The charity-owned insurer teams up with English Heritage to reduce costs at the 18th century property

Specialist insurer Ecclesiastical has partnered with charity English Heritage and technology business Shepherd to install sensors at 18th century stately home Kenwood House, to minimise operational costs and better prevent losses or interruptions.

The scheme, which is being piloted at Kenwood House, is part of Ecclesiastical’s loss prevention innovation programme.

It involves the use of battery-operated sensors, which are deployed across the property in order to monitor environmental changes within the building.

The technology begins by learning what normal looks like across the Hampstead Heath stately home; then, the sensors can send real-time data to be analysed. This works alongside Kenwood House’s existing building management and environmental monitoring systems.

The pilot programme aims to alert estate staff to issues such as potential breakdowns, electrical fires and water leaks in order to minimise the loss of equipment or any damage to the building and its collections; this includes, for example, Kenwood House’s art collection, which features works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Gainsborough, Reynolds and Turner.

Nicola Duncan-Finn, senior estates manager at English Heritage, said: “This is an exciting pilot project for English Heritage. The application of live real-time monitoring has huge potential to revolutionise the management of heritage estates in a sustainable way.

“This partnership with Ecclesiastical will enable us to minimise risks to the building and its irreplaceable collections by cost-effective evidence-based preventative maintenance.

“We’ll be able to identify issues in real-time and take preventative steps before maintenance issues become too large and costly. The cost savings will also enable the charity to invest a greater percentage of its annual maintenance budgets on the delivery of exemplary conservation work across the estate.”

Managing costs

Ecclesiastical and its partners predict that the scheme will reduce operational costs, such as energy and maintenance bills at Kenwood House by 25%, as well as help to better prevent losses and gain a greater understanding of the building’s assets and performance.

Faith Kitchen, heritage director at Ecclesiastical Insurance, said: “As the UK’s leading insurer of Grade I listed buildings, we’re passionate about protecting Britain’s heritage. As part of our innovation programme, we’re delighted to be partnering with English Heritage and Shepherd to pilot this cutting-edge technology.

“While many modern buildings, such as The Shard, have sophisticated monitoring services built in by design, this is the first time this technology has been piloted within an 18th century house. We know that rising energy costs and incidents such as escape of water can be distressing for customers, which is why we’re piloting innovative solutions to detect issues as early as possible.”

Stephen Chadwick, chief executive at Shepherd, added: “We are delighted to be supporting Ecclesiastical and English Heritage. Our analysis adds a new lens to view the performance of the property and we hope that it helps to keep Kenwood House and its contents safe for many years to come.”

Ecclesiastical is a specialist faith, heritage, fine art, charities, education and private client insurer owned by charity Allchurches Trust.