arbnco, a Glasgow-based building performance tech company, has announced that it will be working alongside Leeds and York Councils to explore ways its technology can improve social housing.
The research will be carried out in collaboration with the project’s academic partner the Mackintosh Environmental Research Unit at the Glasgow School of Art.
The company is working on the research study in partnership with academics from Glasgow School of Art and National Energy Action (NEA), a charity committed to eradicating fuel poverty. Supported with funding from Innovate UK, the project will help determine how technology could be used to understand indoor environmental conditions in council housing stock, and promote better indoor air quality.
The purpose of the project is to help tenants make positive environmental changes and provide the councils with real-time information to assist with property management and the provision of better quality accommodation.
Leeds City Council and the City of York Council will lead the endeavour, which is part of the GovTech Catalyst programme that enables public sector bodies to harness new and emerging technologies.
If the project is successful, phase two will further develop and test the product before bringing it to market.
arbnco is one of five organisations that will lead a feasibility study into how technology can be applied to improve living conditions. arbnco will explore how the sensor technology it currently provides to the commercial and public sector real estate market could be adapted for use in domestic properties.
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The company’s tech works by analysing the air quality of indoor environments and provides real-time data on parameters such as temperature, humidity, CO2 levels, particulate matter and volatile organic compounds – the invisible gases that often emit an odour. Its platform can send alerts directly to occupants or building managers, such as councils, when these parameters exceed normal limits.
It is hoped that indoor environment tech can be used by councils to help them detect issues such as damp before they start to negatively impact tenant health, reduce costs on repairs and maintenance, and highlight whether certain types of build quality are more susceptible to environmental problems. It could help inform them whether they need to reconfigure properties, such as through the provision of communal drying spaces.
Social researchers from NEA will engage with council tenants to examine tenant preferences, needs and whether they would be comfortable with in-home sensor technology, and the parameters to be measured. NEA will also help to build up a picture of energy vulnerability status across council properties.
Professor Tim Sharpe, an international expert on indoor air quality and Director of the Mackintosh Environmental Architecture Research Unit at The Glasgow School of Art, will act as academic lead on the project, said: “Finding ways to reduce energy consumption and improve indoor air quality has never been more critical.
“This is a great opportunity to use our research expertise to help Government and Industry partners explore how innovative technologies can be developed to better understand living conditions in homes, and have positive impacts on energy consumption and health.”
Simon West, co-founder and director at arbnco, said: “We’re really excited to be part of this pioneering R&D project with Leeds and York city councils. Where councils have adopted indoor environment technology in their housing stock previously, the motivation for doing so has often centred purely around property management. This project has the health and wellbeing of tenants firmly at the heart of it.
“Air quality is rapidly becoming one of the biggest societal concerns of our time. The impact of projects like this one could be critical in helping to reduce the harmful effects that can be generated from the indoor environment, and could help to alleviate strain on our health and social care systems.”