The built environment contributes 40% to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the UK and over 80% of the buildings today will still be in use by 2050. Therefore, it is imperative to understand how vulnerable these buildings are to climate change, and how they can become more climate resilient and contribute to the UK’s 2050 net-zero targets. Data is the key to answer these questions. 

Data Challenges in the Built Environment and Insurance Sectors

The characteristics of the built environment sector and its data are well known to be fragmented and siloed. From design to construction to operation, a building can generate massive amounts of data, such as Building Information Modeling (BIM) data, materials, products, and operational data. However, much of this data is unstructured, in the wrong format (e.g. paper, PDF, excel sheet etc.), unmanaged or forgotten/lost, and most of this data are closed datasets, not for sharing. Issues of too much data to handle and lack of data co-exist, while repeated data capture is common. It is hard to work out the “what, where and how” questions when it comes to data access in the sector. When data is captured, there may still be issues for understanding and using it correctly. 

There are some attempts to aggregate building related data by the sector to tackle the problems. The attempts include the Building Passport platform that focuses on providing building fire safety; the MADASTER Passport that registers building material and product records; the Building Renovation Passport (UK, EU projects) that collects renovation related building information in a logbook and plans building renovation roadmaps, and a few others. However, they are still siloed and built for limited purposes, and at their early stage. 

On the journey to net zero, the insurance industry is preparing to support the net-zero transition of the economy, including the built environment sector, through transferring and mitigating risks. A few big insurers such as Aviva have already set up their own net-zero targets and strategies. A group of leading Re/Insurers has formed a Net-Zero Insurance Alliance to explore net-zero underwriting potentials. Others partner with academics, regulators and legal experts to explore net-zero underwriting policies and tools for building insurance (e.g. ClimateWise Principles) and develop insurance contractual clauses to combat climate change (e.g. TCLP insurance clauses). 

Data lies in the centre of insurance businesses. However, similar to the built environment sector, data are siloed, fragmented and inconsistent in the insurance industry. Data sharing is complex and difficult within and in-between companies in the sector, and has been limited in a closed circle through bilateral contracts for many years. High data friction and blockages are pushing catastrophe modellers and underwriters to accept lower quality alternative data and outputs. For building insurance, data capture focuses on buildings’ resilience to current and future climate risks rather than their potential mitigation contributions to climate change. No climate change mitigation related parameters currently exist in building insurance considerations. The insurance industry lacks understanding of where they can find and how they can incorporate climate change related information into their risk modelling and insurance pricing process to enable net-zero insurance. 

To tackle the above challenges, the Icebreaker One Standard for Environment, Risk and Insurance (SERI) project worked closely with our industrial partners and advisory groups and developed a Climate-Ready Building Passport (C-RBP) concept in our SERI Phase 1 work. 

The C-RBP Concept

The C-RBP is a design for a data service enabled by SERI open data standards that brings together the physical, environmental, financial, risk and regulatory data of a building in a digital form and under a unique identifier through a federalised secured shared data governance platform. It can bring together the above building passport platforms and many other data services to provide a means to capture and share data on a building’s life cycle. The data for C-RBP includes building design, build, operation, maintenance, renovation; risks, resilience, carbon footage, sustainability, retrofitting roadmap; historical records, real-time monitoring etc. It covers not only general building information e.g. financial, structural, physical and environment information but also includes risks, claims and GHG emissions related data. 

Through our research we have identified a number of valuable data that are currently not considered in current building insurance but will be covered by the C-RBP service. This data includes:

  • Smart data (e.g. IoT data for temperature, pollution, water, flood, fire, electricity, pumps, lighting, energy efficiency etc.)
  • Earth observation (EO) data
  • Building Information Modeling (BIM) Data 
  • Energy Performance Certificates (EPC, inc. EPC Rating) and Display Energy Certificates (DEC)
  • Environmental Product Declaration (EPD for embodied carbon)  
  • Building Renovation Passport (BRP) data elements including logbook & roadmap (e.g. retrofitting records)
  • Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) data
  • CREMM/GRESB & risk assessment tools

The C-RBP can provide building owners, insurers and other stakeholders beyond the insurance value chain with the data they need with ease and security on their pathway to GHG reduction goals. It can also assist the insurance industry to better underwrite building insurance. Consideration of the above list of new data in insurance risk modelling and pricing process through C-RBP could potentially open the gate to net-zero underwriting to incentivise net-zero behaviors of their customers through rewarding better building performance and enable the creation of a range of innovative insurance products. 

Call for Support 

The C-RBP is currently a concept designed by the SERI project. To enable the creation of the C-RBP service, we need support from data providers and data service providers from both the built environment sector and the insurance sector to be part of the SERI shared data governance framework. We also need support from wider stakeholders in the insurance and built environment value chains for consultation to understand more on the values C-RBP can bring and how they can be maximized for industries. 

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Photo credit: Photo by Samson on Unsplash