The newest condos-to-be flaunt amenities like pet spas, yoga rooms and libraries—perks that future resident’s look forward to. But what is sometimes missing from the list of niceties are technologies that respond to crucial issues like safety and security.
As society ushers in an era of smart home technology that is more adaptable and efficient, some developers are pushing this to the top of a pile of conveniences—for owners aging in place or buyers looking for extra protection from building emergencies or unwanted visitors.
One of them is Vandyk Properties. As the first private developer to have signed a binding agreement with Metrolinx for a transit-oriented community in Ontario, the city builder is bringing an integrated home technology system to its Buckingham Condos.
The trio of towers will span 1.85 million square feet in the upcoming Grand Central Mimico mixed-use community in South Etobicoke. Every suite will have a wall pad and smartphone app that owners can control from anywhere.
The whole intent of the wall pad is that it’s accessible, whether that means controlling the temperature within a suite or calling for elevator access in the morning. Owners can also load the wall pad set-up onto any smart device as an app.
When it comes to remote caregiving, the technology may be a most important amenity as it creates a family support service for elderly purchasers. For instance, parents can give access to their children to monitor and assist with any heating or cooling issues, or to make sure doors are locked.
Domenic Zita, executive vice president and managing director of operations at Vandyk Properties, says children unable to contact their parents can actually see if they left their suite; the technology records residents entering and exiting. Remote caregivers, with access, are immediately alerted to potentially larger emergencies like faulty smoke detectors or water leaks.
On the flipside, investors can remotely monitor what is happening from within their unit, as well. Sometimes, tenants aren’t always cognizant of reporting problems in a timely manner. “The biggest issue most people find is they have a leak and don’t know they have a leak,” Zita points out. “The technology can implement leak detection in all the devices where you would detect a leak as it begins, as opposed to one that is hidden and all of a sudden there is damage.”
The magic touch
Before the pandemic, the developer envisioned a touchless suite entry system for the design, where owners use their smartphones to gain access from the condo’s exterior all the way through to their units. “What we’ve all gone through this last year—avoiding shaking hands and touching things— the actual suite entry door system is moving in that direction where you’re not physically touching a handle to get in,” Zita adds. “To us, it’s one of the most important factors of the technology.”
As it eliminates the need for keys, owners who forget to lock their suite doors can do so from their cars in the parking garage. Investors renting out a unit can also assign access to this lock without worrying about retrieving keys from a tenant.
Conveniences like this bring in question the possibility of unit break-ins. As Zita explains, the system is fully secured. “The platform is designed so that it is no different than secured banking softwares,” he says. “There are measures put in place and many security back-checks that prevent someone from hacking into the system.”
Owners can also monitor who is contacting them for permission into the condo, as there are known cases where trespassers will ring various units until someone lets them inside. The software sends a visual record of anyone ringing for access. “It’s one way so the person in the lobby contacting you can’t see you, but you can see them,” says Zita. “From a security level, the system helps promote fully integrated security through the whole development.”
The technology also reads the license plates of vehicles belonging to owners or their visitors registered in the system. Driving up, rather than pressing a button and a security guard opens the gate, the system connects a license plate to a unit number and allows the driver into the selected parking area, which also helps track security threats.
A local feel
As part of the whole program integrated software, retail vendors within the buildings or surrounding community can connect into the app. “A homeowner doesn’t have to search the internet to find the closest shoe repair or pizza place,” Zita adds. “They have this instant connection.”
The idea is that it glues together a very mixed-use community and creates a local feel. Condo dwellers use the app to reach restaurants and services and receive critical building notices, classified ads and amenity bookings. In a way, it builds social connections, which, in turn, is another form of security.
As the first phase of the Grand Central Mimico development, The Buckingham is currently under construction and already sold out. The towers, all ranging in height, connect together through the podium, with 20,000 square feet of retail space, to be anchored by an urban grocery store and restaurants and about 30,000 square feet of office space. Kohn Partnership Architects is the designer, with Figure3 as the interior design partner.