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To Get Technology Right, Multifamily Developers Need To Start Talking To Operators


The building design process is flawed. Developers of multifamily blocks are missing the chance to create a technologically advanced asset that will meet residents’ needs both today and in the foreseeable future. This is the view of Mariam Rogers, director of multifamily sales at smart access control provider Brivo.

“Right now, there is a discrepancy between what property developers install and what property operators know is needed to make residents happy,” she said. “Until there is a joined-up process that brings operators into the decision-making process early on, developers risk creating an asset that will need to be updated very soon. This not only brings cost but could lose residents.”

Today, a whole range of technologies need to be installed in a multifamily development to create the experience that residents are looking for, Rogers said. The starting point is to install managed WiFi, which provides the digital backbone for the technology stack.

Managed WiFi is an outsourced wireless network that allows residents or visitors to connect to the internet across an entire property — no more dropping calls in elevators or in the parking lot. The need for managed WiFi has become even stronger now that many people work from home, at least part of the time. People need to be able to hold reliable Zoom calls over a fast connection.

From this foundation, every other system and tool can operate seamlessly throughout a property, such as an access control system that gives residents access to not only their apartment, but all common areas. Using managed WiFi, an access control system can work from WiFi rather than cellular, providing greater security and reliability.

Rogers said the challenge is that property developers don’t yet see the value in all this technology. They are there to build apartments; they’re not in the building every day, seeing how the real estate is being used.

“The industry needs to bridge the gap, for developers to see what residents want,” she said. “The operations team needs to communicate to a developer the technology stack that they know is needed to create resident happiness.”

Conversely, the developer also needs to get buy-in for an asset from an operations team during design and once it’s completed, Rogers said. The operations team needs to be excited about the asset, as they’re the ones who will be selling it to potential residents. One way to do that is to demonstrate that a high level of technology has been installed.

Resident happiness isn’t the only factor at stake when developers miss out on installing modern technology — installing today can save them from costly retrofits down the line. 

“It is much more costly to retrofit to bring an asset up to the right level of technology,” Rogers said. “That cost will come out of an opex [operating expenses] budget rather than capex [capital expenditures]. All technology is an investment but investing early on means that a building will be future-proofed.”

Rogers said that along with future-proofing a building against increasing technology requirements, being proactive can make it possible to lease a space faster. It might also command a higher price from a potential purchaser who knows that they won’t have to invest in more technology just a few years down the line.  

Once a developer is engaging with the operations team early in the design process, the next stage is to work with a trusted technology provider. By working with a provider from the early stages, a more coherent technology structure can be created for a building.

“This again will future-proof a building, as a long-term strategy can be created with a provider early on,” Rogers said. “More and more devices and digital services are going to be adopted in multifamily blocks as they come to market, and the right provider can support with their rollout.”

This article was produced in collaboration between Brivo and Studio B. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.

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