Rental Tech: The iButler, Smart Home Security, and Elegant Urban design

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Some buildings have a concierge; these apartment residents in Sydney get an “iButler”

ButlerPlenty of apartment buildings in Seattle have a concierge desk for tenant convenience. But can your concierge do your grocery shopping, organize a baby-sitter, or wash your car? Residents of  the Avantra building in Sydney will have access to a technology called iButler. Accessible via iPhone or the mounted iPad in the apartment, the app can be used to organize just about any service a tenant could need–and even gives housekeepers and other staff temporary access to the apartment, and charging residents on one convenient monthly bill. Sounds fun–and pricey. Read more.

With the rise of smart homes and apartments, new security risks rise as well

smart home securityWe’ve been hearing a lot of the past few years about how smart homes and apartments will make our lives easier, greener and more efficient. But as with any new technology, the emergence of wifi-accessible, computer-controlled gadgets in the home leads to new possibilities for hacking and other threats from outside. These gadgets were one focus of the annual Black Hat and Def Con computer security conference held last week. Hackers at the conference successfully gained control over smart door locks, power outlets, and even luxury toilets. As these technologies become more widely used, there’s no doubt manufacturers will begin to build in stronger safeguards–look like it’s time to start! Read more.

My, what a beautiful wall socket: Japan re-invents the power outlet

Node Power Outlet, from MetaPhys of JapanIn case you’ve been wondering about the history of the electrical outlet lately, don’t bother–except to become safer, its design really hasn’t changed much over the years, and the design of the two-or three-prong plugs has never been particularly inspiring. But a design firm from Japan hopes to change all that with the introduction of a gorgeous, 360-degree electrical outlet they call the Node. The versatile design means plugs can fit into it at almost any angle, maximizing the socket’s usability. Sadly, there isn’t any third-prong support on the wall plate, which means this design won’t fly in the US–at least for now. But it makes us wonder how long it’ll be before power gets prettier on our apartment walls here in the US! Read more.

High-tech leasing tools making life easier for tenants and leasing agents alike

ID-10067547Remember just a few years ago, when iPads were a leasing-office innovation only a select few apartment communities had gotten ahold of? Fast forward to the present, and tablets are an essential tool in many leasing offices; and it turns out, that’s not the only technology taking hold. A new article from MHN highlights several such innovations, including touch tables and kiosks, which allow potential tenants to shop for apartments in the ways they’re used to even when they’re in the leasing office. The more tenants are able to feel in control, the better–and the ease of pulling up a floorplan or viewing available units even while a leasing agent is assisting other tenants can’t be beat. Read more.

Designers on the new urban lifestyle: Apartments should feature “elegant solutions”

ID-1009923There’s no question that tech gadgets have filled our apartments over the past ten years. As we look to the future of technology in the home, design firms such as Billings Jackson Design have visions of a simplified, more rewarding environment in which to live our urban lifestyles. As designer Duncan Jackson points out, “we are demanding more of the spaces we live in. We live there, work there, feed our friends and passions there.” As such, the firm envisions greater adaptability in our living spaces–elegant and useful rooms that are easily reconfigurable for multiple uses, and “lighting, surfaces and scent that can be adapted to reflect our mood and purpose.” Sounds perfect for apartments in downtown Seattle! Read more.

Rental Tech: Outdoor Living, Soundproofing the Floor, & Apartment Key Kiosks

 

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Wall Street Journal: Outoors–the new indoors!

The Concourse by Sunland (Interior & Patio)

It probably hasn’t escaped your notice–the increasing number of friends and relations developing, and furnishing, their backyards and outdoor spaces to become full-fledged extensions of their indoor living space–and according to the WSJ, the trend is here to stay. We’ve all seen the full-size outdoor couches, kitchens and amenities that homeowners have built into their plein-aire spaces…and with the current trends in smaller rental units with more outdoor and shared space, it’s only a matter of time before the trend comes full-force to the apartment industry. Current innovations include outdoor heating and cooling, as well as our favorite: automatic mosquito control.  Read more.

