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20 December 2021 • Nigel Walley
In October 2021 Chimni and OpenBIM specialist xbim were awarded an InnovateUK grant for a ground breaking project to ‘re-imagine’ BIM use in the housebuilding industry (a full project overview is here). This blog post provides the outcome of the first work stream - Behavioural Research.
This document outlines the data required by buyers of new homes in the 21C to allow them to run and maintain their property. It is the first output from the ‘Re-ImaginingBIM’ project being conducted by property logbook company Chimni, and BIM specialists xbim.
The background to the project is a rapidly evolving technical backdrop to the residential property world, characterised by:
- The increasing availability of shareable, usable data about our homes and the materials and systems used to build them.
- Our homes increasingly becoming complex ‘systems’ with smart and/or connected technology interwoven with the fabric of the building
- Our homes becoming combination of physical and digital assets (with data records being amassed around them)
- An increased requirement by Govt in the post-Grenfell world for homes to be able to report and lodge data centrally…and
- An emerging requirement for homes to address the requirements for NetZero with the data and tools for retrofitting to new standards.
For most of us, the pile of paper documents in the bottom drawer of the kitchen, or the PDFs in a dropbox folder, will no longer be sufficient. For Homebuilders and their customers, the ‘Re-imaging BIM’ project showed the need to go beyond the traditional paper handover pack.
Historically these packs have been an all or nothing ‘data dump’ contained in a paper file with every brochure, manual, guarantee, warrantee and certificate the homebuilder can find. The project showed the need for handover data to be presented digitally and for it to contain a far wider set of data points than had previously been considered. Most importantly, the project showed the need to present data in consumer-friendly forms based on the needs and usage patterns of running a home.
For homeowners, the key need was to be easily able to sample, summarise and share sub-sets of the data with third parties - these might be lenders or insurers, furniture and fittings suppliers, construction professionals and supplies.
Note: The emphasis of the ‘Re-Imagining BIM’ Study was on the data that could and should be delivered to buyers of new homes. However, the project identified that it will increasingly be possible to deliver this data in retrospect to owners of existing homes.
The ‘Re-Imagining BIM’ study identified four categories of data that could be passed to buyers of new homes when they take possession of them.
- Construction Records
- Performance & Certification
- Operating Data
- Maintenance Data
1 November 2021 • Nigel Walley
In October 2021 Chimni and OpenBIM specialist xbim were awarded an InnovateUK grant for a ground breaking project to ‘re-imagine’ BIM use in the housebuilding industry. This blog post provides the background and overveiw to the project. Details and Project Structure are here).
The 'Re-Imagining BIM' project was prompted by concerns about the low take up of Building Information Modelling (an advanced form of digital construction software) in housebuilding. BIM is one of the Government's priority 'Modern Method of Construction' (MMC) and is seen as a solution to poor design and construction in the residential construction industry. Chimni have long argued that Property Logbooks are a way to give homeowners access to the amazingly rich information that can be produced by using BIM to build homes. The project examines how to link the data and intelligence created within BIM during design and construction to the emerging generation of Property Logbooks. Most importantly it will examine ways to turn the construction data created during housebuilding into useful homeowner information and services that can be delivered through Chimni logbooks.
The project challenges the presumption that there is no use for BIM data in housing after construction. Chimni’s MD Nigel Walley said “Our project makes the case that the homeowner should be viewed as a 'Facilities Manager' and could use the data if made available to them in consumer friendly ways”.
The project subverts the normal process of BIM model creation and start with consumer research into the homeowner. Nigel Walley said “We will look at activity around DIY, maintenance, operation and upkeep of a range of property types and examine where this can be supported with better data from construction or refit.” The project will create a series of user cases with accompanying data models that can be incorporated into an Asset Information Model. An overview of the main project steps is in the following blogpost here.
