Is It Time To Become SMART?

Is It Time To Become SMART?

As we approach the mid-part of the 21st century, is it time to consider providing 21st century properties for our tenants? We know many were built in the time of Queen Victoria, but as landlords each property faces a continual cycle of upgrade, refurbishment and renewal - so as part of that, should we be considering Smart technology, leading edge energy solutions and maybe, even reconfiguring the way people live?

Your 1st thought is probably that if you were building new, of course you would check out all this clever stuff but with an old Victorian terraced house, what can you do?

Your 2nd thought might be that if there was a real need, then housing associations and local councils would be doing this stuff with their properties. They are not, so why should we?

Before we attempt to answer either of those, lets look at something completely different - it is new build, it is commercial and it is nowhere nearby - but it is still worth a look.

"The Edge” is a 40,000 sq ft. building in the Zuidas business district of Amsterdam. It exemplifies how a smart building can leverage technology to help improve all aspects of a company’s workspace – from building management and energy to lighting and security.

Designed according to the “New World of Work” principles, the building challenges traditional corporate organizational structures. The Edge features a glass exterior, large open floor plans for flexible work spaces, and a dramatic 15-story atrium filled with natural light and surrounded by balconies.

So - a pretty building but what is so special we hear you ask? As one of the most sustainable buildings in the world with a BREEAM-NL rating of 98.36 percent, the Edge features a broad range of integrated facility management
and energy solutions: an electrical distribution system, IT infrastructure, control devices, and power-monitoring software. Sensors, valves, actuators, and other BEMS-compatible and connected field devices were installed in ceilings and in technical rooms to create a smarter building that makes the Internet of Things  a reality (Internet of Things or IoT, another term that  describes Smart technology).  OK - we probably lost you there - so lets think about what this amazing looking building can do for its occupants..

The Deloitte building in Amsterdam

The building, constructed for the professional-services firm Deloitte, contains some 28,000 IoT sensors that monitor LED lights, temperature, humidity, infrared and motion, among many other internal building aspects. Sensors can alert cleaning staff of the day’s most heavily used work areas, for example, and provide security information via an automated security robot that patrols the grounds at night.

These sensors and other systems also help employees as they go about their work day. Using a proprietary Deloitte app, employees can find a desk (there are no preassigned offices or cubicles), get access to car and bicycle parking and the company gym, adjust the heating in a specific workspace, and find colleagues, among other tasks. In addition, the Edge is a net-zero energy building, producing 102 percent of its own energy via solar panels that line the building’s roof and southern wall. Other eco-friendly features include aquifer thermal energy storage, motion sensor activated ventilation, and rainwater harvesting.

So lets get back to the original two questions. Why aren't councils and housing associations doing this stuff - well to some extent they are, there is a little bit of solar power here and there and the affordable homes Radian built by the bowling green at Copnor bridge use about as much power as it takes to boil a kettle, they are so well insulated. But generally, these providers cater for the less able and are also trying to do so on a budget to keep housing at the low end of affordable, so for them, it is not a priority. Having said that, it is unbelievable that these organisations have not looked at rainwater harvesting, sustainable drainage systems or micro-anaerobic digesters - apart from the cost savings any of these applied to some of our local estates would solve our nitrates problem overnight.

Maybe allocating sleeping spaces in HMO's in the order people arrive each day is a step too far in the use of technology for us, so what can you do to a Victorian terrace? Well, believe it or not, you have probably started without realising - you have insulated, you have upgraded the boiler to a condensing boiler, you have added thermostatic radiator valves on all of the radiators, many have switched utilities to greener suppliers and some of you have also added solar power. So we are all on the path already - the key is to gain an advantage by using these new capabilities where they work for you.  You remember the days of the landlord with a chain of keys, fumbling to find the right one? Now look at the serviced accommodation providers who send a code to the phone of their guests which operates the Smart lock and lets them into the property without the need for the landlord to attend, and stops working at the end of their designated stay. 

The challenge, as we constantly upgrade our properties, is to identify what will benefit our tenants and thus make our properties easier to let whilst ensuring happier tenants.  Next time the boiler needs replacing, is it a better bet to look at an air source heat pump? If there is a car port, is now the time to add a charger for the car? If you are going down this path, perhaps a battery storage system to store the excess from the solar power units and also, to allow you to get cheap overnight or time of day tariffs for the power usage - one thing ALL tenants worry about is the bills, and if you can give them a home that costs less to heat, has cheap electricity and which can be easily controlled then you are on to a winner.

What about the rest of the Smart universe? Would you be happier if your smoke detectors sent you a message on your phone when they go off? Would voice operated lights and switches be useful to a disabled tenant?  The list of possibilities is endless.  We will discuss some of them at our January meeting - do come along and let us know what you think.

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Written & oral information and advice from the Portsmouth & District Private Landlord's Association is given in good faith, but no responsibility whatsoever is accepted by the Association or it's officers for the accuracy of it's information & advice nor shall the Association be held responsible for the consequences of reliance upon such information.

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