The very real price of quality data in multi-tenant real estate


Our industry is engaged in an important dialogue to improve sustainability through ESG transparency and industry collaboration. This article is a contribution to this larger conversation and does not necessarily reflect GRESB’s position.

When it comes to trading assets in 2024, data solutions are increasingly part of the equation. Whether it be ESG reporting tools or technology solutions to gather data, there are options on the market. But, as with any competitive landscape, are the solutions available doing the job they need to? And is data integrity ensuring the trading of assets is done with ease and at speed?

Data is an integral part of the design, construction, management, and trading of any real estate asset. It enables evidence-based decision-making and allows for the reduction of waste across materials during the building phase and/or a reduction of energy consumption during operation. If that data gained is not accurate, however, it swings the other way into dangerous territory — rubbish-in, rubbish-out. So many multi-tenant assets have Building Management Systems (BMSs) installed where the data is not being utilized correctly (if at all). And many other such assets have BMSs installed incorrectly.

This raises a key question for those in the pursuit of accurate data worthy of enhancing ESG performance and asset trading: is there a real price to put on quality data?

In the multi-tenant real estate sector, the answer is yes. We will elaborate more on this below and break down some important aspects to consider when it comes to data integrity.

So, data integrity — where to start?

1. Data at the development stage

Investors and stakeholders are increasingly focused on sustainability and ESG criteria. By aligning with these priorities, demonstrable data integrity in utility usage and occupant comfort can attract more investment. Projects rooted in reliable data, utility consumption, efficiency, and management processes can more effectively incorporate green building practices, leading to structures that are both environmentally responsible and cost-efficient over their lifecycle. This data informs decisions on materials, technologies, and designs that optimize energy use, water consumption, and waste reduction. Data pertaining to the internal environment of buildings, such as air quality, thermal comfort, and lighting levels, is essential for creating spaces that enhance occupants’ well-being and productivity.

High-integrity data enables developers to implement solutions that directly contribute to the occupants’ comfort and satisfaction, thereby making their developments more attractive to end-users. Accurate utility and user comfort data ensures compliance with local and international sustainability standards, aiding in attaining prestigious certifications such as LEED, BREEAM, or WELL. These certifications not only validate the sustainability efforts, but also enhance the marketability of the property.

2. Flexible smart technology

Accurate data collection relies heavily on smart technologies, and there is a wide range to choose from. It is important to remember that the main goal is to collect data efficiently and effectively. Using smart technologies that provide real-time data and insights, automate processes, and offer insights across various aspects simultaneously is key. This ensures that property technology (PropTech) is adaptable to different spaces, allowing for consistent data collection and quick responses.

For instance, water metering solutions can quickly alert site teams about leaks, highlighting the importance of fast action based on data insights. This quick management and waste reduction are possible when smart technologies are flexible, can gather various types of data from a single source, and deliver those insights instantly.

When it comes to managing multi-tenant real estate, with potentially hundreds of bedrooms to monitor, the need for flexible smart technology is even more critical.

3. Connectivity and pace of collection

Internet of Things (IoT) devices may seem like a set of technologies that have gained traction only in the past decade, but they have been around for quite some time. They turn everyday actions and physical things digital through connectivity, feeding into smarter decision-making processes. However, there is a snag in the process if the data cannot move from the device to the analytics platform. That is why it is essential to not exlusively focus on devices and data, but also consider the connectivity and wireless options available on-site.

For instance, at Utopi, we rely on a robust wireless network called LoRaWAN. This low-power, wide-area networking protocol uses the LoRa radio modulation technique to connect devices to the internet and facilitate communication between devices and network gateways. It is user-friendly and straightforward to set up, low-cost, provides wide coverage, and handles a large volume of devices. By ensuring strong connectivity, we add significant value to the PropTech we offer. It is important to remember that these technology solutions and connectivity should be viewed together, not separately, to maintain data integrity across your assets. They also provide an infrastructure platform that can accommodate devices, use cases, and applications not yet considered.

4. Regular analysis and interventions

At Utopi, we call this Changing Behaviors — the idea that data really is just the beginning. The real value comes from action and the impacts those actions can make on the overall performance of an asset, no matter how small. But, in the context of data integrity, under the assumption that you have accurate, granular insights, it is important to build regular analysis and interventions into your workflows for maximum impact.

IoT-based SaaS platforms like Utopi can send you multi-channel notifications daily, weekly, or monthly to ensure reporting is quick and simple. Taking it one step further, you can use this data to make root cause analyses and deliver targeted interventions on-site. For example, the Utopi heatmap may alert you that an unoccupied space is heated to 28°C, enabling a quick response by either turning the heating off or down, reducing energy waste as a result. These small incremental changes using real-time data can enhance operational efficiency and save costs and emissions.

5. Trading assets

Properties demonstrating efficient utility management and superior occupant comfort through reliable data can often command higher market values and appeal more to prospective buyers and lenders. Providing prospective buyers and lenders with accurate, reliable data to prove how assets align with their ESG strategies and regulatory requirements streamlines the due diligence process, fostering trust and facilitating smoother transactions. Furthermore, robust data provides a compelling narrative for marketing properties, highlighting sustainability and comfort features that are increasingly sought after in the market.

Data integrity not only supports the operational phases of real estate development and disposal, but also plays a critical role in achieving building sustainability certifications to meet the demands of future purchasers and their ESG targets.

The real price of quality data: A case study

A recent case study tells the story of the possibility of immense value-add when choosing the right data solutions for your multi-tenant assets. The finer details are:

Purpose-built student accomodation (PBSA) portfolio – new build

  • Validated over a ten times return on investment (underwritten by a valuer)
  • Derived from a NOI increase of GBP 125 per bed/per annum
  • Based on a 15 percent net saving in operating expenses

A PBSA investor rolled out Utopi ESG technology and data solutions to their 5,000+ bed portfolio across the UK and Ireland. Specified at the development stage, these newly built assets could consider data from the very beginning. Placement of technology, connectivity, and data collection were all considered at this early stage, and they were able to specify data integrity and data quality prior to going into operation.

By gathering real-time, granular data on their assets over a 12-18 month period and using that data as actionable insights, they were able to keep energy waste to a minimum, enhance operational efficiency, and see a significant return on investment generated. Running targeted campaigns and outlier interventions meant they took an active role in using that valuable data to enhance the performance of their asset portfolio. And the numbers say it all – there is a real price for quality data!

Data really is just the beginning. At Utopi, we are convinced that without taking action, data alone will not lead to any meaningful impact. Quality, precise, and detailed data sets the stage for making decisions based on solid evidence. This platform will enhance operations, improve resident experiences and perceptions, and enable greater transparency in the trading of assets.

This article was written by Andy Doyle, Chief Product Officer, at Utopi.