Internet of Things: smart property management at Two Castles Housing Association


23 February 2016

A pioneering social housing project in Northumberland has brought the Internet of Things to life and straight into the home, in a pilot scheme designed to tackle fuel poverty and record actual property performance

Two Castles Housing Association, which manages properties across the North of England, has formed an innovative partnership with Capita to install smart sensor monitoring equipment to capture and analyse household data such as air quality, temperature and humidity. The project is the first of its kind for the sector and will help tackle overheating and fuel poverty, as well as helping to provide services to vulnerable residents.

Benefits of the sensors

  • Reduced administration, phone calls, and the possibility of multiple visits to the property in order to diagnose a potential issue and carry out repairs
  • Being armed with the true picture puts the housing provider in control, allowing for better planning, better purchasing and better decisions when it comes to placing tenants
  • Insurers and lenders will appreciate housing providers who can demonstrate detailed knowledge of the state of their stock
  • Receiving accurate data from sensors will allow housing providers to monitor households that appear to be struggling and work proactively with them before someone becomes ill or a property becomes damaged
  • External air quality data captured by sensors on nearby lamp-posts can be freely provided to the residents and the local authority

The project

“Affording to keep homes warm is a real issue for too many families across the North of England. The problem is exacerbated in rural communities affected by rising energy prices, poor building stock and high fuel expenditure.

 

“Using smart monitoring equipment we can accurately test how well a home is performing from its internal energy usage to external building fabric. This will allow us to identify what features are working well, on top of areas for improvement, enabling the homes we build in the future to be as energy efficient as possible for the individuals and families who live in them.”

Rob Brittain, property services director at Two Castles Housing Association.

Another big issue for housing providers is damp. Damp causes untold damage to properties and, as well as the health implications, the repair costs can run into the thousands or tens of thousands of pounds. Social housing providers want to ensure that their residents live in comfortable and safe environments and having the insight to make the right ventilation modification or offer the correct advice to alleviate a damp problem is crucial. The high-tech humidity sensor is now able to report back when a property is becoming damp, allowing for timely intervention before the damp damages the fabric of the building.

So how do the sensors work?

Three types of remote sensor monitors were installed and are being tested at Anick View in Hexham, digitally sensing the property’s temperature, humidity, acoustics, carbon monoxide and smoke. Sensors have also been placed on lamp-posts in the street measure outside air quality and Two Castles are also monitoring power consumption within the properties. Alerts from the sensors are captured on Capita’s OPENHousing platform within OPENAssets, its dedicated asset management solution, where they may initiate a phone call, a visit or appointment.

Household data will be collated in OPENHousing over a pilot period of twelve months, providing Two Castles with an accurate picture of how well each household’s key building features are performing. The data works by measuring the actual internal environment of each property, the power used to create this environment as well as external conditions.

The data recorded will also help Two Castles to educate and advise all its residents on ways in which they can live smarter and more sustainably to reduce fuel bills and save them money. A key element of the project will be gaining feedback from those residents whose homes are being installed with the data capture equipment.


“This exciting project brings the Internet of Things to life. The data collated will provide Two Castles with the information required to make informed decisions about a resident and the condition of the property. Not only is it expected to save money, this project will also educate and change lives for the better.”

 

Roger Birkinshaw, housing director at Capita Software Services

Where next?

As sensor technology becomes cheaper and more connected, access to data on the environmental performance of homes will become increasingly abundant and form part of a housing provider’s housing management system. Using these vast data-sets, predictive and targeted maintenance interventions will be possible, not to mention new insights into fuel poverty and the links between health and heating.

With 2.35 million households across England currently living in fuel poverty, Capita and Two Castles believe this technology has the potential to shape the way social landlords design and build sustainable affordable homes in the future.

Once the pilot scheme is complete, Two Castles hopes to roll out the technology across its housing stock.

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