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DALL·E 2024-06-27 09.05.26 - A greyscale image representing a UK Real Estate Data Manifest

The RED Foundation Calls On UK Government To Go Data-First On Built Environment Policy

The Real Estate Data Foundation has called on the next government to put data at the heart of future policy affecting the built environment. 


With housing and planning seen as fundamental drivers of economic growth and productivity, the RED Foundation is asking ministers to consider how data can improve safety and, potentially, speed up delivery of homes and critical infrastructure.  


Setting out its key “asks” of government, the RED Foundation is calling for five data principles to be applied to policy that affects the built environment: 


Data Ethics by Default:  build data ethics into all built environment activity and policy 

As the built environment evolved from concrete blocks to a digital platform, more and more data is being collected. This can bring many benefits and government is actively encouraging the collection and use of data across all corners of the sector. However, this must be done ethically, and we call on government to proactively consider digital implications and data ethics in all future activity around the built environment. 


Effective implementation of Data Standards 

At the heart of effective data usage are implemented data standards. A single data standard for the whole built environment, for all use cases cannot be achieved, but we urge the government to include links to existing standards in new law or policy and only encourage new data standards where there are not suitable ones in existence already. Furthermore, any new requirements should be addressed by enhancing existing, interoperable standards wherever possible. New standards are rarely required and should therefore be avoided wherever possible. 


Government Built Environment Data Task Force 

Data is at the heart of many government policies, including improving the planning process, housing provision, building safety, renters reform, sustainability and public sector asset management, yet there is little cohesion across government departments in their data approach. With data becoming an ever more critical consideration, we urge the future government to create a cross-government Built Environment Data Task Force, reporting directly to the Secretary of State for the department responsible for policy affecting the built environment. This focus would provide cohesion to the government’s approach to data. 


Continue to drive use of the UPRN 

The use of a single, managed ‘Unique Property Reference Number’ would benefit the whole property sector and built environment, both public and private. We urge government to continue the adoption of the UPRN in all existing public sector data sets where relevant, to mandate it in planning guidance and the 2015 General Development Procedure Order, new data sets and systems relevant to the built environment and to continue to remove barriers from public sector adoption. This includes improving local authority processes for early creation of UPRNs (and USRNs), and prompt, proactive maintenance of these key resources. 


Catalyst for data innovation in the built environment 

We urge government to build on the existing foundations of data innovation such as Geovation or the DLUHC Planning focused PropTech Innovation Fund. It should in particular target existing vehicles affecting the built environment, such as Innovate UK, Catapults or R&D tax credits. 


Chris Lees, chair of the RED Foundation Data Standards Steering Group, said: “With housing and planning at the centre of political debate, and AI rapidly moving up the agenda, it’s vital the next government gives proper consideration to the data implications of effective built environment policy. We need smart, buildings, cities and places to realise these headline policy ambitions. DLUHC and the Geospatial Commission have already moved data to closer to the centre of policy. It’s critical the next government goes further and faster in doing so.” 



The RED Foundation is an initiative set up to ensure the real estate sector benefits from an increased use of data, avoids some of the risks that this presents and is better placed to serve society. It is an alliance of sector wide representative bodies and individuals. 


We do this in two primary ways: 

1.      Connecting people, projects and initiatives around the topic of data in the built environment 

2.       Raising the sector's engagement with the ethical challenges that the use of data can present 


We aim to act impartially, objectively and openly. We are focused on the application of data across the whole real estate sector and built environment and strive to avoid reinventing wheels. 

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