A look ahead to 2018.

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Change is coming.

The age of solely relying on data in property and environmental risk assessment is being rapidly replaced with a demand for interpretation, risk transfer and professional opinion. Over the past few years there has been a visible shift in the way that professionals and the public perceive hazards such as contaminated land and flood. Where historically data alone was enough to accept due diligence, interpretation is now a standard in assessing and managing these environmental issues. However, until recently the understanding of the physical, financial and legal liabilities associated with ground hazards has been largely neglected. In 2016, only 1 in 100 property valuations* considered any risks the ground poses and less than 20% of all property transactions included a structural building survey**.

Until recently, hazards such as sinkholes, subsidence and ground instability were seen to be a generic physical risk that could not be practically actioned, did not impact upon a property transaction and held no tangible links to any financial or legal liability. This perception was linked to a lack of innovation in both the data and modelling of risks within the ground, compounded by the misconceptions of where and how property and environmental data is stored, managed and owned.   

The barriers and monopolies that were historically perceived to limit the use and therefore the development of property and environmental data have fallen one by one over the past few years and particularly throughout 2017. The government have ramped up their concerted effort to continue making data available and new technology and demand has inspired innovation in data modelling and application. The expectation for 2018 is that this will continue; data sharing and ‘OpenData’ will become more common, academic research will be more frequently (and easily) commercialised and principally in environmental risk assessment, there will be a continued shift from data query to data interpretation.

In 2018, Terrafirma will continue influencing to inform, innovating property and environmental data and digging deeper than ever before into new and existing datasets. As an example, following a collaboration with Ordnance Survey in the summer of 2017, Terrafirma uncovered the records off over 10,000 additional mine entries across the UK and in 2018, our teams will pursue even more exciting research and development ventures, collaborating with the British Geological Survey on exciting new data modelling projects. With our academic and commercial partners, the Terrafirma team will continue identifying trends and patterns, modelling ‘big data’ and more importantly, focus on the translation of results into a useable application and tailored answers for a specific audience or use. It is shaping up to be an exciting year ahead.

*Statistics from a valuation panel involved in over 30% of all mortgage transactions per annum.

**Statistics from a major UK Insurance Broker and from research published by RICS.