WhenFresh, the leading supplier of data to UK Lenders, Insurers and other Big Data users via its Residential UK Property ‘Data Supermarket’, has teamed up with the Central Office of Public Interest (COPI) to share their new pollution rating system data, generated by leading air pollution experts at Imperial College London, with insurers, lenders and the wider property sector.
Recent studies show an estimated 99,000 early deaths every year in the UK and 15% of all COVID-19 deaths worldwide might be partly attributable to dirty air.
The study was published by Cardiovascular Research and builds on data produced by Harvard in 2020, with some extra pollution stats gathered from other countries. The Harvard study looked at Covid related deaths in the USA by county, and then cross-matched traffic levels, obesity, local air pollution levels from power plants, refineries etc. It has not been peer reviewed. Read the synopsis from Harvard University here.
COPI’s new rating system is based on 1.5 billion data points generated by leading air pollution experts at Imperial College London and is accurate to 20 square metres. This new dataset has major implications for insurers, mortgage lenders, estate agents and more. Each Air Quality Report reveals the levels of three toxic pollutants – PM2.5, PM10 and NO2 – at any given address and provides a Low, Medium, Significant, High or Very High rating, based around World Health Organization (WHO) limits, with nearly 8 million UK addresses exceeding said limits.
As has been widely reported by The Times, BBC and other major news outlets this week, this is the first ever address-level air pollution dataset for the UK. For the first time, the new air pollution rating system by COPI at http://www.addresspollution.org provides consumers with a free Air Quality Report for any UK address. Insurers, lenders and other commercial organisations can access this data via WhenFresh’s unique ‘Data Supermarket.’
A CLIMATE AGENDA WILL SOON UNDERPIN ALL COMMERCIAL/PROPERTY INSURANCE
Landlord insurers may find that they have to do much more fact-finding admin work from 2025 when UK rules on EPC ratings come into effect. Basically if a property is not in Band C or above it cannot be rented privately. Owners of older properties will be dismayed to find they cannot rent out anymore without spending vast sums of money. But that does offer an opportunity to insure the building for other uses, the energy rating updating process, or the empty premises risk.
As retailers go bust, many shops and offices will become HMOs or social housing projects, with many buildings requiring extensive modernisation to meet climate change standards. So expect 1000s of pubs and restaurants to turn into small 4/6 apartment blocks. High Street stores and bigger office blocks will soon be seen as ideal single person flats/HMOs in city centres, offering `sanctuary to climate change migrants.’ Local Councils will be all over projects such as this, as the pandemic changes work patterns forever and essentially relocates much of the commuter workforce to the suburbs and smaller towns.
Social housing trusts and charities will most likely be in the best position to acquire energy wasting older private and commercial properties, so again, insurers can work with these trusts on expensive refurbs and installing new connected technologies to monitor the tenants behaviour.
BUILD BACK BETTER MEANS TICK THE CORRECT BOXES
Where is the agenda coming from? Groups like Resilience First (RF) champion the cause of decarbonising the infrastructure, building back better etc. Insurers currently offering cover to power stations, railways, heavy engineering should look at starting a green book – perhaps even a green sub-brand – instead.
Insurers will need expertise in fashionable technology that must be built into the project for political reasons, much of which will be automated in terms of management, tenant interaction and all risk will be data driven, with unconscious bias removal being mandatory when it comes to your AI acturial tables. In the future the cyber risk to a new building will be equally as important as the fire risk. The way you measure local crime data, or add weight to that data, will change, because of the agenda behind the project.
One of the stated aims of RF is to change the behaviour of communities. Again, brokers and insurers involved in new urban build projects should tread carefully when it comes to offering cover. A huge amount of urban housing investment is essentially being led by a political narrative, not an objective assessment of local housing, retail or commercial needs. Anyone who points out a risk which doesn’t fit that narrative may risk being cancelled.
There is a wonderful green gravy train out there in the world of Commercial insurance, but it will require complex diplomacy to navigate the climate change and identity politics landscape that underpins decision-making.