destination – much like your sat nav.

The process begins with understanding what records you currently hold on your portfolio. We take that data, knowing there will be blank fields – no-one has perfect data by the way, you are not alone! – augment it with rational, intelligent assumptions – essentially backfilling the holes – and run the new dataset against the latest iteration of SAP.

Step 5 to exploit your Assets Big Data: take action

The next bit is the most important. What do you do with the data? Can you interact with easily? Knowing you have a problem and being able to locate it, only the start of the solution.

Much like an appointment with the doctor, they can only recommend you take the prescribed medicine, actually taking the next step is harder and invariably costs more. But go to your Board armed with accurate data,  in an understandable format, able to demonstrate a robust, impartial decision making process, you will secure the funding and consent you need to make those improvements and meet those targets.

In summary, data can be both good and bad, but one thing is for certain – bad data definitely leads to bad decisions. No data equals no decisions. Only good data can enable meaningful progress.

Would you like to discuss your Assets Big Data challenges with us? We will give you impartial advice and help you hit your targets with your finite resources. Contact us today by clicking on the button below.

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Register today for our webinar The Future of Building Asset Management taking place on Friday 30 September 2016 at 1pm. Click on the button below for more details.

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5 stages to enhance your property portfolio performance

5 stages to enhance your property portfolio performance

Enhancing Property Portfolio Performance

As a portfolio manager in charge of multiple buildings for a profitable return on behalf of your clients,  you are trying to

  • stay ahead of legislation,
  • mitigate risk,
  • foresee any future complications,
  • maintain and ideally increase assets value,

whilst ensuring that the buildings themselves are occupied and rent income is being paid on time.

Enhancing the performance of the property portfolio you are managing is always your top priority so that you can prove to your clients that you are satisfying their objectives. In turn they keep you in business.

Before you can enhance something though, you must have a clear picture of where you are starting from and what enhanced performance actually looks like. Think of the task as a journey. Here we give you 5 stages to enhancing property portfolio performance.

Stage 1 to enhancing property portfolio performance: Benchmark today’s situation

Before you set your destination and road map your journey, you need to figure out where you are.  The questions you ought to ask about your property portfolio performance are:

  • What information should I have?
  • What information do I currently have?
  • Is it accurate?
  • How old is it?
  • Who collected it and how did they do this?

Get a true picture of today before you try and describe tomorrow.

You may be stuck at this early stage, with very little data at your finger tips, out-of-date data, or data coming from an unreliable or unknown source. If this is the case, you will have to stall your planned course of action on the buildings to fulfill that data collection stage. You may be interested to read our recent post about exploiting your assets big data.

What is the fastest and most cost effective way to benchmark your commercial buildings? Traditional surveyors offer one solution, there is a supply chain out there pushing their own products and there are technological solutions offering everything from desktop reviews to in-depth reporting, simulation and analysis. Your choice will depend on your time available, your budget and your requirements.

A word of warning which applies whatever you decide to do: Do not proceed to Stage 2 without completed this Stage 1.

Stage 2 to enhancing property portfolio performance: Decide on the improvements required

Assuming you are now in possession of accurate data, you need to establish which improvements yield the best return on investment for your client. Ask questions such as

  • Which building(s)?
  • Which solution?
  • In what order?

It does sound easy but impartial advice is difficult to come by and not all solutions will deliver upon their promises. Software can rank and rate savings and costs but none can get the tenants on board, keep building control happy and understand the nuances of each challenge you are aware of personally. It is best to take the output and augment it with your own knowledge of the buildings and strike a line through the ones you know just won’t get traction with your client or tenant.

Stage 3 to enhancing property portfolio performance: Plan and communicate to client

The next stage on your journey is to establish a costed refurbishment schedule with a known ROI. Show and discuss your plans to your client. Clients all want the same thing: a healthy portfolio, appreciating in value, filled with happy tenants who pay their rent on time. Anything else is an inconvenience, isn’t it? In our experience, clients also want something a little more: they want to know their money is being spent in the right direction, that we are helping them mitigate risk and optimise their budget.

Of course they will be mightily impressed and may write a blank cheque to enable the solutions. This is more likely to happen when you provide them with clear and justified figures. Hence the importance of not missing steps 1 and 2.

Stage 4 to enhancing property portfolio performance: Compare quotes and do your due diligence

This stage implies you have agnostic advice to hand.

Did you go to market to a flat roofing company for example, who recommended you replace your roofs? Or an HVAC company who recommended you replace 50% of the heating systems? Impartial advice is a critical step in this process. You will have to pay for it, but in the long run it pays for itself tenfold and allows you to proceed with confidence in the outcome.

You may have your preferred suppliers either formally listed in your company’s purchase framework or whom you have used before and trust. Alternatively, you may also be looking for new suppliers who might have more fitting solutions or use newer technology. Make sure you get clear and detailed quotes, ask questions and do your research for due diligence.

Stage 5 to enhancing property portfolio performance: Manage the refurbishment work

If you have followed steps 1 to 4, you should be relatively safe in the knowledge you are delivering best value to your client. It is of course easier said than done. You will need to regularly communicate and hold progress meetings with your appointed suppliers and keep them on their toes.  Don’t accept in blind faith what they tell you.

For good measure we will add a 6th stage to your journey: Audit your actions. You need to measure performance to ensure you have reached your destination.

Are you ready to go on your property portfolio enhancement journey? Looking for impartial advice to increase the value of your buildings portfolio? Stuck at Stage 1 with little, unreliable or out-of-date data? If you answer YES to any or all of these questions, then please contact us today to discuss your project, by clicking on the button below.

