The roundtable aimed to explore key ways that data and technology can inform design and building sustainability, and the challenges faced in collecting and utilising the data in both the pre and post build environment.
Technology holds many of the solutions to creating a built environment that is Net Zero. Only data holds the key to harnessing those technologies to create a more sustainable built environment.
By collecting and analysing data throughout a building’s lifecycle, PropTech companies hope to be able to provide both private and public sector clients with examples, case studies and eventually solutions to one of the biggest challenges facing the property sector today. As one delegate pithily surmised, the real winners of the Gold Rush were those who made the pickaxe.
Why data and technology matter in building design and maintenance
Companies need data to make informed decisions in the design process. Collecting this data needs to begin from the beginning of a building’s lifecycle in order to ensure they are sustainable and that the embodied carbon can be spread over a longer period of time. There will also need to be more collaboration between the pre and post build companies, as the data collected from asset management today will be crucial in informing the architects, developers and designers of the buildings of tomorrow. The more data that is collected, the easier it will be to outline specific rules and regulations for the industry to meet their Net Zero targets.
Using existing technologies such as drones, digital twins, smart buildings and Artificial Intelligence to capture data is already underway. For example, the skyscraper 22 Bishopsgate in the City of London, designed by PropTech company Smart Spaces, utilises digital twins and BIM to give real time insights and solutions, analysing everything from energy and water consumption to efficient space usage to ensure the building is as sustainable as possible.
From a commercial perspective, using data across portfolios allows companies to analyse demand, energy use and occupancy, leading to better client retention.
Data from individual citizens concerning their methods of transport, priorities and shifting lifestyle patterns can also be useful in informing the design process.
Issues with data and its management
Currently, there is no cohesive way to collect, visualise, share and implement data and its findings across the industry. The roundtable delegates believed that a closer partnership between the public and private sector is needed to facilitate creating a better system of data management. Attempts to create this dynamic have already begun. For example, VU.CITY’s ‘Colouring in London’ was a voluntary crowdsourced project that brought the private and public sector together in trying to form a visualisation of data collected from London’s building stock.
Many would like a standardised set of guidelines, measurements and incentives across the supply chain collect and share data. The current EPC ratings are seen as an inaccurate and misleading way of measuring a building’s sustainability as it measures emissions per square foot, as opposed to emissions per capita, which would cover information on building occupancy and repurposing, not just size.
Out with the new, in with the old
Currently, it is more cost and energy efficient to adapt and retrofit technology into existing buildings than to demolish and/or build new ones. Roughly 80% of buildings that will exist in 2050 already exist today. Given the timescale between now and 2050, one building would need to be updated and retrofitted every 90 seconds.
However, adding technology to existing buildings raises a number of issues. Heritage and cultural sensibilities need to be considered. Stakeholders and investors will need to assess whether the cost of retrofitting a building is viable, particularly in a post-pandemic environment where working habits have shifted, leaving many buildings unoccupied. For those buildings still in use, however, incorporating technology to capture data on the everyday operations raises privacy issues for the occupants.
Encouraging sustainable design
The design process will begin to become more sustainable through education. Already, universities and the government are implementing courses and apprenticeships to train the next generation of engineers and planners. The intergenerational legacy that today’s PropTech companies can achieve is that of collecting the data that will lead to the education of those younger people.
Companies will also need to begin adopting both financial and carbon accounting from the beginning of the process to ensure targets are met in both areas. Encouraging a holistic approach to the process is also crucial.
Ami Kotecha – Co-Founder & Head of Venture Investments at Amro Real Estate Partners
Katherine Gunderson – Founder & CEO of Grand Bequest
Linda Chandler – Smart Cities Advisor at Hyperlocal Cities
Sian Metcalfe – Head of Training & Development at InventoryBase
Olly Freedman – Regional Director at Retransform
Lauren Poon – Technical Project Manager at Outer Labs
Mike Edwards – Technical Director at Nationwide Drones
Yair Schwartz – Founder of Plooto
Alex Tosetti – Chief Commercial Officer at VU.CITY
Matthew O’Halloran – Director, Head of Global Occupier Services at Smart Spaces
Dean Paulley – Product Manager at Ordnance Survey
Stephen Kuczynski – Government Relationships Manager at Ordnance Survey
Dominic Grace – Head of London Residential Development at Savills