Phil Ratcliffe

Standardised data ‘needed to cut through noise’

Drees & Sommer is the latest firm to have a go at devising a single source of all data collected for a building. Phil Ratcliffe, UK MD, explains why a simple pooled dashboard is so badly needed.

Technology in real estate is all about data, on a global scale. We, the engineers, project managers, and real estate consultants, need to rely on one set of pooled data to collaborate effectively; our client needs access to the same information to inform the big decisions about managing their portfolio. Yet the marketplace for proptech tools is really fragmented. If we expect the investors and developers of this world to do their part in reducing global carbon emissions and building for a sustainable future, data needs to be standardised over a platform which is globally cohesive.

In delivering buildings and urban solutions for large corporations, Drees & Sommer collaborates with project teams from across the globe, where data sources vary massively. The automation of data is key to standardisation. Why is this important? With clean data sets, project teams advise clients on how to best optimise their portfolio, make more progressive decisions about the sustainability of their buildings, and influence their targets.

One of the things to have come out of our Stuttgart Innovation Hub is a data aggregation tool to give the customer one version of the truth. This product – in the early stages of development – is one in a series of innovations incubated in Drees & Sommer’s network of incubators, one of which is currently piloting an asset management tool.

This innovation was catalysed by a frustration, not with a particular tool, but the lack of one which covers all bases (and works every time, all the time). We asked ourselves ‘what we can do to help’; what would be the simplest tool to pool data across building type, portfolio stretch etc?

Our approach is different in that it’s a quite a simple one; take data and information from any source and help the client create ‘one version of the truth’.  Many other solutions have been created from another platform, with the aggregation tool added later whereas our approach has been to develop a tool ‘top-down’ so it is agnostic to where the data comes from.  This way we can avoid clashing data sets.

Where we can learn from our data platform is the same area in which we’re delivering the added value: analytics. The reams of data that can be pooled for any one project means very little until you rationalise it. Our teams represent the human interface to the data, interpreting it to deduce analysis which inform a client’s decisions about space rationalisation or sustainability benchmarking.

So my dream product is really the same as what the customer wants: accessible data to inform building performance and occupier use.  As the user of the building, you just want to get in and use it and have one interface to manage it at your fingertips.  All these apps are out there, but they are disparate and not necessarily informed by the data that shaped the building in the first place.

Our hope is that the wider industry will openly develop their tools and platforms provide better integration, better data, better decisions and a better user experience: it’s not what benefits Drees & Sommer, but the benefits it creates for the client. The more we upscale, the more this standardisation of data becomes a necessity for a high-performative customised smart building. Electricity is great, but wouldn’t the world be a simpler place if there were just one shape of socket?

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