Having a better grasp of data in residential offers a multitude of benefits to customers, operators and investors. Moda Living and Utopi sat down to discuss the benefits they have already reaped from their own partnership.
Making better use of data will play a pivotal role in building strong residential brands in the future, a panel of experts told Property Week on the latest RESIcast. The RESIcast series gives you a taste of the topics and issues up for debate during the RESI Convention 2020.
Oscar Brooks, director, Moda Living says that harnessing data will play a crucial role for Moda to achieve its aim to position itself as the UK brand leader for customer service.
“For us, on the customer side, we’re trying to position the brand as the UK leader for customer service. I think all of that will be driven by data in the sense that we’ll be able to give the buildings a wellness score, we can plug customers into the app, which will make their lives more convenient, and we’re trying to keep things simple to make lives easier,” he says.
Moda is already using data to inform decision making across all levels, from design through to maintenance, says Brooks.
“We want Moda to be the first proptech build-to-rent. What I mean by that is that data guides everything we’re doing at the moment. From a design perspective, we can talk about the nuts and bolts, how the areas are used, what type of environments are going to be created in the common areas and which sort of areas people are spending more time dwelling in. This makes sure that every square foot of the building has got a business case because when you are designing and delivering these large scale communities, there’s a lot of space and there’s only a certain amount that you’re getting income from,” he says.
“That’s so crucial with your gross to net calculations and it can make or break the appraisal. To streamline all that from day one, so that when the operations guys start to feed into the design process, you’ve already done the heavy lifting in terms of making their lives easier. Predictive maintenance is helped by it for example when you think about it from a development perspective.”
However, Moda at first found it difficult to find a partner that could provide a one-stop solution.
“When we embarked on the build of Angel Gardens, we spent about two years researching the market and speaking to a lot of engineers. Whilst you’ve got all the different systems in place, we thought surely there’s got to be one place where we can look at exactly how our building is performing and how all the systems are performing. That product wasn’t simply there at the time,” says Brooks.
But since partnering up with Utopi, a smart building technology integrator and managerial service provider a year ago, things have been ‘progressing at a rate of knots’, especially with teams which may not be natural fits to use tech, says Brooks.
“One of the good things about the partnership so far is that for teams of people who might not necessarily be that tech-focused, there are so many solutions out there which previously had been bypassed or shelved because people don’t always understand it. The Utopi team have certainly helped us to see the wide ranging benefits of the technology available.”
Utopi’s Jonathan Burridge describes what the company does as pulling ‘all the data out of the systems to create one version of the truth, which allows us then to make the building smart, effectively’.
Utopi then gives that information to their clients through a single dashboard, essentially offering management information which can help make the building operate more efficiently.
However, some may have concerns that sucking out data from residential buildings and using it to inform decisions may raise data privacy issues. Burridge says that this is not the case.
“We’ve deliberately designed our service architecture to be GDPR compliant. So all the data that we operate with is anonymized. It’s specific to a site and asset, but it’s not specific to an individual. So everything that we’re doing with Moda, and any other client, sit in that anonymized data pool. We are aggregating significant amounts of data.”
Understanding residential assets’ data at a more granular level will also be useful for investors, according to Burridge.
“ESG is becoming the number one priority for investors. The tide is changing and environmental responsibility is becoming a more central part of everyone’s thinking. Net-zero carbon is a target that people need to reach by 2045-50 and it brings some serious potential challenges for owner-operators. I think it’s important that planning around operational performance is thought through properly at this stage to avoid that kind of future penalty around carbon tax. Data plays a key role in that ultimately because, without the insight and the knowledge of how the various different levers are operating, you’re really not able to optimise that and reach that net-zero carbon goal,” he says.
Ultimately, understanding data produced by residential assets is part of a greater drive towards operators like Moda having to embrace technology in order to engage with the digital-savvy resident.
Indeed, during the lockdown, technology has helped Moda engage with its community and even attract new residents.
“Technology has played its part in allowing us to communicate and engage with our on-site community. And I think for the first time ever, during the lockdown, over 50% of inquiries were generated from social media,” says Brooks.
If you enjoyed this RESIcast and want to hear more insights from industry influencers, book your place at the RESI Convention 2020 online event taking place 10-11 November.
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