Koon: Attribuild’s end-goal is to convert something intangible like design and spatial provisions into an objective and quantifiable data-set (Credit: Albert Chua/ EdgeProp Singapore)
SINGAPORE (EDGEPROP) - As an architect, Koon Wai Leong knows exactly what to look out for when it comes to measuring the usability of a residential space just by examining its floor plan. On the other hand, the average home buyer is not as astute, he observes. “Every weekend, I would receive calls or WhatsApp messages from friends asking me to look at floor plans to help them determine whether a unit is a good buy in terms of layout,” he says.
To address this gap, Koon founded Attribuild together with marketing strategist Aloysius Yeo, and another architect who is a silent partner. The start-up, founded some three years ago, provides analyses of floor plans and insight into their efficiency and liveability.
The analysis is based on a scoring system or what the start-up terms “GPA”. Similar to the grade point average representing the average value of the accumulated final grades calculated by schools, Attribuild measures and quantifies each unit layout against a 50-data-point matrix that it has patented. Each unit is then classified according to a spectrum ranging from below average to extraordinary.
As it stands, there are parameters that architects use to define the usability of such spaces. “All these parameters are used prevalently when architects design a residential unit because they enable developers to maxi-mise the efficiency of the space,” states Koon.
Same project, varying usability
Despite its prevalence, the use of these parameters is largely confined to industry practitioners. “The end-goal is to convert something intangible like design and spatial provisions into an objective and quantifiable data-set,” he says. With Attribuild, Koon and his partners hope to simplify and tailor the data-sets for home buyers to better compare the units they have shortlisted.
Currently, Attribuild has compiled the data-sets of 140,000 units, almost half of the private condo stock in Singapore. This data is available on its website that allows users to compare units. On paper, two similar-sized units may look the same to home buyers, but nuances in layout could affect the usability of the space. These usually escape the radar of home buyers until they collect their keys and move in.
Koon cites the example of a recent mega launch that offers a variety of layouts to appeal to buyers, ranging from singles to multi-generational families. For this project, Attribuild’s data-set reveals that the scores for the three-bedroom layouts offered range from average to very good, with grades varying from 2.4 to 3.3, out of 5.
He emphasises that even with differences in scores, not all buyers will necessarily select units based on higher scores, as factors such as prices and individual preferences come into play.
Yeo, who spearheads Attribuild’s digital and marketing strategy, agrees. He highlights that one factor that is the most difficult to circumvent is a project’s location. “When buyers and investors embark on their property hunt, they always think location, location, location. For those who are not in the real estate industry, the usability of a space is not even something they would consider because they don’t even know that this is an approach that should be taken,” he shares.
The focus on location also stems from a lack of data to allow home buyers to make informed decisions. According to him, many property-buying decisions are based on “gut feel” and emotions. He says: “If you analyse the consumer journey of someone buying a home, you will find that location is not really the first thing you think about. Instead, you will consider factors like the kind of space you need if you have two children, for instance.”
Yeo adds: “We’ve noticed that one of the most common questions that buyers ask when they visit a showflat is, ‘Can we fit a queen-sized or king-sized bed in this room?’ This question itself demonstrates the lack of knowledge and information prospective buyers have when it comes to evaluating the layout of a unit.”
Even with Attribuild’s data-set, Koon and Yeo acknowledge that one of the start-up’s biggest challenge is changing the mindset of everyone in the real estate industry. “The shift in mindset should not just happen on the consumer level. The whole industry from developers to property agencies need to see the value in this. Of course, this starts with the paymaster and that’s the consumer,” says Koon.
For now, the team is focused on providing data-sets and scoring of residential projects. This is largely derived from floor plans. In the future, Attribuild intends to incorporate other factors such as orientation and view from a unit into its scoring. “Eventually, we will reach a point where we can evaluate and score each unit,” says Koon.
On the consumer front, Yeo concedes that it is difficult to change buying habits and that it is unlikely prospective buyers will make Attribuild their first stop when buying a property. “But we have to start somewhere. For now, our hope is that prospective buyers will visit Attribuild in their decision-making journey, sometime between visiting the showflat and going to a geomancer,” he quips.
Attribuild’s findings can also help developers to fine-tune the layout of their projects. One of the start-up’s key findings is that the spatial provisions of projects constructed using the prefabricated prefinished volumetric construction (PPVC) method tend to trail behind those that adopt conventional construction methods.
Since November 2014, the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) has stipulated that selected sites offered in the Government Land Sales (GLS) programme need to adopt the use of PPVC for at least 65% of the total constructed floor area within residential developments. To be sure, benefits of the PPVC method include improved productivity, a better construction environment and greater quality control.
“It doesn’t mean that PPVC projects cannot improve their spatial provisions. With Attribuild, developers will be able to design a better product that addresses consumers’ needs while reducing the construction time with the PPVC method,” says Koon.
With the scoring matrix, Yeo notes that he and Koon were initially concerned about the reaction developers would have if a unit at their project was graded poorly. “The scoring is relative, but it is just like any other product. Different products fit different needs of consumers. Not everybody is looking for the same thing,” he shares. “Some units may not be at the top of the class but are ideal for some buyers whether it comes to budget, location or needs. What we are hoping to provide is a tool for buyers to make a more informed decision.”
In Attribuild’s pipeline are plans to roll out features to allow personalised scoring so that consumers can search for the units that are most suited to their needs and lifestyle.
Meanwhile, Attribuild is also involved in devising a portion of the methodology used for assessing submissions for EdgeProp Singapore Excellence Awards 2019, which benchmarks outstanding quality in property development. This is the second year that Attribuild is partnering EdgeProp Singapore. Koon observes that such partnerships enable the start-up to create brand awareness and adoption in the business-to-business (B2B) space.
As the platform gains traction, Koon has plans for Attribuild to gather user behaviour data. “This data is useful to not just home buyers but developers and property agencies as well. This will allow them to track market trends and enable them to design and market projects accordingly,” he says.
Attribuild also plans to expand overseas. It has obtained its patent in Singapore last year, and Koon intends to file for patents in other countries such as China, Japan, the UK and the US.
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