Later stages of the project look at the apps and services being used by homeowners and test the project assumption that property 'logbooks' or 'passports' provide a way to deliver construction and product data to homeowners in a meaningful and usable format. Andy Ward of xbim commented:
“Creating a homeowner friendly way to expand the uses of BIM data has to benefit the whole of the new-build and retrofit housing industries. Linking BIM data to consumer friendly web apps like property logbooks means we can expand the potential of the OpenBIM approach and dramatically increase the ways in which BIM data can be shared amongst users.“
The project output will be a series of case studies, with supporting data models and software examples, plus recommendations for data creation in new build and retrofit housing.
The project has already generated press coverage, mainly in the specialist construction press:
Read more »
10 August 2021 • Nigel Walley - Chimni MD
Up till now, the emphasis of Chimni’s work has been creating records of past activity - transactions, building work, materials and maintenance records.
Retrofit brings the need for a view forward as well as back. As we know, our homes are responsible for 14% of carbon emissions (CCC 2019) and all homeowners have been challenged with bringing up to new NetZero standards. For most of us that means planning for a series of future works to be undertaken on our homes over the next decades up to 2050.
So for a Chimni user this will mean adding a set of future project plans to their record of past ones. Homeowners need the information and tools to self-manage the process. Property Logbooks can deliver plans to these homeowners in manner consistent with the way they already manage their homes. So a Retrofit Plan is a 'plan of works' with intelligence and integrations built in.
There is a direct link between the data in a Renovation Plan and the rest of the data in a Property Logbook. Logbooks already contain EPC information, historic project records and links to certification bodies. As each component of a Renovation Plan is completed, the data will becomes a historic project record along side all the other project records in the Logbook.
Whichever Retrofit approach is used, at the core of each type of plan has to be consistency in approach and data captured. The industry has needed a standard data approach to this challenge, and Chimni has worked with the Green Finance Institute on data standards for Retrofit Plans, the GFI has just published a new White Paper summarising the work. Chimni’s new Retrofit Planning Module is built from that standard.
Connectivity and integrations with certification bodies and other service providers will also be key for Renovation Plans. Chimni logbooks already integrate with certification bodies and registers (like the EPC Register and HMLR). We are now also working to integrate and share data with companies running stand-alone Retrofit services. Those companies in turn will need to be able to lodge data in a home's Chimni logbook.
For Retrofit finance to work the data sharing needs to extend to finance companies to allow green loans to be measured and monitored. Chimni is a founder member of the RLBA who are working with banks and building societies to establish a standard basis for this reporting to happen with trials expected to start at the beginning of 2022.
It is also likely that many homes will be sold in the next few years with this Retrofit journey only partially completed. This means that progress will need to be assessed as part of the conveyancing process and project / green finance information will need to be passed between owners on sale. It is therefore crucial that the information in Retrofit Plans is co-ordinated with the other digitally-hosted data being collated by homeowners considering selling their home. This data needs to be integrated with the conveyancing and mortgage industries. Chimni logbooks will deliver these integrations.
The next challenge will be agreeing how this data can be exchanged and shared between the various systems and services being developed by the Retrofit community. We recognise that there will be Retrofit Assessors and Coordinators building stand-alone software and web apps using this new data standard. It is crucial that these systems can share data with homeowners in a variety of ways, including app integration and data sharing with Chimni Property Logbooks.
We look forward to working with the other industry players to agree data and API schemas necessary for this integration and data sharing to take place.
Nigel Walley - MD Chimni - Oct 2021.Read more »
14 June 2017 • Lizzie Newman
This blog makes the case that focussing simply on the benefits that Blockchain can deliver for property sales misses a bigger service opportunity for homeowners. A truly digitised housing services market will need a property ‘Bitcoin’ equivalent on top of Blockchain to unleash the next generation of PropTech and Smart Home services.
The way we manage our homes is increasingly being digitised. A recent consumer survey conducted for Chimni showed that homeowners now have between 10 and 25 online accounts that relate in some way to home management. For homeowners at the lower end of this range, these may just include links to utilities, telecoms and insurance providers. More digitally adept homeowners may have accounts on their local authority and resident associations sites, DIY and price comparison sites. At the top end or this range are the fully digital homeowners who have adopted ‘smart’ and IoT devices that are managed online and through apps.
