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Mind the data gap

Our Carbon Reduction Options for Housing Managers (CROHM) retrofit stock assessment service is unusual in that it uses clients’ specific housing data to inform the analysis, as opposed to generic archetype-based information. This approach provides  higher resolution and greater accuracy to the recommendations we are able to make. But what happens if clients come to us with incomplete or poor-quality data, or information that has been drawn from dozens of different sources? Our CROHM analyst, Joe Benatmane, is here to tell you…

Why is data so important?

If you want to properly understand how the houses you manage are performing, and how they can be improved, you can’t just stick a finger in the air and guess. Every home, every household, is different. For that reason, a thorough strategy should ideally take account of the specifics of every home in a client’s property portfolio. There is only so far that conclusions drawn from archetypes can take you.

What happens if clients don’t have enough data?

You’d be surprised how often we’ve come across clients who have misconceptions about their data, thinking that what they have is insufficient. But in most cases they hold a wealth of documentation that offers a great insight into their stock.

Such as?

It varies a great deal. The most common sources are stock condition surveys, asset management databases, CP12s, Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) and records of installation programmes. But we’ve used plenty of other data and are quite used to the quirky spreadsheets and databases each client seems to have. It’s not always about certified documentation – a wide range of informal data can be just as useful.

And if that is still not enough?

If clients do not hold sufficient data ‘in-house’, we can work with them to explore different avenues and find alternative ways of gathering data and filling gaps, such as performing street surveys or strategically commissioning EPCs. None of these approaches need to be time-consuming or expensive, and in most cases it’s about filling in very specific gaps, not creating reams of new information.

So what happens if the quality of the data is poor?

Once we have gathered all the data together, we spend a lot of time assessing its quality. If we find out that there are problems, there are usually ways that we can address them. Most of the time, detailed conversations with the client’s team can iron out inconsistencies, and help us clone information, or to make appropriate assumptions. In the rare cases where that still isn’t enough, we can always return to the idea of commissioning some data-gathering work.

So it’s rare to find a client who isn’t able to undertake a CROHM for lack of data?

It’s not happened so far! It’s not as if we haven’t found clients where a key part of their assessment has been to identify long-term strategies for improving their data. But even in those cases there has always been enough information first time around to make strategic recommendations that inform their retrofit programmes. It’s usually better, especially for your residents, to make a start on your retrofit activity than to wait for perfect data. You can always focus projects on those houses that you’re more confident about!

If you are interested in a stock assessment, but are worried about your data, drop us a line.