Spearheading tech-integration in a Covid-era

Moda Living discuss their approach to technology, which plays a vital role in every area of our Next Generation Neighbourhoods.

Atrium at Angel Gardens, which uses smart building technology - Moda Living | Utopi |BTR News
Angel Gardens atrium.

By Oscar Brooks, Director, Moda Living 

As a family run business that merges traditional community values with innovative design, construction and technology, it’s our duty to make a mark on the rental sector. We realise more than ever the fundamental role technology plays in the day-to-day experiences of our residents, and how crucial it is to the future success and sustainability of the wider Build to Rent sector.    

Our approach to technology is helping us to set the agenda for the future of residential – building the smart, next generation neighbourhoods of the future and setting a precedence in the Build to Rent space more broadly. With a growing £2.5bn pipeline of over 8,000 rent-only homes across the UK, we are driving complete vertical integration. To fast track tech-enablement, we have curated relationships with a number of best-in-class tech brands to ensure that connectivity and continued innovation enables us to respond quickly to residents ever-changing needs, and in the short term, a new way of living in a Covid-19 world.   

2020 has resulted in a fundamental change in the way people view their home. Since the pandemic, JLL report that 82% of employees now intend to work from home more than once a week.  With more people working and spending time at home, residents are demanding access to more workspace, outdoor space, community space and wellbeing provision. We’re already ahead of the curve on this, because top quality communal space is at the heart of what we do – residents benefit from communal lounges, work from home and coworking space, cinema rooms, dining rooms etc, and we only see the popularity of this increasing. But what role can we play in ensuring residents health & safety during a global pandemic, something no one could have predicted?  

Technology plays a vital role in every area of our Next Generation Neighbourhoods’, but it’s prudent to start by talking about how we’ve evolved our use of tech to combat Covid-19.   

Resident feedback and operational intelligence made it evident that protecting our community was vital. The fastest way to achieve this was to retune our IoT technology to help manage the spread of Covid.  Our close relationship with managed service provider – Utopi – has facilitated the development of innovative, customised technology to keep the virus out of our neighbourhoods. This will be managed in three core ways; thermal screening with an instant pass or fail temperature check, people counting cameras to manage social distancing and resident volume in communal spaces, and IoT sensors that track the usage of assets in the building to inform a data driven cleaning regime.   

Angel Gardens coworking dashboard on technology platform - Moda | BTR News
Angel Gardens coworking dashboard.

This is a first, not only in the residential space but it’s paving the way for the commercial property space too. Our technology allows us to track usage and occupancy in real-time of shared spaces like the gym, roof terrace, coworking desks and library. This enables us to manage social distancing for residents’ health and safety. We can generate data for individual areas (i.e. coworking, gym, library, bathrooms), floors (i.e. the roof terrace), or aggregate across the whole building to monitor and manage total resident or guest numbers at any given time.

State-of-the-art thermal screening takes a millisecond and tests the temperature of residents entering for example the gym, with an instant pass or fail light. This data will help us make informed decisions operationally, and residents who fail the screening must follow internal processes to ensure the safety of their neighbours.    

PIR sensors will help us to automate and track cleaning regimes in areas including bathrooms, private dining room, gyms and coworking desks, allowing us to set KPIs around cleaning. For example, you can automate a cleaning regime after a coworking desk is evacuated, after which the maintenance staff tag the sensor relating to the area they’ve cleaned which tells the senor this area is now clear. The desk then shows as clean and unoccupied on the concierge dashboard and on the MyModa app for the next resident to book and use.     

In short, IoT technology gives us the aggregated data we need to determine what residents can and cannot do during specific times – especially useful during a pandemic. In addition to this, Utopi’s world-leading multi-sensor allows us to track and control air quality in our buildings in real-time, including temperature, humidity, light, noise and CO2 – all key wellness factors in the long term allowing us to create a wellness score for each neighbourhood.    

Utopi's amenities dashboard with thermal | BTR News
Utopi’s amenities dashboard.

Ensuring residents privacy is always maintained, data is anonymous and aggregated to help us run a smooth and efficient operation with health, safety and wellbeing at the forefront.

Moving forward, Utopi technology will be present across our entire portfolio, helping lower maintenance and utility costs, improving residents living experience, and increasing the long-term value and sustainability of our assets by making every neighbourhood safer, healthier and more affordable. By designing, installing and managing a smart infrastructure, providing IoT powered data analytics and insight, we can change the way our neighbourhoods are designed moving forward – as well as helping us repurpose existing spaces using data to support. This technology alone will result in more than 20% savings on energy and 45% on reactive maintenance per annum, and that’s only the beginning. If you can make a building cost less to operate then it’s going to be worth more in time.    

Outside of adapting tech to fight the pandemic, we see investment in technology as a necessity for a new breed of renter, and all residential landlords should investigate this where possible. This started at the beginning of our journey, with a first of its kind app – MyModa – for the residents of Moda, Angel Gardens in Manchester. The focus was to keep residents connected to one another, share important news, events, offers and experiences exclusive to the Moda community – especially during lockdown where we had 33,000 engagements in the first two months. But it facilitates so much more. They can pay rent, gain keyless entry into their apartments, book sessions at the gym and ‘clean’ desks in the coworking areas.    

Wellbeing has always been one of our brand values, and it’s now increasingly a core focus for both residential and commercial landlords. Our work with wellness-tech brand – hero -provides residents with a programme of support focusing on physical and emotional wellness, which is supported and driven by hero’s digital wellness concept; Navigator. It combines creating positive habits with education, tracking and tools for personal goal setting as well as the ability to speak to experts who offer support around mental and physical health and nutrition.    

Moda's maintenance dashboard | BTR News
Moda’s maintenance dashboard

On the continued theme of resident wellbeing, Moda joined forces with innovative fintech Canopy to help residents improve their Experian credit score and access a suite of financial products. Canopy supports our focus on tech enablement across our neighbourhoods, allowing prospective residents to reserve an apartment entirely online in less than 10 clicks. It also enables us to pre-screen a residents’ financial health before they move into our neighbourhoods.   

Lastly we’re working together with Samsung on several key initiatives including research and development of smart home products and services to enhance resident wellbeing and tackle loneliness. Samsung’s latest connected appliances are currently present in every single apartment in Moda’s Angel Gardens neighbourhood, including the Samsung Built-In Fridge Freezer with Total No Frost, the Samsung Fully Integrated Dishwasher, and the Induction hob and Solo microwave. There is now a portfolio wide supplier agreement in place for more than 60,000 appliances spanning Moda’s neighbourhoods. Samsung has additionally committed to refreshing residents’ appliances every three-seven years to ensure they have the most current product offering. 

Ultimately, we’re focused on creating a positive impact in the sector long term, and technology is already improving building management, delivering cost savings for our residents, lowering energy consumption, moving us towards net-zero carbon, and increasing the sustainability of our neighbourhoods and their long-term asset value. We have (simply by future-proofing our brand), become the first Build to Rent Proptech, with sustainability being the overarching proposition, and we firmly believe that other Build to Rent companies need to have the right technology in place to adapt to this new normal.