Tuesday, July 24, 2007

All Services on One Cable = One Bad Idea

Developers have some tough choices to make right now. Costs keep rising, but residents expect more than ever.

The question is: Are you giving your residents the technology options that they expect and desire?

As multifamily builders try to find ways to offset rising construction costs, I've seen recently that some companies are revisiting their specifications for low voltage wiring, trying to cut costs by consolidating all of their properties' communications services on only one or two wires to each unit.
This convergence is certainly becoming increasingly affordable, and it may sound like a promising way to control costs.

Well... While there are some systems that can be converged throughout your property, right now could be a really bad time to consolidate the cabling for your telecommunications services, especially considering recent rulings from the FCC. (PDF)

More players are entering the telecommunications business. New applications, major partnerships and other strategic maneuvers demonstrate that competitors within this industry aren't going to give up market share without a fight. Here are just a few examples:

:: Both major satellite TV companies are making major investments to provide their most advanced technologies to date in multifamily communities.

:: Cable operators continue to grow their on-demand services, and they're starting to test the first of many unique wireless applications that will come from their 20-year deal with Sprint.

:: Verizon and other FTTH providers are expanding rapidly, offering high-quality video services and extremely fast broadband services that are receiving high reviews from users.

Simply put, we are in the middle of what could possibly be a golden age of innovation among service providers.

There are more unique applications and functions than ever that are either available now or in the near future, and it's making this a tough time for anyone to try to pick the winners that you and your residents will want to do business with now and also 3-5 years down the road.

Consolidating your property's structured wiring will limit how many providers your residents can choose from, limit your options if you ever need to change providers, and limit your ability to upgrade your network when new services become available.

One wire per unit is not going to get the job done if you want to provide today's advanced services. Investing in a flexible, upgradeable infrastructure now will save you a lot of headaches later, and will allow you to deliver the technology options your residents desire today.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

10.5 Ways to Use Technology to Go Green

Awareness of the need to conserve energy is skyrocketing in response to higher gas prices, efforts from Al Gore and others, and the associated media frenzy. Residents are more cost-conscious and environmentally-aware than ever.

Using technology to go green will help you maximize your energy conservation efforts throughout your community.

This entails everything from creating an easy-to-use interface for commonly-used audio and video systems, to less obvious ways to help reduce residents' overall energy consumption, including integrating lighting and HVAC.

Here are some suggestions for communities that are starting the process of going green:

1. Install LED or compact fluorescent lights. Lower energy usage, markedly longer lamp life and low maintenance mean these innovative lighting categories are a win-win-win for you and your residents. Adding occupancy sensors will save even more.

2. Choose energy-efficient appliances and electronics components. Every little bit helps in terms of curbing energy costs and integrators can find components for their clients that are more energy-efficient than others by visiting the Consumer Electronics Association’s myGreenElectronics.com or the government’s EnergyStar.gov.

3. Recycle old computers and components. It probably doesn’t save you money, but environmentally-conscious residents will have peace of mind if you pledge to properly dispose of their old components.

If improperly disposed of or illegally dumped, “electronics can pose a serious risk to the environment,” according to myGreenElectronics.com. Share this site with your residents to help them find information on how and where to properly unload old equipment if you can't take on the burden yourself.

4. Smart irrigation. You don't need to water your green spaces if it just rained last night, yet many watering systems often operate uncontrollably. Install a system such as WeatherTRAK that monitors current weather conditions and only waters your lawn when plants actually need it. You'll conserve water, and reduce both your water bills and landscape maintenance costs.

5. Manage your energy use. Even though technology tends to involve multiple energy-guzzling components, new systems are available that allow you to conveniently monitor energy use with a main interface that controls all of your building’s electrical systems.

6. Use lighting control. Without control, lights run at 100% brightness, 100% of the time. With a lighting control system, you can program the majority of common area lights to run at lower brightness, controlling energy and saving lamp life.

7. Motorized shades. Managing the volume of sunlight entering a building will keep the HVAC equipment from running through the day and keep energy costs down.

8. Offer home control to your residents. Something as simple as making it easy for residents to turn off energy-guzzling components can make a difference. New home control systems are rapidly coming down in cost, making this a more viable option than ever before.

Provide very simple, convenient buttons such as “all on,” “all off” and “good night” on any kind of control interface in the clubhouse, fitness center and living units. Energy conservation through convenience is key.

9. Check the garage. Replace any fleet vehicles with energy-efficient alternatives, and offer residents a shared car service such as Zipcar.

10. Go solar. Installing renewable solar energy systems will reduce your utility costs and can even earn you energy credits from utility companies.

10.5. Pre-wire for solar. Maybe you're not sold on solar energy now, but you might be in a few years. Pre-wiring your community for solar today will make retrofits will be easier and less costly later.

Energy conservation is a growing trend, and it's good business, too. Use technology to go green, spread the word among residents and when marketing to new prospects, and your energy-saving ways will pay off many times over.

Have a great way you're using technology to go green? Leave us a message and tell us your favorite "green" technologies!