energy efficiency

Home / Posts tagged "energy efficiency"
Data driven decisions for housing stock retrofit

Data driven decisions for housing stock retrofit

 

 

In the social housing sector, 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 association, 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.

Get a Quote
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.

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.

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.

Get a Quote
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.

Contact us

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.

Register for webinar
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.

Get a Quote

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.

Register for webinar
3 ways to maximise your portfolio energy performance

3 ways to maximise your portfolio energy performance

 

portfolio energy performance

Portfolio energy performance will soon be coming back in the news as 2018 heralds the dawn of a brave new Minimum Energy Performance Standard (MEPS). It effectively means 31% of the built environment becomes unlawful to buy, sell, rent of lease. That’s 1 in every 3 buildings. Imagine that for a moment: 85% of the office space in London is rented. That means tens of thousands of companies becoming homeless, were this legislation enforced in its current outline. Common sense says the legislation will be watered down, pushed back and diluted. This is inevitable as it is impossible to enforce and police. However, its objectives and ethos are solid and admirable, in principle. Improving buildings, making them more efficient means they become more desirable to rent and own. Desirability drives  price and value up. When buildings cost less to operate, their Per sqM-rental incomes can be increased.

The challenge for you as the portfolio owner or manager is one of optimising budget: Where do you start? Whom do you trust? Is there low hanging fruit or quick wins out there? What technology exists than can help?

Another consideration is data. What do you really know about your buildings? Would you bet your mortgage that whatever you know is actually accurate? The stakes are high.

Portfolio Energy Performance: Circumventing legislation?

As a company, we have been surveying buildings for 15 years using infrared technology to detect defects and quantify energy loss and we have yet to find a building anywhere in the country that matches up to the drawings and specification intended at its birth. Change of usage, extensions, refurbishments, dilapidations, cowboy buildings, adhoc maintenance, all contribute to a portfolio dataset that is far from perfect. Add in trying to meet legislative compliance on a shoestring budget and the whole thing goes pear-shaped very quickly.

Take for example EPC legislation, now almost 10 years old, meaning the early ones need re-doing next year, just like MEPS, its intention is solid and admirable. The implementation and adoption however has been less than perfect.

A client once pointed out a multi-storey office block he owned: 1960’s construction, precast panels, single glazed aluminium windows, asphalt roof with no insulation and the original HVAC system from the late 60’s. Located in a city centre, it was fully occupied with tenants. £250 bought him an EPC that said the building was C-rated. The client asked me: “what would you do in my shoes? Tell every tenant to move out for a year whilst I get the roof, walls and windows and heating system upgraded, or turn a blind eye?”. I pass the building regularly and I can tell you a few years on since that conversation, the building looks exactly the same and it remains full of tenants.

Under MEPS that bury-your-head-in-the-sand approach is dangerous. If there is finance in place to pay for the building – commercial mortgages for example – the bank reserves the right to review that mortgage every two years and are within their rights to withdraw any outstanding monies with just 7 days notice. It would be best then to mitigate that risk.

3 ways you can  maximise your property portfolio energy performance

1. Understand its true condition

Get your data licked into shape and see opportunities arise that may surprise you. Poor data means a poor understanding of the challenge ahead and leaves you exposed. It’s just too dangerous to contemplate. We have already written extensively on the subject of enhancing property portfolio starting with data collection.

2. Leverage any and all available funding to retrofit

Fast forward to a future where your data is full and accurate. Now you can simulate savings, programme works, tender work packages, manage their implementation and see the savings from your efforts. Managing the retrofit of course means revenue for the managing agent or surveying practice, but the portfolio owner will love you for it. You are reducing risk, being professional and optimising his budget. Contractors will love you as you reduce their cost of sale and you tell them exactly what you want and need. That saving to them ought to be passed onto you.

There is plenty of funding out there for retrofits. ESCO companies will 100% fund retrofits that deliver results at no CAPEX to you. Walls, windows, roofs, lighting, draft proofing, insulation – you name it, funding is easily secured if the business case stacks up. Organisations like the Carbon Trust and Energy Saving Trust have interest free money available to fund measures – you simply need to ask.

3. Constantly invest in the fabric

This sounds rather obvious, but building fabric degrades. Refurbishments have been an integral part of portfolio management since buildings have been erected.

Roofs are notoriously defectuous and won’t last for ever. You need to set aside money to patch and repair when the roof reaches the end of its life expectancy and budget for a total replacement. Ignore this reality and you will be faced with years of leaks, inefficiency, tenant complaints and stained ceiling tiles. Maybe tomorrows’ building will be owed by the manufacturers who will simply lease the fabric, replacing these buildings every 25 years and bearing the maintenance costs along the way. Until that day, it’s important to understand the value of a solid maintenance schedule and refurbishment programme.

