Adding unique property reference numbers to energy performance certificates has opened up new possibilities for the use of the data, writes Richard Duffield, Head of Customer Insights at GeoPlace
The prospects for a smarter use of energy data have received a boost with the news that unique property reference numbers (UPRNs) are being attached to energy performance certificates (EPCs) for private properties and to display energy certificates (DECs) for public buildings.
Enabled by Ordnance Survey’s Open Identifiers policy, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) published EPC data appending UPRNs at the end of November 2021 on its Open Data Communities platform, saying it had allocated the UPRNs to a new field on the certificates.
It is a significant step in promoting the more efficient use of energy in buildings, providing the basis for better linking of datasets and a stronger understanding of the factors affecting their energy consumption. It should help organisations understand the energy efficiency of the property stock, identify the weak points and investigate how it relates to the overall picture of residential, business and public properties.
UPRNs, managed nationally by GeoPlace, provide a unique identifier for each addressable location in the country. Among a range of benefits, they provide a reliable way of confirming that an EPC or DEC applies to a specific building.
The move has followed the DLUHC’s initiative to bring the management and development of the registers for England, Wales and Northern Ireland in-house. Energy assessors have been populating the register with UPRNs from the Ordnance Survey AddressBase since September 2020, and the department has now filled the gaps with an address matching algorithm using the same source. The latter step has been validated using address matched EPC datasets produced by Ordnance Survey and GeoPlace.
DLUHC has also added a field on the EPCs for the source of a UPRN, showing whether it came from an assessor or the algorithm.
Benefits in sight
It all provides a number of benefits. One is that a UPRN guarantees which property is being identified, especially when distinguishing separate flats in a building and locating a property in an empty building.
It also enables local authority managers to check whether a property has an EPC, rather than rely on its owners or tenants. If there is no certificate it enables them to raise the issue with a landlord or tenant and saves time and money for all involved.
The fact that UPRNs are machine readable makes it easier to exchange data through the same reference format. This applies not just to the public sector but organisations in areas such as utilities, retail and finance.
In turn, this makes it possible to link datasets for analysis and insights. There are already examples of this, such as the London Fire Brigade matching UPRNs and EPCs to model and forecast fire risk more accurately.
It brought in GeoPlace to match the two in building its All-Addresses Corporate Data system, which makes connections between every piece of data known about each addressable point in London, and brings together a range of metrics relevant to fire risk. This has made it possible to model and forecast the risk and develop visualisations to help fire officers make quick assessments.
Supporting funding bid
Local authorities are also exploring the possibilities. Denbighshire County Council has used UPRNs to establish whether individual properties have EPCs and monitor the certificates’ ratings in an effort to improve the housing conditions of local residents. When it matched the UPRNs with data from Rent Smart Wales it quickly identified around 650 properties with low efficiency ratings and used the information to secure funding for better insulation from an Energy Company Obligation provider.
Hackney Council has used GeoPlace to look up UPRNs on properties for which it has also collected the EPCs to incorporate both in its ‘tenure intelligence’ dataset. This is supporting its efforts keep up the standards of privately rented property in the borough.
Other possibilities have been put forward by the Centre for Public Data in its recent paper on a proposed national landlord register for England. One is that the data on the register, which would include UPRNs, could be combined with property insulation information from EPCs and microdata on energy consumption to understand whether localised incentives to insulate properties are proving to be successful.
UPRNs could also be included on a Gas Safe Register, electrical safety reports and tenancy deposit schemes, making it possible to check and join up these records with EPCs. Overall, this would provide a more complete picture of the condition of properties and how they are being used through a single source.
It is early days, new uses will emerge and there is plenty of scope for public authorities to find further benefits in the attachment of UPRNs to EPCs, especially as the public is paying closer attention to the energy efficiency of properties. The combination of the two can encourage owners and landlords to make properties more energy efficient, support the development and application of green home standards, improve the safety of housing, and support the lettings industry in providing more complete information. It will also save time and money for landlords, residents and local authorities.
It all comes down to the importance of having a unique identifier for an address. It is invaluable in bringing datasets together, highlighting the factors that contribute to energy efficiency, and providing greater transparency across the property sector.
Find out more about the benefits of the combined data at https://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/newsroom/blog/ordnance-survey-open-identifiers-uprn-epc-data-release and contact [email protected] if you’d like more information.
Image from iStock, sdecoret