Smart buildings as game changers in the energy sector
As conventional buildings develop to become smart buildings, the role played by housing companies is changing. When comparing the changes seen in the energy sector over the past years with the future challenges in residential management, one does indeed find parallels. The roles, core competencies, and strategic direction of energy companies has changed enormously over the past decade. In times where the commodity business model is providing less and less margin, companies are focussing more on positioning themselves as customer-oriented service providers with new, innovative business models for the future in a sector that has a history of being conservative. Handling and leveraging large volumes of data as a foundation for developing value-adding services for end customers will have to represent a core competence for energy supply companies in the future. The residential management industry will find itself subjected to similar changes.
The adjustments in the legal parameters in connection with the general trend toward digitization, energy self-sufficiency, and a strong notion of service will also lead to changes in housing business models. Nearly all roles will be affected by these changes (see figure below). In the future, tenants will no longer be assessing an apartment or a property based on location or size alone, but also its “smartness.” The “smartness indicator” specified for buildings in the amended EU Directive 2010/31/EU was laid out in anticipation of that development. Housing management companies are going to have to react to these changes. Accordingly, organizational units responsible for energy services and digitization absolutely need to be included in the planning and setup processes for buildings. That is the only way to be in a position to react to future challenges today.
In a manner similar to the changes seen in the energy sector, landlords will be increasingly presenting themselves to tenants as (full) service providers. The foundation for future business models and services in the real estate industry will consist of the outfitting buildings, such as the installation of additional generation capacities, sensor and actuator systems, and an integrated central information and communication system. This ensures optimum handling of future data streams from intelligent electricity, water, and heat meters for business optimization of building automation.
Digitalization in the housing industry begins during construction
In the future, digitally logged consumption and supply values will be integrated into a tenant smart home system. In combination with further components like automated shutter and light control, it becomes possible to improve living quality for tenants while also increasing property value and, accordingly, rental income. Keyless entry systems featuring digital locking via app or chip make it easier for tenants and landlords to control access and make the handling of entire locking systems easier in the event of loss. Modern and smart apartments will be supplemented with numerous ambient assisted living (AAL) products. Floor sensors have automatic fall detection and trigger emergency services. Sensors in the bed furthermore provide for round-the-clock monitoring of heart frequency and fully automated intervention in an emergency situation. AAL systems are intended to facilitate independent living over the long-term, especially for older generations.
Moreover, the requirements for the creation of an e-mobility charging infrastructure will facilitate new opportunities for housing development companies to expand their service-driven business portfolio. For example, electric vehicles can be deployed for individual buildings or entire neighborhoods that have their own sharing model. Meanwhile, payment for these services is integrated in the rental contract (“tenant ticket”). As is the case in the energy industry, this means new roles are appearing and moving in the direction of a stronger focus on a service-based company portfolio. In order to be prepared for these changing roles, housing developers need to get started now on studying new business models, state of the art technology in sensor and actuator systems, and connectivity potential for smart homes and smart building systems.
Digitalization leads to more efficient processes in housing management
Housing and district management is becoming more and more digital. And digital natives aren’t the only ones to benefit here. In these times of “downaging,” where 60 to 70 is the new middle age, in the future the majority of the population will be demanding efficient and digital housing management. Furthermore, the phenomenon of urban growth is leading to crowding in living spaces. In the future, multi-family buildings will no longer be pure residential housing. Co-working spaces, childcare, and elderly care services will be available alongside community gardens, do-it-yourself workshops, and knowledge cafés for pursuing their personal interests. Servicing these various aspects will become easier in the future thanks to a digital tenant file which centrally stores all important contract documents. That means a landlord will be able to provide service for all parties via one easy-to-use, cost-efficient system. Tenants will be able to contact housing management swiftly and efficiently using chatbots. Any potential incidents of damage can be documented and reported directly via smartphone camera. Repairs can be booked on the system swiftly and easily using an online calendar, and the saving of master contracts makes billing easier for landlords. As is to be expected, the modified strategic orientation toward digital management of business processes and the disruptive change driven by the liberalization of the energy industry for years now will also likewise become manifest in housing management. That means residential management companies need to get started with digital solutions today in order to not miss out on the digital transformation.
There are many parallels between network and building control
Processing the data streams from smart buildings via corresponding IT systems is presenting the housing industry with challenges similar to those in the energy industry. The quality of that processing will depend on how well the quantities of data from intelligent electricity, water, and heat meters merge into a comprehensive energy management system. The latter will be necessary in order to comply with legal requirements in energy efficiency. Additionally, the eco home ratings of a building will be represent a stronger criterion when choosing housing among tenants in the future.
Moreover, future asset management based on the collection and analysis of building data (big data) and predictive analytics will cause a significant increase in efficiency in housing management because unnecessary maintenance work and costs can be held to a minimum. In particular, significant improvements in costs and efficiency are offered by building access management via cloud-based key management. It therefore makes sense that housing management companies are already obliged to evaluate the lessons learned and opportunities of data-based building management and to implement potential process requirements with respect to staff education and training in order to meet these new roles.
In summary, the housing industry is currently in disruptive transformation analogous to what the energy industry has been experiencing since 2009. New digital use cases and business cases will grow in importance in the years to come. What was formerly a commodity-centered sector is now expanding its conservative portfolio by placing a stronger focus on data-based services. Residential management companies need to react to these changing roles starting now, or find strong local partners from the energy sector. Q_PERIOR is a well-established partner for the disruptive transformation caused by digitalization and process optimization, and not only in the energy industry. We have successfully accompanied our customers through digital transformation for years at the interface between business and IT.