The Second Wave of Smart Home and Multi-family Buildings

Scaling up the smart home can transform the most densely-populated communities into the greenest
By Robert Cooper

We are in the second wave of smart home technology. It’s creating unprecedented opportunities for homebuilders to aggregate smart apartments and condominiums into smart multifamily communities that are energy-efficient and operationally-sophisticated from day one.

The first wave was all about devices. Connect a thermostat, door lock, lighting fixture, etc. to the Internet so that a homeowner or renter can manage it from anywhere. Smart devices have provided significant lifestyle and efficiency upgrades, but it’s important to remember that devices alone don’t make for truly smart buildings. Only by considering the entire environment these devices sit in can we tap the full potential of smart home technology.

Expanding the scope of smart home enables things like: centralizing management of all smart devices in the building; staying on top of maintenance and avoiding costly repairs and damage by implementing Internet-connected monitoring of HVAC, plumbing, and other critical building systems; and collecting energy and operational insights at the unit, building, and portfolio level. These are the second wave technologies becoming more available to builders in the multifamily market. Here’s why they should be paying attention.

Impactful for All Housing Market Segments: Smart functionality is proving to be an important differentiator for multifamily builds across the spectrum, from affordable to mid-market to luxury housing.

In affordable housing, shrinking energy footprints on a building-wide level is a necessity. Smart technology adoption is also heavily motivated by keeping long-term operational costs down – smart sensors can provide alerts about anticipated equipment failure and catch leaks before they turn into floods. Senior living and affordable housing with fragile resident populations also have to be considered, and centrally-managed controls for health and security simplify regulatory compliance for these communities.

In mid-market housing, millennial tastes are a driving force, which means there are many renters in this segment who see smart technology as increasingly essential when apartment hunting. Survey after survey shows smart devices and “eco-friendly” features among the top five amenities millennials demand. Having these capabilities built in as a standard feature will make smart multifamily communities much more attractive to them.

Market research also confirms that a majority of residents are willing to pay a premium for the green benefits of integrated smart home technology. Nowhere will this be more pronounced than in luxury housing. There are also significant opportunities for automating high-end concierge services and in-depth personalization of the home environment.

With Data and Insights For All: Evolving from “dark buildings” to “enlightened buildings” is a good way to think of another major benefit of smart home’s second wave. On top of enabling convenient, connected and energy-saving services, making multifamily buildings smart is also about gaining insights on a community’s energy and operational footprint that simply weren’t possible before.

Possessing data on how much energy a building consumes down to the granularity of a single appliance in a single unit forms an invaluable baseline that can inform investment and design decisions for future construction projects. This capability is making project planning a much more precise endeavor.

By making multifamily buildings smart from day one, builders are also laying the groundwork for residents and management to improve communications about the living environment. Residents and landlords can use Internet-enabled communications platforms to exchange important announcements, grant access to their units, and send reminders for maintenance and rent payments.
Looking to the Future of Multifamily Housing: Integrating second wave smart home technology is addressing the needs and tastes of today’s multifamily communities while also paving the way for alternative living arrangements just starting to take shape. Case in point is the emergence of co-living startups like Common and WeLive.
In the communities these projects envision, connected services and internet-enabled buildings are front and center. Co-living and other housing trends will continue to be driven by the growing role for connectivity, smart energy, and cost-saving capabilities in the home. The underlying infrastructure will need to reflect the state-of-the-art nature of these communities, so builders who specialize in implementing these technologies today stand to gain the most from this evolution down the road.

Smart Buildings are Sustainable Buildings: If you leave with one takeaway, make it this: scaling up the smart home can transform our most densely-populated communities into the greenest. Implementing these technologies into new multifamily builds from day one will improve the lives of residents while propelling us all down the path to sustainable housing.

Robert Cooper is the CEO and co-founder of smart IoT apartment platform, Embue. He may be reached at

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