Industry must share to create database

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The insurance industry should come together and create a national database of repair data and repair...

The insurance industry should come together and create a national database of repair data and repair costs on damaged buildings, a leading practitioner has said.

Robert Vandewinkel, a senior consultant at Mtech Group, told delegates that it has so far been difficult to establish the cost of repairing buildings that have been built with modern methods of construction - or offsite, as he prefers to term it.

"It is currently very hard to establish the cost of these new builds because insurers are not keen on sharing their data, due to concern over losing their competitive edge", he said.

"Insurers need to consider sharing repair data and repair costs on damaged buildings with the creation of a nationwide database. In addition, there needs to be an increase in communication between the insurance and construction industry - perhaps through the creation of an underwriters' laboratory - something that has already been done in North America."

Mr Vandewinkel said that offsite construction offers a lot of advantages. "Construction normally done on site is taken into factories, which gives the labour force much better working conditions. Offsite also involves better quality controls, quicker erection time on site and a lesser need for skilled labour." He said the main risk with these types of construction related to on-site fires before completion of the building.

However, Mr Vandewinkel also pointed out that offsite still remains a "little fish in a big big pond".

"In 2005, the construction industry did about £80bn in turnover and offsite was only £1.5bn of this so it is still relatively small."

Ian Gough, technical adviser for Fireco, said he feared that unqualified or misguided consultants, or just plain rogues, were stepping in to provide inadequate fire safety assessments in the wake of the Government's decision to make building occupiers, rather than the Fire Service itself, responsible for assessing fire risks.

Doug Shaw, secretary of the Property Claims Forum, said the main barrier to collaboration across the insurance industry was the perception that if insurers work together they will lose their competitive edge. Robert Vandewinkel, a senior consultant at Mtech Group, warned that being so greedy of their own information will stop the industry from coming together and hinder any future development. "Insurers should not forget the saying that the whole is more than the sum of its parts."

Post's inaugural Property Management Briefing, which addressed both underwriting and claims issues, attracted more than 100 specialist delegates from across the sector. Outside of the main presentations were four focused workshops, which addressed data issues, arson and property insurance fraud, claims repair standards and environmental repair.

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