Friday, March 30, 2007

Top 10 Questions to Ask Your Architect: Part I

Consumer technology is getting more exciting, more compelling and more complex than ever before. The choices that you face as a developer or property owner are increasingly confusing, but cannot be avoided. Here are a few questions to ask of your architect before you get started that will help get your project off on the right foot:

10. Do my property's technology needs change if my project is for rent, for sale, or some of both?
Condo associations might not want their telecom services from the same providers that you may contract with to provide service to renters – understand that you might need separate provisions (and contracts) for each. Also, buyers may expect more choices to be available - think multiple provider and in-unit upgrades.

9. How can residents select the phone, TV and Internet provider of their choice?
Multiple providers means more choice for residents, but it also requires a more thoughtful approach to structured cabling networks. In any case, caution the architect or MEP against using any proprietary service provider designs. Also, consider cellular network amplifiers as many residents will rely solely on their mobile phones.

8. Does the leasing office design consider how our staff will utilize technology?
The onsite staff has technology needs that are very different from those of the residents. What does the leasing staff need? Will there be terminals for residents to access the property's web portal? How can maintenance staff become more efficient? Security is also a huge issue; residents or other unauthorized folks should be on a separate network to keep them from accessing private data.

7. How will residents access wireless Internet services with minimal interference? Residents like the freedom of wireless Internet access, but it gets messy in a high-density environment if it’s not properly managed. You should consult an Internet service provider that can automatically authorize accounts and remotely manage wireless Internet access in each unit.

6. What in-unit entertainment options do you expect our residents to use most?
Walk through a Best Buy – flat-panel TVs, audio in every room, and iPod docks are quickly becoming the norm. Planning for your residents’ lifestyle will give them greater flexibility, reduce damages to your units (a poorly hung plasma can wreak havoc on drywall!) and enable you to offer electronics upgrades.

Pay attention to the gadgets that you see people using, and keep an eye on the unique experiences that other industries offer to their customers. Think about the options you would want available to you if you were a resident. Offer something new and different, but take the time to test it for yourself - a new service won't do you any good if it doesn't offer a great resident experience.

We'll have five more questions next week... by then, at the rate things change these days, we'll probably be asking ten completely new questions.

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