For the most part, these accounts are primarily linked to homeowners as a person, with only a tenuous link to the property address data held as part of a customer profile. However, increasingly online service accounts are specific to our properties and the technology in them, with the home address and property profile central to the account. Right now anyone can open an account with an online provider and offer a home address with only limited validation of their right to do so. This has not been a problem up till now, but with data ownership increasingly an issue, its about to become one.
There are of course some checks possible. A credit card profile would previously have helped confirm the link between a person and an address. But this link has been weakened or removed as people increasingly have credit cards linked to work addresses, or have multiple different homes to manage. Online utility accounts are able to point directly to a meter or named device in the home and prevent someone setting up an account without that link being present. But that only covers a small number of providers.
Tthere are a growing number of online products and services, like Chimni, which are intended to be part of your home’s online profile but where there is no physical device in the home to attach an account profile to. It is a crucial part of the Chimni proposition to make sure that there is only ever one account set up for each home in the UK. But we currently have no online mechanism for linking a person’s digital profile to an online property profile other than confirming a name with Land Registry or a commercial provider like Experian.
These systems make it possible to check online that ‘John Smith’ lives or owns a particular address. But how does an online provider make sure that it is the right John Smith? There are currently 350 John Smiths in London alone and 50,000 in the US. As part of an online service set-up process, providers need to be able to link to a system that confirms that not only does ‘John Smith’ have the right to set up an online account for a particular property, but that the ‘John Smith’ that they are dealing with, is the same John Smith as listed in the asset register at Land Registry. This is where blockchain and bitcoin technology may come into play.
What is The Blockchain Concept.
There has been a flurry of recent PR around ‘Bitcoins’ which are a form of digital or online currency that have the long term potential to replace national currencies. Bitcoins are a digital token – representing a cash value - that can be used for online transactions. However, unlike most digital things, Bitcoins are like real cash in that the digital file can’t be copied or replicated. You can pass one over to a new owner as payment in a transaction but not keep a copy. Underlying the Bitcoin concept is an online register of all coins and transactions, built using a new technology called blockchain.
The Bitcoin blockchain is a public record or ledger of all Bitcoin transactions that have ever been executed. The software is configured so you can add a transaction onto the end of the chain, but not wipe previous data, meaning the chain of information grows over time. The blocks are added to the blockchain in a linear, chronological order creating a public ledger of all transactions that have ever taken place. A copy of the Bitcoin blockchain is kept on multiple servers around the world (in the same way that the web addressing directory is held on thousands of routers around the global web). This is called the distributed ledger principle.
When a bitcoin transaction takes place and a bitcoin is given in payment for something, each server with a copy of the blockchain is quickly updated. No one copy of the ledger is deemed a master copy. A blockchain distributed ledger is therefore constantly growing as 'completed' blocks are added to it with a new set of transactions.
How Does This Apply to Housing
The blockchain is seen as the main technological innovation of Bitcoin. It records all activity and stands as proof of all the transactions on the network. There is no need for trusted intermediaries, like a Land Registry, in this world so this underlying blockchain technology could revolutionise property registration and ownership.
The idea of a blockchain-based distributed ledger for housing records is not new. It is being investigated by various countries in the world, such as Greece and Panama, who previously have not had an equivalent to the UK’s Land Register. It may allow these countries to leapfrog into a position of leadership in how they manage their property registers and enable online property transactions in the 21st century.
However, to focus solely on the Land Registry and property transaction implications of blockchain misses a major point. Chimni believes that for online housing services to truly become established, we need both the blockchain AND a bitcoin equivalent function. In housing an equivalent bitcoin file format – lets call it a ‘Brick-Coin’ - could represent an online deed of ownership and could store not just a record of sales transactions for that property, but also information on who owns rights to access the data and services set up for a particular property.
In this concept, only one Brick-Coin would ever be issued for a particular property, and its ownership recorded on the blockchain ledger. This makes possession of the Brick-Coin a unique identifier and confirmation of property ownership. For service providers this could be revolutionary as they wouldn’t have to poll an online ledger to prove that someone owned a property. Any current holder of a Brick-Coin could set up an online account relevant to a particular property by making it available, via private key, during online account set up. If you possess the correct Brick-Coin you can set up an account for a particular property.
