Smart living: How one developer is set to ‘transform apartment living as we know it’

Leading Australian developers are future-proofing their residential projects with high-tech wizardry to meet a growing market demand for apartments equipped with the latest advances in digital technology.

Projects that give residents instant access to services and unprecedented power over the way their apartment functions by simply tapping on a smart phone are attracting owner-occupiers, as well as investors who want to ensure their asset continues to entice tenants.

Home technology experts warn apartments without the cabling and infrastructure in place to enable current and future digital services to be installed face being left behind in the race towards “smart living”.

WE-Life, pictured here on a tablet, will be installed in the West End development making it the first fully remote-controlled, app-based entry and concierge system in Australia.WE-Life, pictured here on a tablet, will be installed in the West End development making it the first fully remote-controlled, app-based entry and concierge system in Australia. Photo: Ashley Thompson Digital

Schneider Electric, a global specialist in smart technology, says apartments completed in 2017 will need to accommodate trends still on the horizon. “These projects need to have the backbone in place within the infrastructure so new technology can be retrofitted,” says the company’s New Zealand sales director, Ras Jayawickrama.

Some Australian residential projects already incorporate futuristic technology that enables energy savings, internal communications, promotes a sense of community, enhances security and allows residents to control their apartment’s functions from any location.

For example, a new $300 million apartment project in West Melbourne called West End is transforming a former industrial site into a new urban lifestyle precinct incorporating Australia’s first fully remote-controlled, app-based entry and concierge system, WE-Life.

WE-Life is a cloud based system that can be used in a range of ways by apartment dwellers, including storing appliance warranties and as an intercom.WE-Life is a cloud based system that can be used in a range of ways by apartment dwellers, including storing appliance warranties and as an intercom. Photo: Ashley Thompson Digital

Developed by vertical lifestyle specialists, VLife, WE-Life will operate as an advanced tablet-based video intercom system and smart phone app that merges intercom, access control, CCTV and building communications into a single cloud-based software system.

West End developer, Trenerry Property, says the system is one of many features available to the project’s residents that will revolutionise apartment living.

“WE-Life will transform apartment living as we know it,” says Trenerry Property director Robert DiCintio. “Not only will it significantly streamline life’s administrative tasks via remote apartment management, it will also allow for resort-style living that gives residents access to their own 24/7 concierge service.

Self-cleaning wonder glass is a smart living feature of a development in Brisbane.Self-cleaning wonder glass is a smart living feature of a development in Brisbane. Photo: Supplied

“Residents will be able to grant others secure access to their apartment remotely, schedule the collection of dry cleaning, make restaurant reservations, have their dog walked and more – all at the touch of a button – from anywhere in the world.

“Apartment operating manuals and white goods warranties will be conveniently stored on the app, and it will also include an energy consumption and carbon footprint tracking functionality that promotes greener, more efficient lifestyles.”

The drive to deliver high-tech apartments in Australia is backed by a recent US property industry survey that found 72 per cent of potential buyers aged under 34 years would be willing to pay for smart technology, and that 44 per cent of millennials would rather have an apartment equipped with smart technology than one with a parking space.

Another survey of particular interest to investors found 86 per cent of renters aged under 35 years, and 65 per cent of baby boomers, would be willing to pay higher rents for a “smart” apartment equipped with automated or remotely controlled devices.

The apartment tech revolution is not only digital. Advances in building materials point the way to apartments that will look and act differently. One 20-storey tower, Utopia Place in Brisbane, is installing a self-cleaning wonder glass that reduces the risk of skin cancer.

Manufacturers claim the nano-glass technology reduces UV rays – the major cause of skin cancer that takes 1700 Australian lives each year – by 99 per cent. It also shields heat by up to 67 per cent and keeps rooms up to 8.3 degrees cooler.

A US company called UBeam has invented wireless charging stations that can stick to walls or be made into decorative art that will charge mobile phones and power appliances without the need to plug them in, and researchers in America and Finland are developing an electrically conductive paint that alerts occupiers when a structure is compromised.

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