A building passport for life

A building passport could operate as a single point for all the information associated with a building throughout its life cycle


  • Ursula Hartenberger
  • Fabrizio Varriale

18 April 2020

For years, the lack of data collection, storage and sharing practices has been a barrier to ensuring efficient, modern construction and real estate. Repeated collection of missing or unreliable information causes delays and extra costs in the real-estate life cycle. Where data is unavailable, it affects decision-making about the economic social and environmental performance of buildings, and contributes to a continuing lack of transparency. The advance of digitalisation means awareness of the value of data has increased among organisations, but there remains a lack of standardisation, validation and sharing practices.

The idea of a platform that enables and standardises collection, storage and sharing of building-related data has emerged as a response to these issues. Generally referred to as the building passport or property log book, this provides a digital identity for buildings in a controlled and protected environment, like digital medical records.

Though not a new concept, its full potential has not been realised. The building passport can be a single point of input access and visualisation for all the information associated with a buildings life cycle; it can enable data transfer, so specific stakeholders can retain control over access to sensitive information. Virtually all building-related information can either be stored on the platform or located in separate storage, accessible by a secure link.

"The building passport can be a single point of input, access and visualisation of all the information associated with a building's life cycle"

Although the building passport overlaps conceptually with the digital twin, the latter focuses on the operation of buildings through direct interaction in real time via the internet of things. The passport, while less dynamic, provides a long-term identity and more information for the building.

From a global perspective. differences between countries in terms of construction and property regulations, building stock conditions and uptake of digital technologies require the building passport to be flexible and adaptable to the local context. Large-scale roll-out of the building passport would mean significant cost savings, increased efficiency, greater transparency, and better decision-making and risk mitigation for stakeholders. It could also reduce delays in real-estate transactions, as the University of Oxford report The future of real estate transactions indicates.

Several issues must be resolved to enable such a roll-out, though, particularly in relation to data management practices - namely the need for standards for data recording and exchange, clear protocols for data ownership and protection, and processes for data validation. RICS initiatives on data standards can clearly help to address these issues.

Many existing initiatives are related to the building passport concept including:
  • Australian pilot for an electronic building passport
  • Dutch Madaster platform
  • energy performance certificates
  • EU-funded projects – Individual Building Renovation Roadmaps and Buildings As Material Banks – and feasibility study on a European building renovation passport
  • Flemish Woningpas
  • French Passeport Efficacite Energetique
  • UK Home Information Pack.

RICS is leading Work Group 5 of the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction, which is developing guidelines for building passport schemes across the world. It is also working with the UK Ministry of Housing Communities & Local Government and the industry-led homebuying and selling group to explore the role of RICS standards in collecting detailed upfront information, in a new digital approach to buyers' and sellers' information for residential properties. A pilot publication is scheduled for later this year, with a UK property log book scheme to follow.

Ursula Hartenberger is head of global sustainability and Fabrizio Varriale is a global research assistant at RICS uhartenberger@rics.org  fvarriale@rics.org

Related competencies: Sustainability

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