How 3,250-home Wembley Park achieved WiredScore Platinum
Developer Quintain is behind nearly half of all residential buildings that have attained the highest connectivity rating anywhere in the world.
Every completed build to rent development at Wembley Park, Quintain’s flagship project in northwest London, has been certified Platinum by WiredScore for digital connectivity. That totals 22 buildings with the highest possible WiredScore rating, out of 45 that have achieved it worldwide.
Alongside the 3,250-home residential development, Quintain also scored a Platinum certification for The Hive, its office development at Wembley Park.
PlaceTech spoke to the developer’s chief technology officer Jim Eaton-Terry about how – and why – Quintain put in time and effort for certifications.
Was strong connectivity a goal from the start?
Yes. Wembley Park was designed to be a smart neighbourhood, Eaton-Terry says. That gave it one big advantage: connectivity was built in from the ground up, with a fibre ring installed around the entire neighbourhood to give every resident a high-quality connection by default.
He says: “If you build a building here and a building there, that’s not as easy because you’re much more beholden to other people to deliver that [fibre infrastructure].”
Why did Quintain want certifications?
“I was very keen on the WiredScore assessment right from the start because I wanted to get an objective benchmark,” Eaton-Terry says. He joined the company in 2020 and started the certification process in 2021 to make sure that connectivity was where it had to be, both in brand new buildings and in the neighbourhood’s earlier buildings that are now between eight and nine years old.
“There’s a benefit in just making sure, is everything at the benchmark we expect? Had we found that a building came up lower than we expected, then we could have done something about it.” As it happened, that wasn’t necessary.
What do you prioritise for a Platinum rating?
In the BTR sector, the most important thing is to “provide seamless and fast connectivity” that can handle a lot of people, many of whom will move around because of the amenity spaces available.
If you’re building to sell, it makes sense to have cabling that allows people to choose from four or five different operators. That’s not the case for BTR, Eaton-Terry says. “If we’re offering a free high speed internet service to all our residents, there is no real benefit to anyone in having secondary ones because you don’t need a choice of three if the product’s free and fast.”
But infrastructure itself is only part of the equation. “You can design the perfect network and that will get you just over 50 points [out of 100],” Eaton-Terry says. “The rest of the points come from what you offer to your residents.
“How easy do you make it to connect? Is it turned on before you even walk in the door? Do you explain how it works? Do you give clear help when things go wrong? We’ve put a lot of focus on that in the last couple of years.”
Does certification require training?
Yes. “The thing we’ve benefitted from most is having somebody in my team who was heavily involved in designing and specifying the buildings from the beginning, but who also really grabbed hold of WiredScore as part of his job.
“Like any certification, you have to understand the certification model, because otherwise you don’t know what it’s telling you.”
Has certification changed Quintain’s design process?
No. The certification, more than anything, confirmed that Quintain was on the right track when it developed building connectivity. While that process will continue to evolve, WiredScore did not flag any issues that Quintain would have to fix.
Was it worth the cost?
While Eaton-Terry doesn’t say how much certification cost, he does say it’s not “prohibitively expensive” and that in the context of developing a building with 200 apartments with fibre “you wouldn’t even notice it”.
For Quintain, benchmarking was a goal in and of itself as part of a wider evolution of the business. Previously, the company would have worked with third parties on the design and implementation of digital connectivity. Bringing those functions in-house in 2020 required understanding how well existing processes worked.
“We were going from a business that designs and builds and aspires to be leading in technology to actually having an operation that does that. So, I needed the benchmarking,” Eaton-Terry says.
Will Quintain continue to use WiredScore?
Given that certification simply reinforced that Quintain was doing something right, is there any point in getting future buildings certified? Eaton-Terry says there is. “We probably will go down the road because as the WiredScore certification evolves, it will give us more pointers on making sure we’re still where we should be.”
Case study: How Quintain uses tech in its apartments
Quintain’s Living Utility Monitoring Tool tracks hot and cold water, electricity and heat. The tool builds a picture of what’s normal in occupied and empty flats. By pinpointing abnormal consumption – for example, lights left on in vacant homes or a leak driving up water consumption – Quintain has cut associated costs in vacant homes from £14 per month to £2.
Perhaps more importantly, insights into “normal” consumption will help Quintain understand increasingly accurately how its homes perform and design buildings accordingly. “You start to see a real opportunity for savings on large-scale projects like ours,” says James Burt, project manager at Quintain.
Quintain uses a district heating network at Wembley Park, and by systematically reducing consumption, it can stretch how many homes that network serves without having to build another one. The data will also reveal how different design choices – windows, forms of ventilation, façades – perform, allowing for a more effective reduction in consumption and, therefore, costs.