Digitisation in housing summons up images of endless rows of data and alienation through cyberspace. The opposite is the case. Digital applications can also create comfort and a sense of community, ultimately also strengthening an urban quarter’s brand.

“The higher the quality of a residential area, the greater the willingness to invest in digital components.”

Dr. Chris Richter
Dr. Chris Richter
Managing Director of Animus

A discussion with Dr. Chris Richter, Managing Director of Animus and expert in digitised residential developments, and Udo Cordts-Sanzenbacher, Managing Director of BNP Paribas Real Estate, on USPs arising from digitisation.

Digitisation is also making great strides in the housing sector. What is the status quo regarding smart homes?

[Dr. Chris Richter: The smart home is increasingly becoming an integral part of new developments. The higher the quality of a residential area, the greater the willingness to invest in digital components. Digital control of blinds, lights and temperature and video intercom systems are now standard. That said, when customers want to save money, such special options are unfortunately usually the first to go.]

What scale of costs are we talking about here?

[Dr. Richter: As a benchmark, costs in the order of 3,000 to 4,000 euros are to be assumed for an 80 square metre apartment. The past two years have witnessed a dramatic fall in prices. Smaller companies are entering the marketplace and offering good value for money.]

What aspects tend to be regarded as must-haves?

[Dr. Richter: Comfort and services. A central parcel delivery point provides great convenience for logistics personnel and tenants alike, for example. The delivery personnel are able to deposit all the parcels for a residential area at a single facility, ensuring everything gets delivered and reaches the addressees without a hitch.]

[Udo Cordts-Sanzenbacher: We are witnessing a strong trend towards a sharing economy, which saves resources and ultimately leads to economies of scale. People can share cargo bikes or tools, for example. These are little USPs that landlords and investors can use to highlight the merits of a residential development.]

How does digitisation contribute towards sustainability?

[Dr. Richter: Following the reform of the EED, as of 2027 metering point service providers will be required to submit information on electricity consumption twelve times a year. Submitting such information by digital means saves a great deal of resources. Meters are read and the measurement data are visualised via interfaces. Graphic presentation means that tenants are able to monitor and reduce their consumption. This leads to full-out competition between residents in the apps for residential developments. E-learning courses also help to conserve resources and lower additional costs.]

Who pays for the digitisation of a residential development?

[Dr. Richter: The owner generally pays for the software. The costs add up to a miniscule fraction of the overall development outlay. Digitised solutions serve first and foremost as selling points to help secure higher rents or selling prices, however. A digital residential development – whatever the key focus – is a USP that meets with a positive response on the market.]

What additional benefits does digitisation bring?

[Dr. Richter: Through digitisation, property developers know today what will work and what won’t. With regard to the layout of a new development, for example: How many prospective tenants have been identified in advance for which sizes of apartment? Evaluation of this information also indicates which trades will work. Digitisation enables a representation of the entire cascade, from asset manager through property and facility management to the tenant.

[Cordts-Sanzenbacher: An app also serves to provide information about tenant satisfaction. A high level of satisfaction means less fluctuation, higher cash flows and reduced vacancy risks for the investor. Soft aspects such as user screenings or the establishment of a strong brand represent additional benefits.]

“A digital residential development is a USP that meets with a positive response on the market.”

Dr. Chris Richter
Dr. Chris Richter
Managing Director of Animus

What proportion of residential developments is digitised in Germany?

[Cordts-Sanzenbacher: Digitisation is to be found primarily in the new developments of the past five to ten years in the gateway cities. The number of asset and property managers exploiting the opportunities of networked housing construction is still far too low – despite the clear economic, ecological and social benefits. Although surveys in this area are few and far between, I would estimate the share to be under one per cent. So the first mover advantage is still to be had here.]

You mentioned strong brands. Can you cite an example?

[Dr. Richter: A great example is the i Live group, whose student dorms home in very strongly on the community aspect. According to the motto “You’re part of a strong, sustainable and incredibly hip community”. The demand is huge, because people want to be part of this world.]

[Cordts-Sanzenbacher: This example shows very nicely that digitisation doesn’t necessarily lead to alienation. On the contrary: When Lucas from Frankfurt, who is a cycling enthusiast and vegan, comes to Berlin to study, such a community provides him with a very simple means of entering into contact with like-minded people.]


BelleRü – a smart residential development

BelleRü is a new residential development in Veronikastrasse in Essen-Rüttenscheid. The open spaces between the two- to three-storey apartment blocks feature plenty of green and cherry trees. Predominantly white rendered facades and light-coloured brick areas provide the development with an upbeat, bright look to complement the greenery and underscore the light and airy character of the buildings’ interiors.

Smartes Wohnquartier BelleRü in Essen

"A recent project in Essen – BelleRü – saw us integrate smart home systems from the outset for the first time. Each parking space in the underground car park has an e-car connection point. And our app also enables the residents to book laundry and parcel services through a corresponding service station. We are obviously keen to continue this development in our next projects."

Dr. Chris Richter

Are there already applications with an emphasis on health – against the backdrop of Corona?

[Dr. Richter: During the lockdown in spring, a scaled-down version of our app was made available for customers in need of help. New registrations and user frequencies shot up by around 40 per cent. Applications for older people are generally much in demand, though. The complete range of services offered by the St. John’s Ambulance Brigade can be booked through the Animus app, for example – from food delivery to nursing services. This is a booming market whose strong growth is being driven by an ageing population.]

What’s the next breakthrough waiting to happen?

[Dr. Richter: A real ground-breaker would be an operator’s model for residential developments. Individual solutions exist at present, but no-one appears up to evolving an integral concept combining the full spectrum of components, such as energy, mobility or logistics. Anyone who is bold enough to get to grips with this subject matter and come up with a digital solution will really be going places.]

Change Magazin 03

This article is part of Change 03

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