Nobody would be able to sign up for an online service for their home without ownership of the Brick-Coin or one of its subservient keys. Most importantly, there could be different versions of keys attached to any Brick-Coin covering freehold, leasehold and rental situations. The nature of the services that a person could set up could relate to these levels ie you could set up an account with a utility if you hold the leasehold or rental level key for a particular Brick-Coin, but you couldn’t put a house up for sale on RightMove unless you have the freehold class Brick-Coin key.
Also, there could be keys for multi-occupation households. Parents could hold a duplicate key each, but give keys with limited access to children to access certain services. The brick-coin would hold the relevant access and permission data for each of these keys.
As we use the growing number of internet connected devices and services in our homes, service companies are building data profiles that will become part of our homes digital ‘footprint’ in years to come. However, a homeowner’s access to this data is currently limited, particularly if they have only recently taken possession.
Most account data with utilities and other ‘traditional’ service providers is linked to a person not a property. This also holds true for new services like smart thermostats and networked central heating. When that person moves home the data record is lost to the next homeowner. If you have just bought a property you have no right to view the historic utility cost or performance data for that property.
Chimni want to establish a principle that home data generated in this new ‘smart’ and ‘connected’ world should be vested against a property profile, not a personal one. Most importantly the data should be viewed as an asset of that property, not of the service provider. We want a situation where account data and historic performance records can pass to any new owner on sale.
Our Brick-Coin principle will enable this. If data records are held against a property profile, then any person holding the Brick-Coin for that property should be able to access record data. Even if your property has changed hands three or four years in a previous decade, a homeowner should be able to access all data pertaining to the performance of that property (irrespective of who set up the account, or who the service provider was). Showing you are now the holder of that property’s Brick-Coin should unlock all historic data held against that property.
Now that the future public ownership of the UK’s Land Registry has been secured, they should set out plans for a decade of innovation around distributed ledger and property ownership records.
Our proposal is that this should push much further than just blockchain and distributed ledger. We are not proposing to remove the current Land Registry system to facilitate smoother, digitally-enabled, property transactions, and to foster a more vibrant online service culture around our homes from which Chimni, and any other online service provider with data at its core, would most certainly benefit.
 A private key is a secret code which allows the user to prove his ownership of his Bitcoins. Every Bitcoin address has a matching private key, which is saved in the wallet file of the person who owns the balance. The private key is mathematically related to the Bitcoin address, and is designed so that the Bitcoin address can be calculated from the private key, but importantly, the same cannot be done in reverseRead more »
16 June 2016 • Nigel Walley
This blog by Chimni founder Nigel Walley argues that the Irish and UK tech sector should pioneer a new kind of start-up company structure. Aimed at letting start-ups reach for scale quickly, a joint approach could be rolled out to willing participant markets across Europe.
If you start a tech company in the US, your immediate home market is 120 million households or 320 million people. These customers are all linked by a single language, a single currency and a single media landscape. With a single web site and a single registered company, a US tech start-up has access to a massive domestic ‘launch’ market. This is why, by the time we meet them, US tech start-ups are already huge beasts.
US companies also benefit from having an immediate ‘second market’ next door in Canada, with another 12 million households containing 45 million potential customers speaking the same language and sharing a similar and interconnected media culture. Their access into Canada is facilitated by a raft of inter-government initiatives designed to ease cross-border trade.
UK and European tech start ups often feel like minnows in this context. The dream of the European single market initiative was to create the circumstances that would give European companies access to a market of a similar scale. However, the failure to implement the various Services Directives in European trade agreements means that this is still a pipe dream. Services account for 71 per cent of EU GDP, but only 3.2 per cent of this is from intra-EU trade. For tech start-ups this is a significant problem but we think there is an opportunity for the UK and Irish tech community to cut through this.
