The forward march of innovation is constantly changing the face of nearly every industry—including residential real estate. To keep co-ops, condominiums, and other multifamily communities functioning optimally, we need to keep abreast of the latest advancements in building systems. Here are a few of the latest trends.
Life Support System
Advancements in communication technology have led to more efficient and more accessible ways to keep tabs on what’s going on in our buildings at any given moment. One of the most notable in the last few years is building management systems, or BMS. BMS software and hardware networks enable managers and building staff to monitor everything from air quality to security systems, alerting them of irregularities, reporting in real time and giving them valuable data on things like energy efficiency, building security, and more. It’s almost as if the property is an organism, with the BMS monitoring its vital signs continuously.
“We use them extensively at many of the properties we manage,” says Dan Wollman, CEO of Gumley Haft, a major management firm based in New York City. “It’s a network of micro-computers that are placed on different equipment and in different locations to check temperature, water flow, air flow, among other things. In buildings with more complicated infrastructure, when you have this data, you can modify and optimize all these factors; when they should run and shouldn’t, etc. You are able to adjust everything through an app on your phone or computer. At some point you might have to physically visit the components, but a system like this can cut off a disaster.”
Matt Resnick, an executive with AKAM Management, with offices in both New York and Florida, adds, “There are many ways in which properties can focus on improving existing mechanical equipment by taking advantage of software and tech advances. For example, installing a BMS for the cooling/heating plants. In general, we are seeing a trend of buildings integrating a BMS where they can track and control equipment more efficiently and remotely.
“When we are changing out major mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) components, obviously we’re looking at greener alternatives, as well as more energy efficient equipment,” adds Resnick. “However, retrofitting old equipment with energy saving add-ons like variable-frequency drives (VFDs) is also more accessible than before. A VFD is essentially a mechanical device that controls the way the piece of equipment attached to it operates, allowing it to be run on demand rather than continuously, which reduces consumption and operating costs. New equipment already comes with this feature, but VFDs can also be installed on existing equipment to improve efficiency.”