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Guest Blog: Why BTR Asset Owners Should Understand ConTech

By Ibrahim Imam, co-founder and Co-CEO of PlanRadar

The PropTech market has grown considerably over the last year. So too has the equally agile ConTech marketplace, which is becoming increasingly important to asset owners in the build-to-rent (BTR) market who need to understand every process of a build before it’s offered to occupants.

As 2022 commences, property professionals would do well to remember this fact, especially against a backdrop of increasing legislative changes and a growing focus on sustainability and energy usage. From planning through to handover and ongoing operations and maintenance, ConTech is making the often complex and opaque process of construction visible. While ConTech and PropTech both have unique uses, they often work best in tandem; but a savvy asset owner will be aware of the options on the marketplace and how to use them to the full.

A changing landscape

The impending changes being introduced by the Building Safety Bill and Fire Safety Act mean that occupants’ safety is now of utmost importance, and not only for HRRBs (Higher Risk Residential Buildings). The changes are shifting mindsets across the whole property market. With the responsibility for the safety of a building resting on everyone in the construction journey, asset owners and contractors are looking at ways to deliver maximum protection for both residents and their own investment.

The introduction of the Bill’s regulatory gateways is also a significant step. These mandatory ‘hard stops’ mean a further emphasis on getting fire safety right at the earliest possible stage in the development. Crucially, developers and asset owners will need to demonstrate full compliance and maximum safety. Having digital tools that can ensure quality construction, support defect management and information collation, and can streamline the process of safety certifications will be essential.

Further, a greater degree of reporting and data input is also needed to prove that buildings are and continue to be industry compliant. This is where the latest affordable, user-friendly and interoperable ConTech comes in – allowing essential information to be recorded digitally, leaving no stone unturned to drive quality and deliver as-built records in real-time.

Many ConTech platforms and devices have also been intuitively designed meaning there’s little training to get up and running and, in many cases, they can complement PropTech platforms, blending seamlessly into the day-to-day of functions of those who use it.

Helping solve the issue of compliance

As already mentioned, areas such as fire safety are now major focus points for anyone working in BTR (and the wider real estate sector) and there are major legal repercussions for those who fail to act. For BTR asset owners, ConTech is helping to demonstrate compliance, allowing users to record activity and show that processes have been followed. As regulation tightens and sanctions become more punitive, having access to this data, from day 1 of construction until the present, will be invaluable.

Significantly, the ability to create a ‘digital timeline’ takes several steps towards achieving the construction industry’s ‘Golden Thread of Information’. Existing ConTech can record every stage of the decision-making process, meaning greater levels of transparency and industry best practice are being met. Should an event arise, building owners can turn to digital, tamperproof audit trails, complete with dates and timestamps to show that work was carried out to the appropriate standard.

The ultimate timesaver

As well as providing an answer to legal complexities, ConTech is delivering huge time-savings. Increased data input can be laborious and time consuming, yet digital methods simplify and speed up this process.

Digital replicas of worksheets and key forms, such as EWS1 forms, can also be uploaded, allowing information to be entered quickly and with greater accuracy by qualified experts while on-site. This method also improves the accuracy of recorded information, removing the risk of human error when transcribing hand written notes or adding photographic evidence.

This can be of huge benefit to the asset owner when approaching the ongoing management of a building.

As-built data matters 

Using data for the effective management of a building is becoming more important than ever, especially in the BTR sector where the asset owner is often the ongoing property manager and its utility provider.

Having complete and accurate data at handover, in the form of an O&M (Operations and Management) Manual is crucial, not only to remain compliant but ensure the safety and comfort of occupant. The good news, Asset Information Management (AIM) tools have advanced considerably over the last few years, as well as an understanding of how to get the most out of them.

Furthermore, the ability to retrospectively gather building data means those developers now liable due to regulatory changes are able to update their information to become compliant in the new landscape.

Time to join the revolution

Whilst I’ve merely scratched the surface of how ConTech can be used, there’s no doubt that its role is as essential for BTR asset owners as PropTech, particularly when facing the evolving regulatory landscape, as well as enabling owners to tackle wider societal issues such as energy efficiency and emission reduction.

Asset owners who ignore its important role in the real estate ecosystem will find it difficult to keep up with the numerous compliance challenges and myriad commercial opportunities of tomorrow. For those that haven’t already done so, now is the time to jump on the ConTech bandwagon, before you get left behind.