London's home owners smarten up

Monday 2 February 2015

Using smarter technologies can empower the homeowner to gain greater information about the single biggest investment item many of them will ever make, with energy and cost-savings just two of the resultant outcomes.

That was one of the main themes to emerge in a breakfast talk on smart thinking for London’s homes at NLA last Friday, at which HTA Design managing partner Ben Derbyshire showed the gaps in knowledge surveyors had about the performance of houses, emphasised in a study of two Barking properties. ‘The surveyor will only value what the market reach’, he said, ‘and has no metrics or understanding of the performance gaps’. Two recommendations to emerge from Housing Forum work on how information technology could be harnessed for customers were using more BIM and labelling the product meaningfully. But most architects do not bother to get feedback from post-occupancy evaluation exercises, said Derbyshire, and house price was no guide to performance, with some significant cost in use savings to be made if only customers had more information on performance and on issues like daylight at their fingertips. Happily, Derbyshire added, the GLA is to pilot home performance labelling shortly.

Chimni project lead Nigel Walley said we are moving to a world in which consumers have an expectation not only of having access to data but being in control of it, including on their smartphones. People have spikes of interest about their home and the data about it, including when they buy, extend, do DIY, or when there is a catastrophe. But even their ‘troughs of disinterest’ are getting digitised, he said with big firms like Apple getting interested. ‘We believe we need to bring the homeowner on board in the data process’, said Walley. ‘Google is plugging their stuff into our homes. The big companies have spotted that the home is a data node’. An ideal scenario might be one where customers have a single file of data on their homes, a ‘BIM for the home-owning community’, with third parties feeding information into that file. ‘Let’s not just wave data in front of the homeowner’, said Walley. ‘Let’s give them control of it so they can manage its future.’

David Taylor, Editor, New London Quaterly 

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