Apartment Therapy: Soundproofing upper floors is easier than you think.

Healthier Choice Pad: Ready for Carpet

If you own a multi-floor apartment building, you know: renters on upper floors can create quite the headache for those renting down below. If their headaches have become yours, you may want to think about installing soundproofing in the floors–and this article from Apartment Therapy lays out the easiest options. Most of the options involve a layer installed under carpeting, and won’t work in units with hardwood flooring; but if you do decide to use carpet, the choices for what to put under it are numerous, including “a dense cellulose fiberboard” called  440 Homasote. Read more.

Greentech: Multifamily energy use has dropped nearly 40% since 1980.

Look for this logo when considering your new r...

Good news for renters and landlords who are keen to be green–according to a new article from Greentech, households in multifamily buildings with 5 or more units use dramatically less energy than single-family homes. And that’s not all–since 1980, energy use in apartments has dropped by 38%, even with the split-incentive factor (where landlords shoulder part of the energy burden and reward, while tenants shoulder the other part). Energy use for heating has dropped even more drastically in the past thirty years–it’s down 50%! While multifamily units are understandably easier to heat and cool than single-family homes, which tend to be larger and have more windows and surfaces exposed to the outdoors, the fact that energy use has dropped so much within apartment households is encouraging–and much of the thanks is owed to more efficient technologies that have been installed as they have become available. See, technology’s not just fun–it saves the world! Read more.

Refinery 29: Locked out again? Go visit the kiosk!

Awhile back, we reported on a new smartphone lock in development–and now we’ve got more news on the “how will I ever get into my apartment?” front. This time, the news hails from New York City, where company KeyMe has installed the first of five locksmith kiosks (keyosks?) that allow people 24-hour access to a digital locksmith. Customers store a digital copy of their key for free, and can order a copy made while they wait, utilizing fingerprint security, for $19.99. No word yet on how, and if, this technology could figure into the rental market…could we see Concierge kiosks in our future? For now, we’ll see how KeyMe’s pilot program goes. Read more.

Rental Tech: Living Concrete, Housing Awards, & a Smartphone Door Lock

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Is “living concrete” the next big thing in building materials?

living concreteCould a single building material provide climate control, structural integrity, and reduce the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere? Sounds futuristic–but according to a new article from MHN, the future is now. Living concrete, created by a firm in Spain, utilizes three layers: a waterproof base, a layer hospitable to plant life, and a porous layer on top. The result is a concrete that is fairly lightweight and self-sustaining–and there’s no need for an additional support structure, as there often is with other structural vegetation. So how soon before moss-covered buildings start popping up downtown? Read more.

AIA Housing Awards feature multifamily building

Multifamily housing awardedThe 2013 AIA Housing Awards are out–and a multifamily building made the list! The awards feature “the best in housing design and promote the importance of good housing as a necessity of life, a sanctuary for the human spirit, and a valuable national resource.” So which multifamily building won? That’s Via Verde, an affordable housing complex in the Bronx. Firms Dattner and Grimshaw incorporated a terraced roof garden that collects rainwater and solar panels whose energy lights the building’s common areas. The mixed-use building incorporates townhomes and apartments, and features a colorful facade. Check out the Curbed article for a gallery of all the winners here.

Flexible shared space is proposed for mico-apartments

micro apartment shared spaceLove ’em or hate ’em, the micro-apartment seems to be here to stay. And while creative furnishings can make a micro unit pretty livable, there are just some aspects of daily life–entertaining, for instance–that are harder when you’re living in 400 square feet of space. One student wants to change that, however. Recent Northeastern graduate Chris Marciano has come up with a design for micro-lofts that incorporate a shared common space between them. The common spaces are designed to be easily accessible–no running down six flights of stairs to a common room–and flexible enough to accomodate different types of gatherings. Likening his design to something “between a multi-bedroom apartment, a studio and a dormitory,” Marciano notes that currently, “this is a housing typology that doesn’t really exist.” Whether it will be embraced is another question–millennials, are you ready to share the space?  Read more.

