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Digital art of mapping

How do you navigate your way through unfamiliar roads and cities nowadays? Using an atlas or an A-Z? Unlikely. In all likelihood you will be guided to your destination by a satnav or even a smartphone.Digital mapping has come along way in a short space of time and has quickly become an invaluable tool for governments and companies around the world. Why? Because digital mapping isn’t just about finding the best route or avoiding traffic, but about showing information relating to a certain geographical area.That could be physical things – roads, buildings, paths, trees, fields, manholes – or statistical data – crime figures, temperature, age groups, land owners, dog owners, voters, viewers of The Great British Bake Off. The possibilities are endless, which is why more and more organisations are turning to geographic information systems – or GIS – to collect, plot, store, analyse, integrate, visualise and share data to informtheir decision-making.Clear and accurate dataThe benefits to housing providers of accurate mapping and data collection are clear:

  • Providing clarity of areas owned by the client
  • Visibility of assets and their relationship to one another
  • Relative value of assets, as well as risks and liabilities
  • Identifying communal spaces and tenant responsibilities
  • Providing clear understanding of maintenance requirements by site
  • Aids resource planning and management
  • Producing accurate measurements, enabling competitive pricing and, consequently, fair service charging
  • Reducing service charge queries
  • And can incorporate other relevant assets, such as trees and hedges.

However, despite the clear benefits, currently just 10% of social landlords use GIS*. But for how much longer?For Mears, GIS proved an invaluable tool in taking over a complex contract with Wandle Housing that covered a vast area of South London, encompassing 10 Local Authorities and around 300 sites.The scope of the contract for grounds maintenance includes, grass cutting and landscape enhancements, shrub bed maintenance, hedge trimming, minor tree maintenance and weed control on hard services. For cleaning, the services provided vary from the cleaning of internal communal areas and external areas, to window cleaning, bulk refuse and deep clean. Reactive services include graffiti removal, lamp replacements, and tree surgery.Future developments“Through TerraQuest – a Mears subsidiary specialising in data capture and GIS mapping – we are able to offer customers a bespoke asset capture service,” explains Estates Services Director at Mears Jerry Lipscombe.“This gives us the ability to formulate an extremely accurate pricing framework for the client, as well as offering a unique solution in assessing and recording their asset portfolio.“This helps us to create added value to the service we provide. Wandle Housing is greatly impressed by the bespoke package of services we were able to provide and there is real potential for us to develop this into a tool for tenants to access in the future.”But the benefits of GIS to housing providers needn’t stop there. Inside Housing reports that one housing group is using it “to pinpoint which residents are most affected by the bedroom tax, identify a rent arrears hotspot, or check how far an elderly resident lives from a pay point.”*Again, the possibilities are endless. And all this information is just a few clicks away.


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