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SMART SERVICES Residential developers go high-tech for convenience of tenants

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Rendering of 560 Waterfront Drive, part of The Waterfront project along the Lehigh River in Allentown. The building will employ smart technology for the benefit of those who work and live there.
Rendering of 560 Waterfront Drive, part of The Waterfront project along the Lehigh River in Allentown. The building will employ smart technology for the benefit of those who work and live there.

Residential developments, apartment buildings and other multifamily residences in the Greater Lehigh Valley are being equipped with clever technological devices and mechanisms to make life a little more convenient and secure for those who live there.

Developers and architects say that, whether updating an old residential property or building anew, they are ever-conscious of the mobile lifestyle of residents and the need for technology.

Residential properties are getting fitted with simple yet savvy improvements, including key fobs, intercoms linked to residents’ smartphones and a package concierge service. It is as easy as turning on one’s phone to see who is at the door, receiving a package notification, setting the room temperature and controlling the lighting.

“Essentially, the modern apartment complex isn’t just about the flash of finished materials, but the integration of readily available technology today to streamline day-to-day life,” said Zachary Jaindl, chief operating officer for Jaindl Enterprises in Allentown. “When tenants of 560 Waterfront Drive go to the lobby for a coffee, enter the mail center to pick up packages or even look to relax in one of the courtyards or lounges, we’ll be implementing pieces of technology that maximize the availability of data.”

Jaindl is referring to future technology at The Waterfront, a $350 million project underway along the Lehigh River in Allentown. While Jaindl said he is not prepared to reveal in-depth details of tech amenities at The Waterfront, he said apartment tenants will have universal key fobs that work to enter their room, parking garage and other areas of the building.

Those both working and living at The Waterfront – a residential, office and commercial multiple-building project – are expected to be able to use the same key fob to get into their home or the planned office building.

 

VIDEO INTERCOM

The Pinnacle @ 65 office and residential building in Bethlehem installed the ButterflyMX video intercom system with a touchscreen no bigger than an iPad. The high-tech intercom system is linked to smartphones of apartment residents, allowing them to see people at their door at any time, even when on vacation or out of the country.

“It is an app. Everything is linked to your smartphone,” said Ken Kratz, director of construction at Post Road Construction LLC of Bethlehem, which renovated and redeveloped Pinnacle @ 65 on East Elizabeth Avenue. “Residents registered for this service, and visitors are given a temporary access code that allows them in the building.

“The ButterflyMX is relatively inexpensive and has minimal operating costs. One just pays for the subscription, and it is fully integrated with the building security system.”

He noted the old-fashioned big box intercoms at apartment buildings could get expensive, especially when wiring must be replaced.

 

$5K OR MORE PRICE TAG

Cyrus Claffey, CEO of ButterflyMX in New York, created this smart-video intercom system. He said the price is $3,500 to $5,500, which does not include installation.

He said he developed the idea and launched the intercom system in 2012, which today is installed in 2,000 residential buildings (150,000 tenants) throughout the country.

“With the old square box intercoms, you could not see who was at the door, and you had to listen for the right pitch,” Claffey said.

“With the ButterflyMX, [building owners] do not have to pay for costly wiring or upgrade to expensive video conferencing. … We want to create less work for the property manager.”

 

TEMPORARY CODE FOR VISITORS

When residential tenants are away but expecting visitors, they can send a temporary access code to them.

For example, a dog walker, painter or service provider can get inside the building by entering the code on the keypad.

Claffey said those who do not have smartphones can choose to receive a phone call. They can provide access to the building but will not have the video service.

 

WELL-RECEIVED

The ButterflyMX system also was recently installed at one of City Center Allentown’s latest Strata residential properties in downtown Allentown, Strata Symphony, according to Robert DiLorenzo, project manager for City Center, and Robert Fox, community manager for the three Strata residential properties.

DiLorenzo and Fox said the ButterflyMX has been widely well-received, along with other convenience-based amenities such as light-emitting diode lighting, high-speed WiFi, a key fob system to open doors of residential units and a package concierge service.

“Residents get an email or text when a package arrives to the central mail room,” Fox said, noting that mail from multiple carriers was becoming too overwhelming to manage.

“Delivery drivers have a code to log in, like UPS, and the barcode on the package gets scanned,” he said. “The driver finds the tenant’s name and room number, and the package gets put in the locker and the tenant is notified.”

 

PRIVACY CONCERNS

William Dohe, principal at R+D Architecture in Easton, said only a few clients are tech-driven enough to want to incorporate advanced technology systems at their homes. He said he understands residential developments and the need for key fobs and intercom systems.

However, when it comes to people putting technology into their homes, they do not want to spend the money and they worry about privacy.

They are not as interested in connecting all devices or appliances to each other in their homes or having a device such as Amazon Alexis play music or make phone calls for them.

 

LABOR, INSTALLATION

Dole said one client, a tech guru in Allentown, designed his multimillion-dollar house with all of the best and latest technology.

It included voice activation, security and full integration systems and temperature and lighting control – controlling much of it with his smartphone.

“I just do not see a lot of people grabbing onto it in this market of ‘spend more for less,’ ” Dohe said.

“The integration of this technology is in the labor, not necessarily the parts. Then, you have the installation costs, and the price keeps going up.” n

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