Coming to your apartment door: key entry by smartphone!

smart lockFinally today, we’ve got news on a gadget I really want. I mean, how cool is this–a door lock that can be activated just by touching the metal while your smartphone is in your pocket. Unikey Kevo, in partnership with Kwikset, has announced the project. Previously only seen in certain cars, the door lock technology has the option to use an actual key, in the event of battery failure, and allows you to manage multiple accessers and grant temporary “keys” to friends or house-sitters. While Android phones aren’t yet supported, the lock also comes with a keyfob that serves the same function as the phone. The product isn’t yet available, but should be soon–you can add yourself to the company’s mailing list if you want to stay posted.  Read more from Apartment Therapy.

Rental Tech: Crowd-Funded Real Estate, Spotify Apartments, & Tablet Leasing “Offices”

It’s time again for Rental Tech! We’ve got the latest on the technology that’s making tenants happier, landlord’s jobs easier, and the world a cooler place…it’s a fun time we live in, isn’t it? : )

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Coming soon: Smart apartments complete with Spotify and iPad Minis

Spotify Logo

Is the true era of the smart home finally upon us? It is for the future tenants of a planned apartment complex in Australia. The Imperial will rise ten stories and house 96 units in its clean, stair-stepped design–but the true draw of this building lies in its technology. Each unit will come equipped with Push Controls, Sonos sound systems, and even integrated Spotify. And for easy control of all these nifty features, each apartment will come with a free iPad mini.

While many homeowners are investing in devices from the Smart Home genre–Nest thermostats and other fun toys–this is the first we’ve heard of this technology being integrated into rental housing. Welcome to the future!  Read more.

Crowd-funding…for rental real estate?

The SEC has always regulated investments fairly strictly–but according to a new article from the LA Business Journal, they are now “inching closer” to loosening those restrictions in ways favorable for crowd-funding, and real estate companies are taking notice.

Money - Black and White Money

Realty Mogul is one such company; they have now launched their site, which gathers investors to share stakes in an apartment building or commercial space. The minimum investment is $5,000, and while the site is currently limited to accredited investors, the SEC is expected to soon make changes that will pave the way for “almost anyone who can afford the minimum investment” to jump on board. Read more.

Design of Amazon’s Denny Triangle towers changes

Image representing Amazon as depicted in Crunc...

Are you tired of hearing about Amazon’s Denny Triangle towers yet? Just a quick update today. The towers, which are sure to influence the shape of downtown for decades to come, have just gotten a bit of a re-design.

The changes will primarily affect the shorter of the structures. Bryan Stevens, a Planning and Development spokesman for the city, said that Amazon has altered its design for the base of the high-rise “from a rectilinear approach to something more distinctive and identifiable.” We can’t wait to  see what they’ve got in store. Read more.

Are tablets “the leasing offices of the future?”

While we’ve been hearing about “the office of the future” for almost as long as offices have existed now, there’s no question that tablets and smart phones have given us access to many work tools that were previously tied rather permanently to a desk. In their March issue, UNITS, a publication of the NAA, delved into what tablets can mean for landlords and leasing companies–namely, a lot less time spend in the rental office.

English: An image of an iPad 2.

While equipping leasing agents and others with tablets can require a bit of an investment, having easy-to-use and current technology can make employees “poised and comfortable,” while signaling to potential tenants (many of whom work in the tech industry themselves) that your company is keeping pace. Tablets can especially assist with tours, when “I can let you know when we get back to the office” turns into “sure, let me check on that for you.” Read more.

Rental Tech: Parking Planning Calculators, Washington Apartment Stats, and…Microsoft Office for IOS?