Silicone seals around windows only last about 10 years, ignore this fact and water will find its way through and into the fabric, perhaps invisibly for years. Sooner or later someone will spot a damp patch somewhere and you will end up chasing it for years before rectifying the cause. Several thousands of pounds spent where only a fraction could have been spent as a preventative measure.

Invest today to save tomorrow.

Happy building = happy tenants = happy owner= happy cash flow for all.

 

What is best practice then in this cash-strapped, modern, post credit-crunch, Brexit’d devolved country of ours? Traditional surveying techniques may help and a fast emerging technology such as infrared or IRT, will definitely see problems the naked eye can’t. Huge portfolios can be assessed very cost effectively these days. Once data is captured, cloud based software can crunch the numbers, backfill the blanks in the assumptions, validate the data and enable rapid low cost simulations.

The internet of things will only improve this industry. Buildings will contact you and ask for help themselves. This already happens in aviation today. RollsRoyce engines talk to a central database and report health issues to an unmanned database. The software arranges an engineer, co-ordinates with a warehouse and ensure the right part is at the right airport on time to service that engine efficiently. Buildings will go the same way. It’s as inevitable as it is exciting.

Are you managing buildings, as a portfolio or facilities or estates manager? Are you concerned by the forthcoming MEPS and need to take action? Contact us today to discuss your challenges and hear how we can help you.

Get a Quote
What are the challenges in the Real Estate Management profession?

What are the challenges in the Real Estate Management profession?

Real Estate Management

 

Real Estate Management profession covers a wide range of roles in many different sizes of organisations, in the public, private and voluntary sectors. Like any other profession, it faces many challenges.

Real Estate Management: asking the challenge question

We held a very successful webinar at the end of September on The Future of Building Asset Management which gathered speakers from RICS, BBA, OVO Energy and South Yorkshire Housing Association. More than 100 people registered for the event, coming mainly from the building surveying sector, local authorities and housing associations.

We were keen to understand their challenges so that we can help them overcome them. When registering, they had to answer a simple question:

“What challenges do you face in your profession?”

 

Real Estate Management: answers to the challenge question

Luckily the webinar participants agreed to answer. Knowing that their answers would remain anonymous, they provided candid and honest comments.  These were collated, de-duplicated, and classified in themes.

Challenges clearly lie around data, internal and external relationships with interested parties, time management, understanding and meeting clients’ requirements, compliance in an evolving legislative and technological environment, costs and finances.

Interestingly the practical elements of managing buildings and their fabric was the least mentioned.

Real Estate Management challenge: Data

Collecting robust and consistent data.
Access to good building information.
Accurate data.
Access to comparable data.

Real Estate Management challenge: Internal and external relationships with interested parties

Dealing with contractors.
Local authorities’ representatives.
Managing lifecycle works against hard facilities management services.
Managing a portfolio that is administered by all sorts of departments under one roof.
Making decisions affecting the course of project it would take.
Interdepartmental Communication and Planning.
Conflicting pressures.

Real Estate Management challenge: Time and time management

Real Estate Management challenge: Understanding and meeting clients’ requirements

Knowing what the client’s risks are.
To offer clients value for money in the changing economic environment.
Engagement.

Real Estate Management challenge: Compliance in an evolving legislative and technological environment

Shifting legislation.
Compliance.
An ever changing market.
Need to understand latest technology for asset management.
Converting theory into something tangible.
Improve my general knowledge in the building survey industry.
Knowledge.
Overcoming technical challenges.

Real Estate Management challenge: Costs and finances

Cost.
Finances.
Finding funding for organisation.
Reduced team size.
Delivering sustainable and manageable income stream for surveying team.
Market failure in terms of price signals to attributing value to sustainable property assets.

Real Estate Management challenge: Managing the fabric of buildings

Ageing Buildings.
Water Ingress.
The diversity of cases.

It is not our intention to provide an answer to all these challenges, as some of them are outside our control. Our technology, teamed with intuitive bespoke software however may be able to alleviate the severity of these challenges so that you work in a much less stressful condition.

Do you face similar challenges? Or do you experience others that are not listed above? We are keen to know.

Contact us to discuss.

Register for our next webinar on Tuesday 29 November at 1 pm: Miranda Plowden, South Yorkshire Housing Association Business Development Director, shares her views and experience of managing building assets. For full details and to register, click on the button below.

Register for webinar.
5 good reasons to say NO to a housing stock condition survey

5 good reasons to say NO to a housing stock condition survey

Housing Stock Survey

We have written at length as to why, as a housing portfolio manager or energy manager for a social or affordable housing provider, you should consider commissioning a housing stock condition survey and how to do it.

Still, you may have doubts about the value of such surveying and wonder whether you should be even interested.

