How One Small Firm Built a Smart Apartment Community
One New York-based firm shows how you can use a smart home to provide a free amenity, an ancillary income opportunity and tighten controls over the community.
Burns Management is not the biggest apartment operator in the country. The Albany, N.Y.-based firm manages 2,400 apartments and owns about 75 percent of its management portfolio.
But that does not stop President Peter Rosecrans Jr. from peppering panelists at industry conferences with endless technical questions regarding best practices for multifamily technology solutions.
With Excelsior Park Apartment Homes in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., a three-building, 105-apartment home project, Rosecrans found the opportunity to put his relentless pursuit of a competitive edge to use.
Rosecrans’ project had two goals: Incorporating resident survey feedback into the design process and optimizing NOI and building long-term value through a scalable, future-proof adoption of technology.
The Excelsior Park project had no pool, firepit or dog spa so Rosecrans focused on design details and finish selections. He sensed that there was a unique opportunity to add value by solving a simple, but common problem with apartment communities—cable and Internet.
“Residents are looking for high-speed, reliable Internet services as they continue to become more comfortable and increasingly reliant on technology” Rosecrans says.
Rosecrans dismissed the local cable providers’ offer to sign a six-year bulk purchase agreement that stated the company would install a coaxial cable television and Internet infrastructure at no cost.
With cable out of the picture, Rosecrans looked to a local fiber-optic network company and negotiated a deal for it to run its product to the new building site.
“I looked at West Coast apartment communities, and saw that many of them had Internet Service Provider opportunities well beyond their local cable providers and they were all running fiber optic to the buildings,” Rosecrans says.
Once he had fiber connected to the building, Rosecrans called upon Epproach, a company focused on building and managing scalable, high-capacity WiFi networks for the apartment industry.
“With our new Internet infrastructure, every resident has access to our free community WiFi, which is great for everyday surfing and emailing,” Rosecrans says. “But if residents would like to stream video, or game with ‘gigabit capacity’ Internet, they can upgrade to our GigaBurns package. This package also activates the smart apartment.”
By electing the smart apartment package, residents get access to a Burns Management Smart Home Automation app that was created by Eproach.
“We’ve equipped each apartment with a smart hub, smart lock and smart thermostat that can be activated by the residents if they choose, but they are not required to activate the smart package,” Rosecrans says. “The system is scalable so residents are free to add any smart device they can think of such as an Alexa, smart blinds and smart lightbulbs. Epproach is available 24-7 to help residents add smart devices as they deem fit.”
In addition to the Smartapp, Epproach developed an administrative dashboard, which enables Burns to manage the building more effectively and efficiently. Using the dashboard, Burns can manage lockouts remotely and set thermostats in vacant units to ideal temperatures.
While the smart locks and thermostats cost more than conventional products in those categories, Rosecrans says 97 percent of his residents chose the upgraded smart home package. Add the money saved from not paying for a cable package, Rosecrans says the technology paid for itself almost immediately.
“We have this big Millennial demographic that is looking to rent with us,” Rosecrans says. “Internet speed and reliability is a huge factor for them in where they might choose to rent so we developed this model to meet this need. What is surprising is the number of baby boomers who also see the value in smart apartments.”