Welcome to Rental Tech, the occasional column where we’ll report on the snazzy tech developments that are changing the ways that we live and work. Whether it’s tools for the landlord or technologies that affect us all, you’ll find it here. After all, tech touches just about everyone, from the apartment hunter to the property manager, (hopefully) making our jobs easier even as it makes apartment living that much more fun.

Screen shot 2013-02-21 at 9.52.41 PMNot sure how many parking spots to plan into your latest apartment project? There’s an app–er, website–for that.

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Cities surrounding Seattle are also included on the site; here’s the coverage area.

So, you’re planning your next apartment building, to be built right here in Seattle. You’ve poured over the zoning rules, planned the units, decided on whether to include commercial space…but what about parking?

How many parking spots you need can differ greatly depending on what area you’re building in. To take some of the guesswork out of parking planning, King County has released www.RightSizeParking.org, home of the aptly-named Right Size Parking Calculator. Just find your area of Seattle, select your parcel, and “create your scenario” (entering the types and quantities of units you plan to include), and presto: you can view your parking per unit ratio, parking impacts, and more. Check it out here.

FCC considers faster Wi-Fi–yes, please!

Wi-fi: it’s everywhere. Ease of use makes it perhaps the most popular way of connecting to the internet–many new devices come equipped with wi-fi, but not with an ethernet port. But the lingering problem with wi-fi? It’s often much, much slower than plugging in.

That could all change soon, however. The New York Times is reporting that the FCC is moving towards the opening of high-frequency airwaves to “unlicensed devices–” and that means the privately-owned wi-fi routers found in residences, hotels, and public places. Still awaiting final approval, if these airwaves are made available, wi-fi speeds could increase to up to 1 gigabit per second–over 95 times faster than the average speed of current residential wi-fi. Sounds good to us! Read more here.

Want quick access to nationwide apartment market numbers? Check out the new info site from the NAA and NMHC.

Utilizing information from the Census Bureau, the NAA and NMHC have released a comprehensive report on the state of the nation’s apartment market–all in the form of handy infographics at the new website WeAreApartments.org.

The site’s homepage shows some quick facts about the apartment market as a whole, with a clickable map of the United States. Clicking on Washington State showed us that there are 0.8 million apartment residents, with $28.7 billion contributed to the state economy–and you can view the data sheet for each state to learn even more. The site is designed to illustrate the positive role the apartment market plays in the nation’s economy–and in the lives of apartment residents. Learn more here.

Microsoft Office is a standard for PCs…but could Office for iPad be in our future?

As the owner of an iPad, there are a lot of times I try to make it work in place of a real laptop (most of this takes place, of course, in coffee shops). When I snap it into its keyboard case, it very nearly does the trick–but let’s face it: there are some essential elements that will have to be added before iPads can really start to compete with PCs. One of those elements, of course, is the ever-vital Microsoft Office.

While Apple has released its word processor, Pages, for the iPad and iPhone, Microsoft has yet to speak on whether it will release a version of Office for IOS any time soon; but at least one analyst thinks it’s on its way. That would be Adam Holt, of Morgan Stanley–and he’s stating that Microsoft may release Office for IOS in 2014, selling it for about $60 for the whole suite. Sweet! This just leads to the question: will the iPad still be as fun when we can access spreadsheets on it? Read more here.

And from the too cool not to share department…this is what we call a booklight!

Screen shot 2013-02-21 at 10.58.04 PMOkay, so this isn’t strictly apartment-market tech news–but it is from one of our favorite blogs for renters, ApartmentTherapy.com. The Lumio looks like a book, feels like a book, even opens like a book…but in fact, it’s a versatile LED light source perfect for any room.

Designed by Max Gunawan, the Lumio’s pages are made out of Tyvek (that crazy-tough paper used in FedEx mailing envelopes), and the light lasts for eight hours before having to be plugged in and charged. Right now, the Lumio is only available on Kickstarter–but they should become more widely available this coming September. Read more here.