Moonshot 2030: Somewhere out there, there’s a building under construction serving as a guinea pig for a “pioneering” tech-enabled quality control system that will hopefully end shoddy building practices for good.
Such a system has long been on the wishlist for NSW Building Commissioner David Chandler, who has been tasked with cleaning up an industry troubled by defects and poor building practices. Known as the “trustworthy index”, central to the system is a distributed ledger (blockchain technology) that will be used to keep track of materials, contractors, building methods and other information that collectively can be used to determine the health and integrity of a building.
The state government is also eyeing off the blockchain system to keep an accurate, unalterable record of the embodied carbon of materials going into buildings.
The technology is now being delivered on behalf of the NSW government by a consortium of players, including KPMG, Mirvac, the Western Sydney University’s Centre for Smart Modern Construction (c4SMC) and Microsoft.
Even the ASX will chip in, according to Mirvac chief digital officer William Payne who is due to speak at The Fifth Estate’s Moonshot 2030 event on eco-proptech on 23 November, by providing its distributed ledger exchange platform that is replacing its legacy CHESS system.
“We’ve got the c4SMC bringing their academic capability, the ASX bringing that blockchain experience, Microsoft bringing the tech experience, KPMG have built previously a sort of similar platform and we’re leveraging their knowledge there, and Mirvac is bringing the industry knowledge.”
Mirvac has volunteered up a new building that will be used to test the index tool but at this early stage the details of the building will remain confidential, Payne says.
Yin Man from the Building Commissioner’s office, who is also speaking at the same session at the event, “blockchain embodied carbon and me”, is overseeing the project, which he says has been done elsewhere in fragments but never all at once.
“We know that none of the other jurisdictions within Australia, or even globally, have done this.”
He says that there are three legs to the trustworthy index. The first is the building certification process, which is meant to provide assurance that a new building complies with all necessary standards and legislation.
“Most jurisdictions have that certification process, but we know that on its own, it does not work, because we have it already and we’re still finding defective buildings amongst the good ones.”
Man says the second leg is around practitioners and their past performance. She says having a rating of those practitioners is key because insurers want to understand the history behind each company’s work.
The NSW government has commissioned a tool known as iCIRT, developed by data company Equifax, that allows developers to have their projects risk-rated. The tool, which considers credit ratings, relationships between stakeholders and the track record of each entity, will rate housing projects in NSW out of five stars to help consumers make better purchasing decisions.
Man says that hundreds of companies are lining up to get iCIRT ratings and one developer is set to release its ratings soon.
The final piece in the quality assurance puzzle is transparency across long, winding supply chains. “You need oversight of the certifications and testing of those products all throughout the supply chain,” she says.
Payne says that there’s now a wealth of data available about materials. The plan is to store this information using blockchain technology that ensures data is trustworthy and unchangeable so that stakeholders can be assured that the records are accurate.
Payne says the value comes from collating the data.
“It’s not necessarily, you know, knowing that you’ve got a pallet full of waterproofing on your site. What you want to know is where did that waterproofing come from? What certifications happened upstream in that waterproofing?”
And with the installers themselves, he says it’s not necessarily useful knowing the name of the company but having a historical account of the quality of their work that matters.
This data will then be used to inform a rating against the trustworthy index, and can be used to monitor and maintain a building throughout its lifetime.
“This is not about reinventing certification”
Payne says this is not about “reinventing the certification process” but is instead an exercise in “building transparency”.
This transparency feeds into the confidence felt by legislative authorities, certifiers, financial backers, insurance companies, and of course, customers.
Man says it will function as an incentive-based model to drive the industry toward higher quality buildings, not unlike how NABERS has been used to improve the sustainability performance of buildings by benchmarking them.
“Buildings that have a higher NABERS rating become more attractive to tenants and good quality tenants, because that’s what they’re looking for. It should be the same here in terms of the quality of the building.”
It will also help insurers better calculate risk, resulting in lower premiums. Man also adds that while regulation can be effective, policing it remains a challenge.
“So we need the market to actually try and incentivise itself to actually want to produce these buildings.”
Payne says that the ratings will help to “lift the standards for everybody”.
“So if you want to play in this space, and you want to be known as a trustworthy player that has trustworthy buildings, then this is what you have to do.”
Hear more from Yin Man and William Payne at who will be joined in the session by Laszlo Peter head of blockchain services for KPMG at our Moonshot 2030 event.