Asset data: the untapped resource that’s key to managing energy performance

Stephen Preece, from Glasgow based proptech company arbnco, was a speaker at FutureScot’s Asset & Estates Management event last month. Here, Stephen outlines some of the key points from his speech, focusing on how public sector estates can manage energy performance in their assets and unlock opportunities to improve.

When it comes to managing the energy performance of their buildings, public sector estates often do not have a full overview of all the properties in their portfolio, making it incredibly difficult to make informed decisions on what improvements should be made, what to prioritise, and what makes financial sense. They also don’t make full use of the building data at their fingertips, which presents an opportunity to transform the built environment. Combined with software that can analyse it, asset data can help public sector organisations manage their estates more effectively.

Motivators

There are four key drivers fuelling energy efficiency programmes in public sector estates: operational cost savings, reduced CO2 emissions, accessing funding on time, and compliance obligations. The latter is set to become an even bigger driver in Scotland in the coming years, with the advent of the Energy Efficiency Scotland route map likely to tighten the legislative framework. While there is no clearly defined target of how this will impact non-domestic properties, it is likely the policy that emerges from the upcoming government consultations will include a tightening of the section 63 regulations, which currently is not that ambitious.

Rather than only applying to commercial buildings with a floor area of more than 1000m2 –currently about 6% of non-domestic properties in Scotland – section 63 could be reduced to 200m2, which would sweep up approximately another 22% of commercial buildings. This means that public sector estates would need to look at their portfolio again, and know whether a whole load more of their buildings meet the energy standards set by section 63 (equivalent to the 2002 building regulations). If they don’t, they will need an improvement plan in place.

Sourcing building data

The first thing public sector estates need to do to respond to legislative drivers like this is to get hold of asset data. This will help them to review their entire portfolio, identify opportunities, and prioritise projects. An Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) doesn’t really tell you anything about a building; it’s the data file that sits behind this piece of paper that is really valuable. To produce an EPC, an energy assessor has done a very detailed model of the building.

EPCs started in 2008, and they expire after ten years, so it is likely that organisations will be commissioning new EPCs either this year or next. They need to specify that the assessor gives them the base building model and the INP input file. This can be used to audit the quality of EPC data, provides a means of analysing where improvements could be made, and enables asset data to be bulk uploaded to software that can interpret and analyse.

How technology can help

Once this data has been obtained, the building model can be inputted into a software platform, such as arbnco’s arbn consult platform. After assessing whether the EPC is accurate, this software can also analyse compliance risks. If the data is inputted for all the buildings in an estate, this risk could be assessed at a portfolio level, by flagging up, for example, that 66% of the estate is at risk of new section 63 regulations.

The software can present opportunities for improvement, and even calculate fully costed retrofit strategies. Strategies can be simulated based on desired outcomes – for example, the impact on the EPC rating, energy cost reduction, or CO2 reduction. It can also calculate the pay-back period, assisting with funding applications and making it easier to borrow.

The smart use of asset data and technology will be a crucial element of how public sector estates implement energy efficiency programmes and respond to drivers such as new or amended legislation. Utilising the data file and the base building model to its full potential is the key to unlocking improvement opportunities. When used alongside sophisticated technology, it makes it easier to review assets and understand the full array of retrofit strategies available. It can also present public sector estates with a clear picture across the entire portfolio and ensure there are no gaps in their knowledge, particularly regarding compliance and risk.