In January, I wrote about London-based environmental consultancy SouthFacing and its TrackerPlus online Software-as-a-Service solution to help BRE-licensed BREEAM assessors manage their workload. This week, I visited the company’s Islington offices and met Ben Cartmell to find out more about the application and its potential future direction.
TrackerPlus is the latest design tool created by a seven-year-old business focused on supporting more sustainable construction processes. Ben, a former solar energy researcher (with a PhD in this field) and WhitbyBird associate, explained the self-funded business had grown by delivering consultancy services, and by creating and selling related applications. Ben’s consultancy projects have included various landmark London buildings including Olympic Park venues and the London Bridge development around the Shard, while one of the company’s its earliest products was a ‘carbon checker’ energy consumption analysis tool that was eventually sold to BuildDesk.
SouthFacing’s software development work is strongly linked to the information needs of specialist environmental assessment consultants, and TrackerPlus, launched in early 2011, was a direct response to the needs of BRE Licensed Assessors to support their work during all the stages of BREEAM or Code for Sustainable Homes appraisal. The application – “created by assessors for assessors” – captures information throughout the process, from pre-assessment analyses right through to certification reports. In between, users can use reporting tools to track assessments, monitor how BREEAM/CSH scores are being updated dynamically, and compile all the necessary reference documentation. For the end-user, TrackerPlus provides a powerful management dashboard covering all their ongoing projects, simplifying design inputs, improving efficiency and reducing risk.
A browser-based SaaS application, TrackerPlus is securely hosted with all the back-up protocols you would expect for a service focused on compliance and auditability. The system is licensed to BRE-registered assessor organisations, who invite relevant project team members. The system currently has over 250 accredited BREEAM/CSH professional users, delivering over 800 assessments with more than 3000 design team users granted access. Given the project-focused nature of the work, the software is licensed on a per-project basis, encouraging authorised users to collaborate with and exchange information with all relevant design and construction colleagues throughout the BREEAM process.
Users log-in using a user-name and password to access a website specific to their ongoing BREEAM/CSH projects, and the system provides options for on-screen and email alerts about items needing their attention. Red-amber-green reporting tools feature strongly to help provide at-a-glance indications of any changes, and Ben showed me several areas where BRE had advised on specific data-entry requirements to check assessors were consciously inputting the right information.
An integration opportunity?
As in January, I could quickly see parallels between TrackerPlus and governance, regulatory and compliance applications developed by construction collaboration technology vendors to support other design and construction-related processes – for example, compilation of health and safety information, and administration of NEC3 contract change management processes (indeed, the latter has echoes of BRE’s approach, with the NEC endorsing and licensing its contract guidance notes, etc – see post – to two content providers: 4Projects and conject, formerly BIW).
Given that many BREEAM/CSH discussions will take place within a far wider project context, there is clearly merit in integrating TrackerPlus into information flows across a project team. This would also avoid the creation and maintenance of parallel systems containing duplicate information. Ben and I discussed ways in which TrackerPlus might link to construction collaboration technology platforms (I’ll spare you the technical details).
TrackerPlus is already a substantial offering, codifying a considerable amount of information produced by BRE and needed by registered BREEAM/CSH assessment organisations, and SouthFacing has been proactive in researching its users’ needs as it has continued development. As a result, it has strong backing from both BRE (it was the first software system to be awarded a BREEAM badge of recognition and the only one that links directly to BRE’s QA and certification process) and from its community of BREEAM professional users.
It would certainly add functionality and differentiation to any collaboration platform used in a project pursuing a BREEAM rating (industry clients are, of course, becoming increasingly carbon-conscious, and with energy analysis aspects of building information modelling, BIM, this is likely to grow further). Perhaps SouthFacing might look to license its technology to one or more of the established SaaS construction collaboration vendors vendors to extend its reach, expand adoption of the BREEAM approach, and integrate it into project-wide collaborative working?
(PS: Like me, you can also follow @TrackerPlus on Twitter.)