Build-to-rent and proptech in the covid era

Oscar Brooks, director at Moda Living

As one of the UK’s fastest growing housing brands, it is our duty to make a mark on the rental sector. We realise more than ever the fundamental role technology plays in the day-to-day experiences of our residents, and how crucial it is to the future success and sustainability of the wider BTR sector.

We understand that a brand’s approach to technology can help to set the agenda for the future of residential. To fast-track tech-enablement, partnering with best in class tech brands can ensure that connectivity and continued innovation enables operators to respond quickly to residents’ ever-changing needs, and in the short term, a new way of living in a Covid-19 world.

Since the pandemic, 82% of employees now intend to work from home more than once a week (JLL). With more people working and spending time at home, residents are demanding access to more workspace, outdoor space, community space, and well-being provision. As high-quality communal space is at the heart of what BTR offers, residents’ usually benefit from communal lounges, Work From Home (WFH) and co-working space, cinema rooms, dining rooms etc., and we only see the popularity of this increasing. But what role can landlords play in ensuring resident’s health & safety during a global pandemic, something no one could have predicted?

Resident feedback, and operational intelligence made it evident that protecting residential communities was vital. We have re-tuned existing IoT technology to help manage the spread of Covid via managed service provider Utopi to keep the virus out of our neighbourhoods.

This can be managed in three core ways; thermal screening with an instant pass or fail temperature check, people counting cameras to manage social distancing and resident volume in communal spaces, and IoT sensors that track the usage of assets in the building to inform a data driven cleaning regime.

We believe the residential space can pave the way for the commercial property space too. IoT technology enables operators to track usage and occupancy in real-time of shared spaces like the gym, roof terrace, co-working desks, and library. In turn this helps to manage social distancing. By generating data for individual areas (i.e. co-working, gym, library, bathrooms), floors (i.e. the roof terrace) or aggregating data across the whole building, you can monitor and manage total resident or guest numbers at any given time.

State-of-the-art thermal screening takes a millisecond and tests the temperature of residents entering for example the gym, with an instant pass or fail light. This data will helps to make informed decisions operationally, and residents who fail the screening can then follow the agreed internal process to ensure the safety of their neighbours.

PIR sensors help to automate and track cleaning regimes in areas including bathrooms, private dining room, gyms, and co-working desks. For example, you can automate a cleaning regime after a co-working desk is evacuated, after which the maintenance staff tag the sensor relating to the area, they have cleaned which tells the sensor this area is now clear for the next resident to book and use.

In short, IoT technology supplies the aggregated data needed to determine what residents can and cannot do during specific times – especially useful during a pandemic. Longer term, IoT technology such as Utopi’s multi-sensor allows landlords to track and control air quality in real-time, including temperature, humidity, light, noise, and CO2 – all key wellness factors which generate a wellness score. Ensuring residents privacy is always maintained, data is anonymous and aggregated to help run an efficient operation with health, safety, and wellbeing at the forefront.

Post-Covid, this IoT technology will help lower maintenance and utility costs, improving residents living experience, and increase the long-term value and sustainability of assets by making buildings safer, healthier, and more affordable. By designing, installing, and managing a smart infrastructure, providing IoT powered data analytics and insight, you can change the way future buildings are designed as well as facilitating the repurposing of existing spaces. This technology alone can offer 20%+ savings on energy and 45% on reactive maintenance per annum. If you can make a building cost less to operate then it’s going to be worth more in time.

Outside of adapting tech to fight the pandemic, investment in technology is a necessity for a new breed of renter. It allows operators to keep residents connected to one another, share important news, events, offers and experiences – especially during a lockdown! Smart tech also has the capability of enabling residents to pay rent, gain keyless entry into their apartments, book sessions at the gym and ‘clean’ desks in the co-working areas.

Partnering with innovative tech scale-ups like wellness tech brand Hero on physical and nutritional health, fintech Canopy for residents’ financial wellbeing and MYNDUP for mental health, technology can offer a positive impact on body and mind.

To conclude, technology is already improving building management, delivering cost savings for residents, lowering energy consumption, supporting a net-zero carbon strategy, and increasing the sustainability of buildings and their long-term asset value. By adopting technology, we can all start to future-proof the residential sector and adapt to the new norm!