How can we measure that performance?
HomeLINK is using environmental sensors in existing homes, measuring temperature, humidity and CO2 levels to understand the risk of certain issues emerging, such as the risk of damp and mould, or poor indoor air quality that might have a detrimental impact on people’s health.
We are also looking at things like energy efficiency – how well insulated a particular building is – by measuring the rate at which a home loses its heat.
What are the biggest challenges in the way of building tomorrow’s healthy, low-carbon housing?
First, we don’t really know which houses are performing poorly. We currently use Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) ratings as a way of measuring energy efficiency, and while they’re useful and important to have, they are a point-in-time assessment that don’t provide any understanding about how those homes perform in use.
Second, we do not know whether the average consumer understands how well their home is performing. Yes, they have EPC ratings and, yes, they can look at their energy bills, but connecting the two is really hard. We hope to use the data we collect to understand which homes are at risk of fuel poverty, but also to understand how much energy is costing their inhabitants and how we can change that.
A third aspect is the quality of retrofit. A failed retrofit can cost five times more to sort out than the original work cost in the first place, so there is a massive motivation to get it right. Hopefully by understanding how installed measures are performing, and providing these insights for subsequent retrofits, there’s a massive cost saving to be had there.
What difference can digital technology make?
By analysing the data that we gather, we can understand which measures are most appropriate for specific properties and for different property archetypes, and we can then quantify the effect that those measures are having once they are installed. If they are not performing as they should, we can explore why that is.
But we need to find a way to gather this data that is scalable and cost-effective and enables us to monitor how different external factors influence the way that a house performs over time.
We’re trying to overcome that hurdle by providing cost-effective sensors. They are discreet, they sit in the background, and they don’t require any additional skills to install.