Here we give you 5 good reasons why you should NOT bother with a condition survey of your housing stock.

1. You are confident your current dataset is accurate.

You have taken the time to get your house in order – so to speak.

The houses you manage were built recently and came to you data-rich.

Maybe you have already commissioned a housing stock condition survey in recent months and have all the data you need.

You have inherited a good quality dataset of the houses that are now under your responsibility after a recent merger, asset purchase or transfer.

You operate a tight ship whereby you understand the value of an accurate data to support investment-grade decisions, and therefore insist on the right data being collected, collated and analysed before making the investment. This access to accurate data and control of your assets allows you to be confident in your spending for a good return on investment. You implicitly trust this information and have it at your fingertips.

Say NO to a housing stock condition survey as your excellent data set speaks for itself and tell you what you need to do to fulfil your energy efficiency agenda.

2. Your budget is generous enough that you can afford to spend.

You are in an envious position to have a healthy budget for retrofit and refurbishment. As long as this budget is spent by the end of the financial year, then return on investment isn’t a concern for you.

This means that you may decide on your refurbishment based on what is ‘fashionable’ at the time: insulation, boilers, double glazing, etc. It is not a matter of “what can we afford which will return the highest dividends?”, but “what can we  spend the money on? what can be done next?”

Say NO to a housing stock condition survey as justifying the expenditure on a specific retrofit is not a priority.

3. You don’t have time to obtain funding from a utility company.

Utility companies may be able to help you with funding whole or part of your next refurbishment. In order to consider your request, they need to know some key information about your housing portfolio, information that you don’t have and are not likely to have in the near future.

It is better to miss out on some funding rather than taking the time to understand what your stock needs.  Time is always of the essence. You want to get on with the job, and approaching utility companies for funding will be a delay in the proceedings.

Or it could be that, to come back to Reason 2 above, as your budget is generous, then you don’t approach these companies because you have money to spend.

Say NO to a housing stock condition survey as time is already in short supply. Commissioning a survey and negotiating funding will only delay your refurbishment project.

 4. You trust your current supply chain.

You have selected your current supply chain (consultants, software, contractors, materials etc)  by conducting a thorough procurement process which absorbed all your energy and time for a while, and you are confident you have the suppliers who best fit your requirements for the time being.

Or you simply have built a great network of supply companies who you inherently trust and you hope they will be there for a while longer.

You sleep at night knowing that your supply chain is working for the benefit of your portfolio and tenants.

You don’t see the need to change your suppliers or investigate what else is available on the market that you may be missing on.

Say NO to a housing stock condition survey because your current suppliers know what your future needs are and will keep you informed of the latest innovation on the market.

5. Your tenants are happy, they never complain.

You know you are looking after your tenants and their rented property well because they haven’t reported any issues with damp, mould growth, condensation etc. Your ‘Complaints Inbox’ is empty for problems related to the fabric of the houses.

This is probably because your maintenance schedule was well thought-out and resourced and is on target, even nearing completion.

Or your housing stock is of outstanding quality, relatively new and repairs are not (yet) needed.

Say NO to a housing stock conditionsurvey because your repair and maintenance programme is fulfilling its objectives and you are already thinking of the next tranche of improvements.

 

If all the above 5 reasons are true for you, indeed you are a very astute portfolio manager and most would envy your position.  Indeed, you don’t need a housing stock condition survey, you are in control of the situation, you have access to good quality data allowing you to make the right decisions and get things done.

We live however in an ever changing landscape of legislation, energy pricing and increasing uncertainty. Feed in tariff, Green Deal, CERT, CESP, EU, all this has changed and continues to evolve.

Best practice would suggest the only way forward is to keep you data as accurate as you can, keep learning about what technology is coming along that can help you, keep talking to your peers and assume that everything you know will change tomorrow.

Are you in this fortunate position? If so, we would love to hear how you got there. Do contact us to tell us how you achieved this so that we can share with our clients.

If not, you do need a housing stock condition survey. It will help you achieve your energy efficiency agenda, whilst make sure you are spending wisely the budget you have, even increase the funds available and have your tenants contacting you only to thank you.

Get a Quote
Energy Efficiency Technology to Make Informed Decisions

Energy Efficiency Technology to Make Informed Decisions

Energy Efficiency Technology

 

True innovation is key in the UK’s push for energy efficiency. In a climate (forgive the pun!) in which all social and affordable housing providers and building portfolio managers are challenged by increasingly strict energy legislation and nationwide belt tightening, a ‘game changer’ capable of benefiting all is needed now more than ever.

 

Energy Efficiency Technology: Infrared Thermal Imaging

The ability to accurately quantify energy loss is seen as the one of the most significant technological advances of recent times. The marketplace is more used to time consuming, expensive and potentially destructive traditional survey methods and to see energy products being pushed through local or national initiatives such as insulation, double or triple glazing, boilers, etc.

