Today, it seems that every home is becoming an office and seamless connectivity is no longer a luxury – it’s a necessity of everyday life.
But in a city like New York, it can be almost impossible for home hunters to know how well basic services like high-speed wifi and cell phone reception will function in a building – much less the latest and greatest home tech.
One of the largest challenges building owners face is they have no way to easily communicate or advertise their property’s technological prowess to tenants.
That’s why WiredScore, the world’s leading certification company for technology in buildings, has unveiled its residential certification in North America, WiredScore Home.
“Back in 2013, it occurred to me that, now more than ever, we depend on digital connectivity to communicate and collaborate with the world around us,” Arie Barendrecht founder and CEO of WiredScore, said at the June 15th launch event, ”but you had no idea before you moved into a home or office how good the connectivity would be.” In partnership with the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC), the launch event featured an eloquent keynote by Dr. Andrea Chegut, director of MIT’s Real Estate Innovation Lab, as well as a panel discussion with industry experts hosted by Jennifer Castenson of Multifamily Executive.
WiredScore launched in 2013 with support from the office of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and a consortium of development companies and real estate owners, including Kushner Companies, SL Green Realty, Rudin Management and Vornado.
“Mayor Bloomberg realized that the thing companies rely on the most is high quality connectivity,” Barendrecht said.
In 2015, WiredScore expanded its commercial certification program to the UK in partnership with the Mayor of London, and since has expanded across Europe and Australia. In 2019, Barendrecht launched its first residential product with WiredScore Home in the UK, certifying more than 30,000 build-to-rent units across the UK and Ireland.
Today, WiredScore boasts more than 800 clients – including the biggest real estate players in New York like Related, JP Morgan, Tishman Speyer and BlackRock — with over 700 million square feet of WiredScore certified real estate in 160 cities across the globe – including iconic towers like the Empire State Building.
Now, with the launch of WiredScore Home in North America, residential buildings can be certified for excellence in digital connectivity, through a certified, silver, gold and platinum rating system.
The certification measures a building’s technology against six best-in-class benchmarks, from Master Planning (how connectivity is delivered to the building) and Services (utility upgrades as technology evolves), to Monitoring (acting and improving based on tenet feedback).
WiredScore assists landlords with improved design, proactive asset management, brand enhancement – and, most importantly, the ability to improve their bottom line by attracting and retaining buyers and renters.
On the heels of COVID-19, the Home certification is a welcome development in the multifamily market and will help provide transparency and recognition for best-in-class digital infrastructure. “Expectations have changed,” Barendrecht said. “Our research shows that 4 out of 5 Americans expect the internet to work just like any other utility. It needs to be as dependable as electricity or water. It will be landlords that meet the evolving needs of residents from a technology perspective that set themselves apart from the competition.”
That’s why, for both landlords and tenants who rely on building technology to make a living and pay their rent, WiredScore Home couldn’t have come soon enough. As panel speaker Andrei Girenkov, senior managing director and chief technology officer for Greystar, noted their team’s realization that their planned move to self-service and other technologies to improve the tenant experience cannot be supported by substandard connectivity. “One year of COVID accelerated our digital transformation roadmap by about five years.”
As part of regular tenant focus groups conducted across Starlight Investment’s multifamily portfolio, fellow panelist Michael Hanak, Starlight’s executive director of asset management and marketing, noted the clear shift in demand for amenities and common areas, such as lounges and boardrooms, to more technologically driven concerns. “Space became an issue. People are converting their second and third bedrooms into areas they can use for office and personal flex space. The tech piece became front and center, from touchless technology to questions of ‘How good is your Wi-Fi?’”
Additional research from WiredScore shows that 86 percent of renters across North America still face Wi-Fi connectivity issues, equating to around 20 service breakdowns per month. And service interruptions have ripple effects across the entire economy, with 80 percent of businesses now relying on employees to work from home at least part of the time.
In fact, despite paying an average of $744 per year for their home internet service, US and Canadian renters and homeowners are forced to use on average 3.5GB of extra mobile data each month to compensate for their poor Wi-Fi. All that extra data costs them an additional $337 on average, over the course of the year.
In New York, roughly 18 percent of city residents – more than 1.5 million New Yorkers – lack both a mobile and home broadband connection, creating an economic barrier for many low-income workers. The situation in many buildings is so dire that last year, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chief Technology Officer John Paul Farmer announced in January 2021 a master plan for affordable, high-speed broadband service across all five boroughs – a program that has thus far made little progress.
It’s no wonder then that 86 percent of millennials are willing to pay 20 percent more for a smart apartment, according to WiredScore research, and rental incomes can increase 8 percent for fiber equipped apartments.
Kevin Donnelly, vice president of government affairs for NHMC, shared his view that changes during the lockdown—such as increased use of touchless technology—are here to stay, and will be accompanied by a drive for more flexible workspaces within multifamily communities. “It’s really seeing what the consumer is going to see as the new must-haves.”
“Homes are evolving,” Barendrecht concurred. “They are becoming dynamic places teeming with technology. Renters and homeowners need to be able to stream films, play video games, attend class and communicate with loved ones digitally now more than ever before.”