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Measuring the energy quality of a home with AI – Propflo – Business Innovation Fund

Company background

Propflo was established in Bristol in 2021 to provide a platform that helps people make better, faster and more sustainable property decisions.

The company founder, Luke Loveridge, has a background in Smart Cities, the Internet of Things (IoT) and has previously brought a property software platform (HomeLINK) to the market.

Following this, Luke observed the high failure rate of property transactions in the UK, with the ensuing stress, additional costs and time delays this caused to buyers and sellers. Lack of preparedness by these parties and insufficient access to relevant information were often the reason for this failure.

Responding to this, Luke established a business (Propflo Ltd) to explore how Artificial Intelligence (AI) could be used to provide additional insights into property transactions to give people the confidence to see them through to completion.

Propflo has developed a platform which includes an ‘Experian-like’ proprietary property score that takes account of multiple components contributing to the value of a property. In addition, homeowners can add context to this when preparing to sell their property.

Aim of their project

With housing being the source for over 25% of our carbon emissions, this is a key area to improve upon in order to meet Bristol, the West of England and the UK’s Net Zero targets.

Fewer than 50% of UK homes have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of C or above (the proposed target for domestic property that landlords and mortgage providers should meet within the next decade). However, research has shown that individuals are reluctant to make energy efficient upgrades, with home buyers ranking sustainability a lower priority than other home maintenance/upgrade requirements.

The Business Innovation Fund has supported Propflo with £20,000 in grant funding to help further develop their platform to increase the awareness of the benefits of energy efficiency and low carbon technologies (such as photovoltaics and battery storage) to both homeowners and buyers, with the aim of encouraging people to invest in their homes and incentivise developers to build more efficient homes including low carbon technologies.

The platform focuses on the point a property is being bought / sold, when it would be convenient for energy improvement works to take place, and when this could potentially be linked to financing of the property.

Currently, the commonly used property search portals only show the basic EPC rating of a home. This project will provide greater insights and contribute to raising standards for societal benefits.

“The Business Innovation Fund grant has come at the right time for us to take forward our ideas to help transform peoples’ understanding of the energy and carbon performance of their current and future homes. While the cost of living crisis means more people are becoming conscious of the issue, we have a way to help them take positive actions and to support the transition to net zero.”

Luke Loveridge, Founder and CEO:

What R&D will they undertake

The project will:

  • Develop the property scoring model to take account of a wide array of energy and sustainability criteria that will create insights for homeowners, buyers and sellers.
  • Undertake user research into how energy efficiency and sustainability information can be displayed in order to have the most impact.
  • Test the prototype property score with focus groups and in a limited live environment.
  • Work with the University of Bath to understand the business case and economic modelling of low carbon technologies to inform insights.

How it fits with BIF

There is a clear understanding of what challenges the project is looking to address, backed up by research and statistics.

It addresses two of the five priorities in the Combined Authority’s Business Plan: to tackle the climate and ecological emergency; to increase the availability of affordable places to call home; as well as the emerging West of England Climate and Ecological Strategy and Action Plan; and the UK’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) Grand Challenge.

It is at the right stage of development for the Business Innovation Fund as it will be bringing a developing product nearer to market through user testing and research (Technology Readiness Level (TRL) level 6 to level 7).

Particular strengths of their application

Propflo’s application was particularly strong in a number of areas:

  • It gave an excellent level of detail on the R&D to be undertaken, with each activity identified and itemised. The anticipated outcomes were clearly articulated.
  • There was a strong delivery team, with the relevant expertise of each team members well described and a plan for engaging future resource. The company would also draw upon knowledge from academics at the University of Bath’s new Net Zero Digital Energy System Lab.
  • There was an extremely good understanding of their competitors and the ‘state of the art’; they gave a clear assessment of how they differed from what was available on the market and why their product would provide a new and distinct offering.

Outputs and outcomes – economic benefits to WofE

The economic outputs from completing the project successfully would be one new product brought to market leading to an increased sales revenue of up to £1.5m over 5 years and the creation of 3 new jobs.