Canadian Security Magazine

Emerging trends in modern building management

By Jason Chiu   

Features condos editors pick multi dwelling units property management

kate_sept2004 / Getty Images

Property managers today have many responsibilities and there’s a lot at stake in terms of risk. They must ensure the security of their property, its ongoing maintenance, and address the concerns of their tenants while ensuring their safety. Some condominiums in Canada have almost 800 units and keeping track of the entire building along with its tenants can become incredibly complicated.

To efficiently oversee the many aspects of a building’s continued smooth operation, it is essential to streamline security, maintenance, and tenant feedback. If a property manager can refine even one of these three factors, then they can give the other two increased attention and consideration. To start with the simplest of the three: here’s how property managers can streamline tenant feedback.

Tenant concerns

According to studies, the most common complaints put forward by tenants are related to common area upkeep, disorganized management, no response to maintenance concerns, security issues, poor lighting, and lack of preventive maintenance. Of these concerns, disorganized management is what will inevitably make other issues worse. An organized property manager can effectively receive and address tenant concerns in reasonable time, and these concerns often cross over into security and maintenance issues.

There should be numerous, simple ways for tenants to reach out to management or staff regarding any concerns they may have. Property managers can also take the initiative to contact tenants proactively to ascertain any difficulties they might be facing. If the approach is not too formal, then tenants feel valued and heard. If tenants feel valued and heard, then half the battle has been won and it is time to finish things off by resolving their issues.

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Resolve issues quickly and be responsive

An excellent property manager is not just one who resolves issues in an instant. Some complaints are more complex or require more involved solutions which may take an extended amount of time. Keeping tenants up to date regarding their concerns is also incredibly important. If a complaint is taking longer to address, but the tenant is not being kept up to speed, then they won’t know what’s going on and will likely become increasingly frustrated. For some, just having the knowledge that their issue has been acknowledged and is being worked on is enough to assuage their concerns.

For example, if maintenance issues are a common complaint, then property management should have professionals prepared to perform the necessary repairs and upkeep work. Most often, delays in complaint resolution are due to a lack of availability of relevant industry workers who can solve maintenance-related problems.

Once tenants feel their concerns have been heard, and a system has been established for tracking the status of issues and the resolution, property managers can design a comprehensive maintenance plan.

Maintenance

If proper and regular maintenance is performed, your building’s safety, structure, and security will be improved.

Failure to conduct proper maintenance can lead to not only tenant dissatisfaction, but a decrease in building security. If aspects of building security, such as lights, intercoms, access units, locks, or answering units are not correctly maintained, they could malfunction and put the safety of a building’s tenants at risk.

If tenant feedback is properly and swiftly addressed, maintenance is regularly scheduled and performed, then remaining responsibilities for the property manager are around building security measures. Modern building management technology can make security simple and centralized for property managers and allow them to focus on the other important aspects of running their building effectively and within budget.

Modern building management solutions

Leading companies in the building management industry offer complete portfolios for MDU installations, including intercoms, answering units, access units, and more. An entire building could be outfitted with a single company’s high-quality offerings or could instead integrate new products into their existing building management systems.

One of the most effective ways to increase building security is through the installation of a robust access control system. Modern systems limit who can enter the building and can enforce specific limitations for different entrances and timeframes. For example, they might lock the service elevator entrance overnight, even for registered residents, but allow access during the day during reserved hours. All kinds of people come and go through condos, such as guests of residents, repairmen, deliveries, and other services. A professional property manager must maintain a careful balance between security and hindering the lives of residents.

Intercom systems

Modern, premium intercom systems are making residents’ lives easier than ever. They are also efficient for property managers, as they are easy to install, easy to configure, and easy to maintain. Top-level offerings are water-resistant, dust-resistant, and vandalism-resistant. Necessary software updates can be provisioned through a centralized application, and there is no longer the need to run proprietary analogue cables of all different types throughout a building. Modern solutions can be connected via regular ethernet cable, which will provide power and connectivity on an IP network. Even if running cable is too difficult, perhaps in an older building, there are now LTE solutions which can be installed, granting residents access to crisp, two-way voice communication with visitors without the complications posed by cable installation work.

Intercom systems can be compatible with a dedicated mobile application, which enables residents to see who is requesting entry to their unit, even on the go. If a resident is expecting a visitor, but is away from home and running late, they can still receive notifications from their building’s intercom system and remotely allow guests entry. A resident could be in another country, and still grant unit access to a delivery courier bringing them an important package. Since they receive a high-definition video feed on their mobile device, they can clearly see who is trying to gain entry and turn away unfamiliar faces if necessary. Modern intercoms also come equipped with video cameras capable of infrared night vision, enabling residents to recognize visitors even in total darkness. These advances offer increased security over simple buzzer or call-based intercom systems, as they can see easily identify exactly who is requesting access to their unit and turn them away accordingly. Even if an MDU has a modern intercom but chooses to forego installing modern answering units for every resident, an image of a visitor’s face can be seen through a mobile companion application or delivered via email to the resident.