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Register today for our webinar The Future of Building Asset Management taking place on Friday 30 September 2016 at 1pm. Click on the button below for more details.

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The role of the buildings management professional

The role of the buildings management professional

Buildings management

 

Buildings management or asset management is a multi faceted problem with many variables, many answers and many viewpoints.

 

 

 

The meaning of managed buildings

The very definition of the word ‘management’ raises questions. What do we mean by ‘management’, and more precisely ‘a managed building’?

The word ‘quality’ by itself means ‘to a standard’. Add a qualifier and the meaning changes: High quality, Low quality etc. Much like ‘quality’, ‘managed’ means nothing without an adverb.

Are your buildings ‘well managed’ or ‘just’ managed? What does that ‘well managed’ actually mean?

  • On the one hand, it means bought and sold at a profit.
  • On another, it means full of happy tenants who are up to date with their rent.
  • It can also mean it has a well thought-through and beautifully executed maintenance plan.

The truth is that a ‘well managed’ building means all of these things. Having a stunning building with no tenants is a badly managed building. A full building that is falling apart also leaves a lot to be desired.

We, at IRT surveys, take the stand that

a ‘well managed’ building is about satisfying all of the criteria efficiently.

The importance of well managed buildings

Why it’s important ought to be obvious, but often clients don’t perceive the value and effort that go in to ensure that “managed” is appropriately qualified as “well managed”.

First and foremost, buildings management is about maintaining the built environment for future generations to enjoy, to live-in and work-in. Next up, must be about deriving value and revenue from those assets for the current owner. Somewhere in-between is the how, why, when of the inevitable maintenance, refurbishment, change of use, mitigating risk and complying with legislation.

With any building, whether it be a office block, shopping centre, airport, school, there are common issues that we can address when it comes to the building fabric itself.

There are three elements that go wrong with buildings: product, design and workmanship. These are universal truths and apply to just about every aspect of a building, from roof to floor, wallpaper to lightbulb.

Buildings management: TLC til the end of the shelf-life

New buildings are built with a shelf-life in mind. For some, it can be as short as 25 years. All that effort in the design, material selection and actual building activity, knowing it won’t last that long, deliberately is clearly a waste. However budgets have to be met, clients have finite resources at their disposal and if the building returns their investment within their desired timeline, so be it. Anything else is a bonus. This short-termism is detrimental to the health of our planet but it is reality.  The good news is that more and more clients are looking for longevity and sustainability. Consequently, buildings that aren’t  designed to last forever need TLC.

Buildings management: Evolving purpose of a building

Much of the built environment in the UK appeared in Victorian & Georgian times. Walk in any major city London, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow for example, and take a moment to admire this stunning architecture around you. Turn a corner and you will see 60’s architecture next door to Shards, Gherkins and Walkie-Talkies, or OXO Cube and Armadillo if you are in Glasgow.  Some built to last, others less so. The variety is amazing, complex and presents managers with a smorgasbord of problems and solutions.

This is where the role of the building manager is vital. The manager has to take a Victorian building, built over 100 years ago as a bank, converted into a shop in the 60’s, then flats in the 80’s and now turn it into an open-plan coffee shop with mod cons. It is a difficult task. But it is one that starts with a decent survey of “as built”.

From as-drawn to as-built

The specification when the drawing leaves the architect’s virtual drawing board and hit the quantity surveyor’s desk and subsequently main contractor and sub-contractor changes at every stage to go from architectural vision to the ‘built on time and on budget’ reality. Taking as-drawn to mean as-built is a dangerous road for sure. The two concepts will never match exactly in almost every building in the country.

The manager’s role then is to avoid assumptions, treat every building as blank canvas, start from scratch, gather data then align reality with aspiration.

If you happen to be working for, or with, some of the professional companies like Gleeds, Knight Frank, WYG, Watts and CBRE then the task flows from one department to the next. One team values, buys and sells, another team survey and another does the Facilities Management side of things. Which sounds easy, but really isn’t that simple and specialist skill is under appreciated.  Everyone in that chain cannot be an expert in every aspect of building fabric analysis for example. Each person has their own objective. This approach is mirrored throughout the construction industry. Finger pointing and blame pervade the sector.

No information means no decisions. Indecision slows down the commercial side of life and therefore must be avoided where possible. The clean sheet approach may not be possible in every instance but sometimes the quality and quantity of data at your finger tips are so poor that you have no choice but to take that approach.

Buildings management: Establishing the building condition

A building manager / facility manager / asset manager must use their experience and the right tools to establish the condition of the building before their eyes. Specialist companies, like ourselves, who can survey a building from top to bottom and provide an accurate baseline of performance, track leaks, see delamination, wet insulation, voids, pipework, over heating distribution boards etc and help speed up the process whilst keeping the costs low.

There is also an army of companies out there pushing their own products. Some good, others less so.

Impartial advice ought to be in the forefront of every managers mind. Questions such as: Can I trust this advice? Does it conflict with my own thoughts? Why are they making this recommendation? Do they profit from their advice?

A decent building manager ought to be cynical, diligent, knowledgeable and suspicious! In many ways they need to be Sherlock Holmes but have Bob The Builders “Can we fix it? Yes we can!” attitude.

 

Do you manage old and/or new buildings? Do you want to manage them well and make data-driven decisions? Is this data currently missing from your portfolio? If your answer is ‘YES’ to these three questions, then please do contact us by clicking on the link below.

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