Opinion

Social housing must get to grips with data

7 May 2021

The principal focus for any asset owner has to start with the provenance and cleanliness of in-house property data. Bola Abisogun, Urbanis

Nearly four years on from Grenfell, it’s time landlords got to grips with digital twins, says Bola Abisogun.

Within the public sector asset pool, social housing has not quite kept abreast of digital advancement. The Grenfell Tower tragedy, the Hackitt report and the recently published Construction Playbook have pretty much mandated that the UK construction sector make better and informed use of emerging digital technologies.

This begs the question for many local authorities and housing associations: where on earth do we start?

Void properties, free from any GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) obligations during refurbishment, are ideal candidates to pilot, explore and scale the adoption of this data-driven, asset management opportunity.

Predicated on a robust information management framework, the principal focus for any asset owner has to start with the provenance and cleanliness of in-house property data.

Most public sector housing providers maintain a plethora of data sets, often arising from contractor supply chains, external consultants and other advisors. Additionally, various different stakeholders will feed information into this framework, including information from 3D models, which may be derived from laser scans. Therefore, it is critical that a prudent data taxonomy is established early on in the process.

A common data environment approach will be a necessary part of the information management for any digital twin strategy.

A central data repository will also be needed to integrate the data sets, along with external information such as unique property reference numbers.

Compatibility with data management platforms, such as Northgate and Orchard, would also mitigate project level risks associated with a ‘bespoke’ solution.

A successful data strategy should yield a digital twin, premised upon a robust data governance framework that maintains a series of relevant data standards, along with appropriate security procedures and legal considerations.

Developing and maintaining a dynamic and granular property asset database will likely be a requirement of the new compliance landscape. With the Building Safety Bill imminent, every dutyholder must be aware of their legal obligations.

Bola Abisogun is founder of housing refurbishment consultant Urbanis.