How can housing providers use the internet of things (IoT) as part of a digital transformation strategy to provide a more sophisticated, data-driven approach that seeks to predict and prevent rather than react?
Social tenants are complaining in record numbers about damp and mould, with the Housing Ombudsman recording a 77 per cent increase in complaints about damp, mould and water leaks over the past two years.
Following the roll out of the Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023 and latest government guidance, which strengthens tenants’ powers to hold their landlord to account, housing providers are likely to face mounting pressure to take swift action against damp and mould.
In England alone, an estimated 6.5 million homes have damp and mould, an issue that is costing the NHS around £38 million per year to treat. And through the winter, alongside the strain of the current cost-of-living crisis, condensation-related problems are likely to worsen.
The health implications of mouldy or damp living conditions can be serious, with Awaab’s Law, which was introduced following the death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak in 2020, presenting a stark reminder to housing providers to act promptly on reports of disrepair in their properties.
Tackling condensation, damp and mould
Current methods for dealing with damp, condensation and mould are usually expensive, time-consuming or even ineffective.
Anti-mould wall coatings and regular roof and gutter maintenance only go so far, and even installing cavity or external wall insulation (often necessary to meet energy efficiency regulations) isn’t always effective in reducing damp. Indeed, research suggests a correlation between incorrectly-fitted insulation and increased damp and mould problems.
And with waiting lists and placement times getting longer by the day, there’s intense pressure on housing providers to fix problems quickly and move new tenants in.
Successful remediation work requires in-depth investigation to find the root cause, fix it and protect against future issues, but it’s a lengthy process that can leave properties empty for long periods, costing housing providers considerable sums of money in lost rent.
However, connected technology can help housing providers adopt a proactive approach to maintenance checks and ongoing monitoring in line with their digital-transformation strategies.
In the Regulator of Social Housing’s most recent report, where all social landlords were asked their approach to tackling damp and mould in tenants’ homes, the better-performing landlords “managed their data well, with accurate and up-to-date information about residents’ homes to find and resolve problems proactively”.
A smart approach to monitoring
By introducing IoT sensors, housing providers can access real-time data on a property’s internal environment to support early interventions and pre-empt any problems.
Unobtrusive temperature, humidity and water-leak sensors can create a holistic view behind closed doors, capturing data and providing real-time information for housing providers to actively review and spot any environments where mould or damp could easily develop.
When used efficiently, data collected from these sensors allows housing providers to allocate resources more effectively and pinpoint residents who may need extra support. It can also enable housing providers to take a proactive and prioritised approach to addressing the causes of damp and mould where they exist across their housing stock, such as where ventilation may need to be improved.
Smart sensors can provide a clear audit trail, recording accurate and regular environmental readings specific to each property and room. And since the data captured can be analysed remotely, there’s less need for intrusive onsite investigations. After any remedial work has been done, data can be monitored to ensure the work was successful.
Maintaining long-term digital transformation
FireAngel’s Home Environment Gateway delivers a holistic resident safety solution, encompassing fire safety, AI-driven risk stratification and background environmental monitoring, with built-in temperature and humidity sensors.
Through the ability to incorporate additional Zigbee sensors, the solution takes resident safety and wellbeing to previously unachievable levels, enabling housing providers to prioritise condensation, damp and mould interventions and increase fire prevention measures for residents who need them most.
The gateway is ceiling-mounted and occupies the same footprint of a smoke alarm. It can also be integrated with FireAngel’s Grade D1 alarms, so no additional wiring is required.
Collected data is uploaded to the FireAngel Connected cloud platform where it can be processed to provide insights on the most vulnerable tenants and properties. While Connected offers substantial insights via its own dashboard, it also deploys open-source API code for full integration with a housing provider’s existing housing, asset or resident management system if needed.
For more information on how FireAngel’s solutions could support your digital transformation strategies, please contact our team of specialists by visiting fireangel.co.uk/connected-contact.
Bethan Ford is head of marketing at FireAngel.