What instructions should house builders give buyers… and how?

“What does this button do?”

Property logbook company Chimni has produced  a specification for new homes, outlining all the data and digital information that housebuilders should expect to deliver to buyers at handover.

The Data Home is the result of an InnovateUK funded research project called Re-Imagining BIM. The project encompassed behavioural research with homeowners as well as a technical trial with BIM specialist Xbim.  The aim was to set a benchmark for digital delivery in the house-building industry. [See our previous report here.]

Chimni managing director Nigel Walley said:  “We know that homebuilders recognise that data and digital tools are now part of their core product – our homes are becoming complex systems. But the extent of the data and intelligence handed over to buyers varies widely across the industry. Crucially it doesn’t meet expectations which are increasingly being set by the workplace or industries like automotive.” 

The current practice of handing over PDFs of key documents like warranties and user manuals is only a transition phase in a shift away from paper handover packs.  House buyers now expect truly digitised information, Chimni found, structured data via apps and digital services.

“Expectations are being set by the motor industry,” Nigel Walley said. “If you buy a high-end electric car you get an app and a web account – everything is delivered online. This has kicked off a wave of service innovation from companies supporting the industry.  Homes are  much more complex but we need to aspire to the same digital innovation that cars and financial services are experiencing. The new data standard we’ve produced creates a high bar for home builders to measure themselves against.” 

The data specification that was created as part of the Re-Imagining BIM project initially looked initially at re-purposing data held in BIM models and linking it to homeowner-friendly apps like Chimni’s own. The project proved the technical viability of linking BIM models to consumer apps via systems like the Xbim OpenBIM servers.  However, the behavioural research component of the project went much further. 

 “We flipped the process and started with the way homeowners expected to manage their home life and worked backwards,” Nigel Walley said. “We addressed the question of ‘what data could and should be delivered to homeowners’, and what kinds of services they may expect with it.”

The project produced a range of homeowner scenarios that imagined homeowner tasks or problems and identified what data they might want to resolve it.   The scenarios, outlined in the white paper, enabled the project team to identify what formats the homeowners expected and how they wanted to access it.

“A great example is maintenance schedules for complex stuff like central heating.  In the research the consumers told us they didn’t want user manuals.  They asked why they can’t just have an Outlook file with all key dates included, that they can load up in their calendars.  This pushes consumer expectation much closer to closer real estate, where a facilities manager would expect that level of system integration to run a building.”

Floorplans were another point of discussion.  “If you are in a store buying furnishings for your new home, why shouldn’t you have fully dimensioned floor plans in an app you can play with in-store?  The homebuilder has the info, so why don’t you?”

Along with the data specification, the project addressed how developers and architects could begin to build a data culture into the complete construction process.  This included a best practice guide to housebuilders for how to build data systems, like BIM, that can deliver the data automatically. 

The next stage is for the specification to be challenged across the industry.  Chimni has built the new data specification into its logbooks being delivered to newbuild clients and is looking for trial partners from the housebuilding industry ahead of second InnovateUK funded project to refine and codify the standard next year.

The Data Home white paper can be downloaded from  chimni.net/data-home-download

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