Housing associations

The Alliantie: from 5 building surveyors to 1 drone pilot

“We can do things much faster now. Not inspect and measure an estate in 3 days, but in 4 hours.”
Fred Jak, Program Manager

About 4 years ago, Spotr came into contact with the Alliantie during a brainstorm session on the future of housing associations. Their main question was: ‘Can we determine the quality of real estate from data and images, in order to manage our portfolio remotely’? The Alliantie immediately saw vast possibilities, decided to invest and, together with its maintenance partners, is now a forerunner in digital real estate management.

Fred Jak, Program Manager at the Alliantie, explains in this interview what their new way of working has brought them. We also spoke with his colleague Paul Loos. Paul used to be a surveyor, but now he’s the very first drone pilot ever employed by a Dutch housing association.

The Alliantie anticipated the problem early on: finding the right personnel will be difficult in the future. This made them rethink how the current cooperation with maintenance companies could be done. “We had work planners, project leaders and supervisors, but so did our partners,” Fred Jak says. “That didn't really make sense at all. Moreover, we wanted to work together differently. Work side by side as one team, not as two opposing teams. Improving the entire process together, setting goals, learning together and improving all the time. Having fun with each other instead of crossing swords.”

Results-oriented collaboration

In the Dutch housing association field, we now often see a distinction between something called ‘Ketensamenwerking’ (chain collaboration) and ‘Resultaatgericht Samenwerken’ (Results-Oriented Collaboration). Yet Fred doesn't really care how you call it. “Chain collaboration also aims to be as results-oriented as possible. Our goal is to achieve a certain quality. How a maintenance partner exactly achieves this quality, doesn't really matter to us.”

From 30 maintenance partners to 12

The Alliantie went from more than 30 partners for maintenance and renovation, back to 18 permanent partners: the so-called ‘co-makers’. In 2019, the Alliantie continued to develop this success formula by entering into an even closer collaboration with 12 co-makers. During this time, the collaboration with Spotr began.

More insights than the eye can see

Fred: “I realized quickly that we could benefit a lot from using Spotr. For example, we employed five building surveyors to measure the quality of our properties. But if you can do that from behind your desk, you no longer have to visit the estates on site. That saves a lot of time. Spotr also delivers a more complete view than what the human eye can see, literally. When we visit an estate on site and want to understand the quality of the window frames, we don't look at each frame individually. You cán however see 100% of the frames on Spotr's images. Based on the images you can see if something is wrong. And if necessary, you can still always visit a building for further inspection. But you’re selective about it. That’s much more efficient.”

“We can do things much faster now,” Fred explains. “Not inspect and measure an estate in 3 days, but in 4 hours. It’s too early to quantify the gains from this, but it’s certain that our general costs are reduced and we can do more projects with the same people.”

Measuring an estate in 4 hours

The Alliantie has divided its portfolio into three regions. Each region has program teams with specialists from the Alliantie and co-creators. They meet every two weeks to discuss the estates for which they prepared a maintenance program, which are sometimes planned ahead up to 2050. About 40 estates pass by each month. The input for these meetings comes from Spotr: what does the estate look like, what’s the status, the quality and what are the maintenance requirements?

“We can do things much faster now,” Fred explains. “Not inspect and measure an estate in 3 days, but in 4 hours. It’s too early to quantify the gains from this, but it’s certain that our general costs are reduced and we can do more projects with the same people.”

From inspecting 10 to 15 homes to seeing éverything

Instead of five building surveyors, the Alliantie now employs one drone pilot. That drone pilot is Paul Loos, a former building surveyor. Paul was sceptical of the changes at first, but now he's completely embraced them. “I consider myself to be a curious guy, but I never thought a drone would take over my work. Until I saw the quality of the images, that really convinced me. I started training as a drone pilot and now I fly over three to four estates per week.”

“I used to only see 10 to 15 homes in an estate with 100 homes. I also often rang people’s bell, asking something like: 'Can I see your balcony?' Now I see everything, the entire estate, and I don't have to bother anyone. Of course they see me fly the drone. We always inform residents about this in advance. Residents generally find it very interesting. 'Wow, what a cool job you have' they say, or: 'You actually get paid for this?'. Sometimes residents tell me they don’t want to be captured on image, but that doesn’t happen. License plates, faces, windows, everything is made unrecognizable. We also have a huge playbook for this; privacy is absolutely guaranteed.”

Have a look at some of the drone images made by Paul.

Producing images together with co-makers

“I always bring an extra pair of eyes and that is often one of our co-makers” Paul continues. “They find it very interesting and also pass on specific requests. For example, when a certain estate had problems with a leaking chimney, I flew an extra round and aimed the camera specifically on that corner. Going together to produce imagery has had great added value for us.”

“All data and images, including the images I make, are centrally stored within Spotr, so everyone works with the same data. Previously, we’d be working with a spreadsheet that would go from one party to another. All you could do was hope you had saved the correct version. Now everyone who has access to Spotr always has complete and up-to-date information about our real estate.”

Valuable insights at the touch of a button

“Together we are discovering more and more possibilities with Spotr,” Fred explains. “For example; in Spotr we can get insight into the height of windows and whether there’s fall protection, for our entire property portfolio at the touch of a button. This helps us easily identify security risks. And if we know that, we then also know what the height is between the windows and we know the risk of fire spread. We suspect that there are many other benefits, but we’re not yet able to make them concretely measurable. Such as quality of life: what’s the state of the gardens? Is there a lot of pollution in the area? We’re sure we’ll be able to identify more benefits soon.”

This is how the 3D model eventually turns out in Spotr.

The evolution of real estate management and maintenance

“Other housing associations might think 'Yes, this is a great story, but we are just not as big as the Alliantie. But even if you aren’t that big you should try it. Whether you’re a big fish or a small one, whether you maintain your real estate with in-house expertise or externally, it doesn't matter. Spotr lends itself to any form of collaboration, because it’s about insight.”

“You don't even have to bring a big pile of money to start using the tool. You already get valuable insights without buying a whole package and turning your organization on its head. Just start with one small step. Assess a few estates with Spotr. Then compare the results with what you see in the field; is the outcome the same? Our experience is that the answer to that question is yes. In one day you might be able to assess 20 estates instead of just one. In short: experience it yourself! You’ll see, it's easy and efficient, provides quick and valuable insights into the current state of your portfolio and it makes real estate management and maintenance increasingly smarter.”

The future: being able to detect heat leaks on facades

How does drone pilot Paul see the future? “I think in the future we may switch to a drone with a thermal camera. This will help us detect heat leaks on facades. If residents have complaints about the temperature in the house, we can map the facade and pinpoint exactly where to insulate and seal the cracks. In this respect, the data we have on our buildings is becoming increasingly more extensive. And there’s so many more possibilities coming that we don't know about yet. I never thought I would become a drone pilot and look at me now, I love it!”

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