The use of infrared thermal imaging is well established for defect detection. Where it comes to its own is when the resulting images are analysed and quantified to bring energy loss to life and establish what energy and housing stock managers must do to make the buildings and homes of their tenants more efficient.

The highly visual results not only quantify energy loss but also help prioritise refurbishment programmes by providing a concrete ROI on the specific options that could be implemented.
Universities, colleges, airports, hospitals, cinemas, office blocks, police stations and shopping centres have all benefitted from IRT surveys’ infrared thermal imaging and quantified reports. Building owners and managers have been able to identify the best methods to deliver value enhancement across their portfolio and ensure their buildings are equipped for the future.

Over 250,000 social houses have also been surveyed, allowing landlords to decide upon the best methods for refurbishment and, in some cases, the most appropriate government schemes to take advantage of.

Energy Efficiency Technology: Software at Your Fingertips

Combining infrared data with energy efficiency options on its proprietary software, IRT surveys has developed a suite of digital products to make it easier for housing associations, local authorities and built asset management companies to get a handle on energy efficiency.

  • The Carbon Dashboard, aimed at built asset management companies, is an interactive online dynamic energy simulation tool that enables them to upload their images and experiment in real time with how changes to their building fabric would impact their energy efficiency. By gathering essential data on actual building performance in-use, clients can begin to understand the value of energy savings with an accuracy that simply cannot be achieved with other methods.
  • The House Survey is an online tool for housing associations and local authorities to make informed decisions on the their housing stock retrofit whilst leveraging much needed grant funding for it. At the discretion of landlords, it also has the advantage of being made available to the tenants whose house has been surveyed.

The one common denominator for both software is the easy identification of the most appropriate measures to implement for lowering carbon emissions, significantly reducing energy bills  and wisely refurbishing properties.

Whilst continuing to serve the UK with much needed infrared thermal imaging services, IRT surveys is also continually developing software for housing associations and local authorities. The launch of DREam is imminent. DREam is a unique software manipulating and evaluating housing stock data to make continuous suggestions as to how best to improve the energy rating, meet legal obligations, mitigate risk, leverage funding and improve building assets. You can find out more about DREam on our dedicated website http://irtdream.co.uk.

Energy Efficiency Technology: Making the Digital Case for Housing Associations

A recent blog by HACT however highlighted the perceived difficulty for housing associations to embrace technology.

Departing HACT CEO Matt Leach suggests that “The UK housing sector is stuck in a technology rut […] There is an urgent need to reinvent business models, levering the full potential of new technologies, advanced data analytics and new digitally enabled ways of working.”
He carries on in a series of blogs to detail the technological failings of the sector and makes suggestions as to how to address them.

Most Housing Associations were created to manage housing stocks previously run by local authorities. A transfer of employees from local authorities to housing associations duly accompanied the move. Traditionally local authorities were very much technology-adverse. The first question they would always asked was “what other public authority have used this software? We need to find out what they think of it”. Minimising the risk and investing with caution were key factors in the decision-making when it came to technology.

Whilst this thinking has now moved on in local authorities as technology has been proven in other sectors and budget-cuts means that efficiency is the name of the game, it has not necessarily been the case in housing associations. They need to know that their investments are future-proof, is already in use in another housing association who bore the risks and pitfalls, thus overlooking at their peril the advantages that the technology can bring and lagging behind those early adopters.

Our software has been used extensively both in the private and public sectors, with particular success with housing providers in local authorities such as Aberdeen City and Fife and housing associations like Yarlington Housing Group. We are now in advanced discussion with many housing providers who are keen to curb the trend for being technology-adverse.

This is great to see. For us working with like-minded clients is a bonus and a delight. They get it right away and can picture what the use of software will bring to their organisation. For a recent webinar, we asked participants at registration what challenges they face. Their answers cover a wide range of topics: data, internal and external relationships with interested parties, time management, understanding and meeting clients’ requirements, compliance in an ever-evolving legislative and technological environment, costs and finances.

Our software addresses many, if not all, of these challenges. Ease of use has been at the forefront of our thinking, as we know that complicated software and over-technical solutions discourage engagement and adoption by end users.

Energy Efficiency Technology: It is For YOU.

What is preventing you and your organisation from using technology to become more energy-efficient? If you have had enough of manipulating complicated Excel spreadsheets that do not expose any insightful conclusion, then we need to talk.

If the latest initiative-driven refurbishment has not yielded the savings or delivered the benefits expected, then we need to talk.

Drop us a line, or pick up the phone. We will be happy to share our expertise and help you on your way to time- and energy-saving data-driven decisions.

Get in touch today