In this series, we have explored the decision to retrofit IoT technology like smart access control, into multifamily properties. We have compared the decision to implement in a new build with retrofitting an existing one.
There are many reasons why the two decisions are quite different from one another—so far, we have focused on the physical and operational differences. Here, we look at one of the most important considerations in approaching this decision: the people in the building. What characterizes a retrofit is that the building is full of residents, which creates a different set of considerations.
Smart access control is an increasingly popular amenity across our industry. The pandemic added fuel to a trend that was already gaining popularity, as residents were at home and became even more dependent on goods and services delivered to their buildings and to their apartments.
It's easy to see what residents like about having complete digital control over entry into both the building and their apartment. Technology-enabled deliveries and access for both guests and service providers support the lifestyle of today's residents. When residents can control access without any reference to the property manager, and with the added security features of a digital lock, the appeal of the amenity is clear. So upgrading access control is an easy sell to most residents, a fact reflected in the common technology surcharges in properties that have implemented access control.
At the same time, the level of upheaval involved in delivering the amenity is relatively low. While most amenity upgrades entail more access to units and inconvenience, access control entails much less. Perhaps little more than a window of access for the installation and perhaps leaving the door open for a little while in the case where painting is involved. Residents go from legacy locks to having a technology-enabled experience within a day.
In spite of the many benefits of access control and its general popularity, operators still need to be cautious in approaching the projects for the simple reason that residents are sensitive to change. There can be push-back—even a popular project like access control. It's still new, after all.
For example, controlling access with a phone or a smartwatch sometimes leads residents to ask questions like, "What happens if I go running, and I don't have my phone with me?" A question like this has a simple answer but requires some degree of communication with residents. Numerous operators who have gone through retrofitting say that it's the hardest operational part of the process.
Privacy and security can also be a source of push-back, and in this case, being transparent about the building's security policy addresses most of the push-back. And for the real holdouts on digital access, there are always key cards. Once again, understanding residents' concerns and having the right materials and the right communications strategy is critical.
These communication steps are particularly important in a retrofit because the operator needs the residents on their side. Retrofit projects tend to happen quickly, which requires a degree of collaboration with residents to coordinate the availability of apartment doors. It helps to have residents and the project team walk in lockstep to ensure the rollout goes according to plan.
Further, we must not forget that each multifamily community is a community. Different individuals approach change differently and experience different reactions to it. More outspoken residents may communicate how they feel with other residents within the same community. For this reason, and many others, communication is the key to achieving the outcomes that will help the project along.
As companies retrofit smart building technology into an ever-increasing number of properties, it is necessary to understand the human element in these projects. People call multifamily communities home, and making changes in these buildings impacts residents personally. The good news is that a robust playbook founded on good, consistent communication exists and can generally overcome any problems.
It's an underrated and critical part of the retrofit process. It becomes easier when you select the right solution with the right support. And that is a subject to which we will turn in the final article in this series.
Learn more about retrofitting with Latch.
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