The Problem and the Solution
Chimni's launch intention was always to focus on Anglo-Irish residential property sector. We launched initially in the UK but moved rapidly to set up a base in Dublin. To secure the Irish URL and to trade, we had to set up a separate Irish company, with a separate corporate listing and a separate Irish bank account. Our small tech-start up, that has barely started trading, has had to occur the time and fees cost to submit two separate sets of annual accounts to two separate tax authorities. We now have separate registered offices, and required local directors for each company. All this to add another 1.5 million potential households for a start up that is just experimenting with its first launch product.
For Irish property tech start-ups the problem is the same but with more to lose. With free access to the UK, the 25M British homes and 65M consumers can ad 'heft' to the 'weave' of Irish innovation. Meaning they can exploit British consumers as an extended home market, to gain traction before tacking Europe and the coveted US. We should be making this as easy as possible for Irish tech start ups.
The long term aim for Europe is for single companies, to work in single regulatory / financial context. With or without the UK in the EU, this currently feels like a pipe dream. But rather than waiting for the larger European issues to be solved, the Irish and UK government should sponsor a new kind of corporate entity, specifically aimed at the tech start-up market, that can immediately operate across borders in Europe. We are proposing this new entity could be an SME version of the UK's Tech Nation Visa scheme which targets individual talent. This would have a unique trading status to be agreed by inter-government agreement, that allows a single company to operate in multiple territories without needing to re-incorporate, or establish local offices for tax purposes. This structure would only be available at start-up and for companies who are the 's' in SME.
A new company could elect to adopt this format at incorporation, and do this through a new, separate shared web infrastructure, built once but shared by all participating countries. A company operating with this proposed status should be given the unique right to buy all relevant country URLs from a single supplier, without needing any further incorporations or trading presence in each participating country. They should be able to choose a ‘prime territory’ to list in, whose regulatory infrastructure will have pre-eminence on their operations. But their financial reporting and tax payments channeled through a new, separate web infrastructure, built once but shared by all countries. The tax rate applied could be an average all the tax rates applicable in the trading countries, with tax revenues apportioned on a pro-rata basis.
We propose that PAYE for all employees would also be paid into the same, floating structure with employees able to relocate in either territory quickly and easily without re-listing for tax purposes. Management of the concept could be on a devolved competence basis, similar to Interpol, with a central directorate staffed by dedicated employees, but with support from local country experts as required. Participant companies could also be eligible for a Tech Visa scheme to move staff between participating countries.
How To Implement
This is clearly a complex concept to negotiate on a 27 country basis. But tech companies are meant to be arrogantly disruptive. This normally means disrupting markets, but it could also be with regards to ignoring treaties. So we are proposing that we start with a two-country attempt with the UK and Ireland pioneering the relationship – under the auspices of the British and Irish Intergovernmental Conference (BIC), to keep it out of the quagmire of the wider Brexit debate . The UK and Ireland are already close trading partners in a large number of areas, we share a language and an interconnected media market; and we already exchange people and skills between our major cities. Most importantly we have a set of unique inter-governmental relationships like the BIC within which to negotiate and then trial the concept. Currently Brexit seems to be pulling the UK and Ireland further apart. Disruptive tech companies could cut that.
Once we have it operating with two countries, we can roll it out on a country by country basis across Europe, inviting other states, EU or otherwise, to join the process. This could start with Estonia, a fellow European member of the Digital 5 group of countries committed to using digital technology to revolutionise government. Next, adjacent countries with similar history of cross-border co-operation, such as the Scandinavian countries, could be the next triallists invited to join. Countries with similar corporate trading cultures like Holland or Denmark could be the fast followers into the system. The tech industries should fight to keep this arrangement out of any of the other, existing trading blocs or arrangements.
British and Irish tech-ups should be in the vanguard of a new pan-European market of 800 million customers - across all countries of Europe beyond just the EU. The UK and Irish Governments can make this happen by pioneering the concept and set a new generation of huge tech start ups free to trade across Europe. Let Silicon Valley keep its Unicorns, the British & Irish should be building ‘Lions’.
Nigel Walley @ChimniWalleyRead more »
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