This freedom of choice, while still offering powerful security solutions and convenience for residents, is what makes modern building security solutions more attractive than ever. The ability to install LTE units to avoid running ethernet cable has already been touched on, but it is possible to upgrade the intercom system without installing answering units, or just install secure access units along with an intercom, and so on. The flexibility provided by modern building security solutions is one of their biggest selling points, as it grants property managers of new and old properties the ability to increase security incrementally. If a building already has answering units installed, they can upgrade their existing intercom and secure access systems and integrate them with existing solutions. The concept of upgrading an entire building using a complete portfolio of products initially sounds like a daunting and expensive task but being able to pick and choose what is most important and achievable for a MDU at a given time is invaluable.

Answering systems

Modern answering units and systems have evolved far beyond receiving a phone call and inputting a button press or rushing to the front door to respond to a buzz from the lobby. Current, high-quality products offer luxurious displays that can receive calls, connect to a video intercom to show residents who is trying to gain entry, and even integrate with home automation systems.

Video from answering units can be viewed as needed, allowing residents to review missed calls along with an image of the caller. Modern answering systems come equipped with touchscreens which enable simplified setup, use, and configuration. Units provide high quality audio and video, allowing residents to carry out clear conversations and accurately identify visitors.

Installation of modern answering units is a breeze, with top-level offerings connected and powered via a single ethernet cable. If new cabling can’t be installed, certain companies offer WiFi enabled versions which can accommodate older buildings and allow for quicker installation processes. Units can come equipped with Android OS support, which allows for easy installation of third-party applications, such as smart home control or monitoring applications. This means a resident can control lights, blinds, thermostats, and other smart home devices, all from their answering unit. They can also, through a mobile companion application, access their answering unit remotely to utilize all its features, including watching past video footage and reviewing missed calls, from anywhere in the world.

Secure access systems

As a property manager, who can access the building and when they can access the building are two of the most important factors in keeping a building secure. Traditionally, this took the form of hundreds of physical keys, which must be catalogued and kept track of to ensure an uninvited guest does not gain unauthorized access to the structure. Modern access systems have begun utilizing RFID cards which can grant access to the building and be remotely deactivated if lost or stolen. This offers better security but is still bogged down by the need to physically distribute credentials and replace them if an authorized user loses them. This could also lead to situations where authorized users are unable to enter their unit, if they happen to forget their card at home, for example.

The emerging trend in secure access systems is the transition to mobile access systems, which can open doors much faster through pre-authentication technology, detect when an authorized user is approaching a door as opposed to leaving a door or simply sitting near an entrance, and operate on secure Bluetooth channels using AES-128 and RSA-1024 encryption keys. These access units eliminate the need to distribute physical credentials or RFID cards, as they can be opened with fingerprints, PIN codes, and mobile devices. If a contractor is coming to perform repair work, their mobile device can be authorized before they arrive, and deauthorized after the work is done to maximize convenience and minimize security risk.

Complete control and monitoring

The biggest benefit to modern building security solutions, is their centralized quality. From one station, and one piece of software, an entire building can be managed and overseen, down to each individual intercom and access unit. Top companies offer software solutions that are available as a virtual machine, which means they can be easily scaled and deployed to any server regardless of operating system.

Centralized device management enables a property manager to manage access to the building and monitor the status of access control units in real time. Firmware updates can be pushed in bulk with just a few clicks, ensuring continuous optimal performance and security of all devices. The software will grant access to detailed logs and instant alerts which can be sent via email or appear in the software itself. If an incident has taken place, relevant figures can be granted full access to camera logs at specific timestamps to review footage and better understand chosen events. Visitors can be granted credentials or time-limited access to individual areas remotely, and an audit trail can be kept for compliance purposes.

Streamlining operations with end-to-end solutions

Ultimately, if a property manager chooses high-quality, intelligent technologies that can be easily installed, maintained, and integrated then they’ve made their job more straightforward, and the lives of their residents more comfortable. In the case of upgrading an entire building with brand new devices in every residential unit is too expensive or complicated, then reputable surveillance companies may offer solutions which can be easily integrated with existing hardware and software.

The total security of the building can be monitored from a single server running administrative software, with the ability to allow specific individuals access to areas at certain times, and remotely allow visitors access to the building.

If security is supported by integrated network solutions, then property managers can devote more time to maintaining the quality of a building and quickly responding to tenant concerns. Both are conducive to a safe living environment.

Jason Chiu is the Professional Services Group Manager with Axis Canada.


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