Real Estate Tech Trends

It might be hard to believe, but we are edging ever-closer to the new year and 2019 will be here before we know it. The start of a new year signals change and as we prepare what this one will bring, Seattle Times dove into the top four technological trends that are making—or are set to make—an impact on the real estate industry. From modular housing opportunities and automated parking systems to a whole new level of amenities, explore those five trends and the resounding impact they may have on the Emerald City’s future.

Modular Housing

According to the Times, modular housing is emerging as a concrete solution to traditional building methods, which are prone to delays. As the article outlines, construction takes place off-site, “in which factory-made steel modules — outfitted with electrical and plumbing systems, high-end finishes and even elaborate facades — can be stacked on site, like Legos, in about 70 percent of the time it would take for a conventional” build.

This approach has gained popularity primarily in the hotel industry, though there have been some low-rise and single-family projects utilizing the method as well. Over the summer, Curbed Seattle reported on Seattle’s first modular hotel, a collaboration between CitizenM and architecture firm Gensler. Curbed reports that the hotel’s rooms were constructed in Poland and then shipped to the Port of Everett in August. According to those close to the project, this method “reduces construction costs, limits pedestrian and traffic interruptions around the construction site, and reduces construction waste by 60 percent.” The hotel is scheduled to open in 2019.

Robotic Parking

SPIRE (above) will utilize a first-of-its-kind semi-automated parking system on its 10,000 square foot site.

SPIRE (above) will utilize a first-of-its-kind semi-automated parking system on its 10,000 square foot site.

After nearly two decades of waves of interest in robotic parking structures, technology is now primed for builders to begin to take advantage of automated parking in new projects. As an example, the Times cites the U-Tron system, which it calls “a vending machine on a giant scale, with a computerized brain.” The system can park cars as close as 4 inches apart and only requires 6 inches of overhead clearance, which means garages can be two to three times denser than a standard park-it-yourself garage. After a car has been parked, the vehicle’s owner simply uses an app to summon the car and they can retrieve it from the loading bay in just five minutes.

Seattle will see its first automated parking at the forthcoming SPIRE condominium tower, which will rise at 600 Wall Street in Belltown. Given the space constraints of the site, Laconia Development and Watry Design elected to work directly with a China-based automated parking system manufacturer to find an efficient parking solution. The result, as Watry Design writes, “the resulting design will be a customized semi-auto system utilizing a 24 hour valet service” that will provide 300 valet parked vehicles stored via three vehicle elevators.

Mixed—or No—Signals

Cell service is increasingly recognized as a utility in new development projects and those that don’t heed care and attention to how a building’s structure may influence access to service are paying the price. The Times provides a case study of a luxury rental tower in New Jersey, in which “developers didn’t anticipate that the building’s energy-efficient windows and walls would create cellphone dead zones and interfere with their fancy app.”

In order to resolve the issue, the developer elected to have Illuminati install a “passive distributed antenna system, a network of antennas, cables and signal boosters that amplified the signal from the air,” which allowed them to avoid the increasingly costly infrastructure of hard-wiring a building to suit the major service providers.

Amenities 2.0

Wellness has emerged as a theme in condominium buildings, with the lifestyle extending far beyond the walls of residents’ homes. We have seen this trend in Seattle’s new development projects, particularly in the NEXUS, a luxurious high-rise project set to grace the city’s skyline by the end of 2019.

NEXUS (above) is bringing amenities to a whole new level with services in the lobby and on the 7th and 41st floors.

NEXUS (above) is bringing amenities to a whole new level with services in the lobby and on the 7th and 41st floors.

NEXUS provides a robust collection of common areas, concierge services, retail attractions and access to high-touch, high-tech solutions so that residents and guests need only leave the building given the desire, but not by necessity. The suite of amenities includes co-working spaces and conference rooms; a yoga studio, fitness center, pet lounge and pet run; private guest suites, a catering kitchen and private dining; wraparound terraces, a covered exterior living room, wraparound terraces, a fireside lounge and BBQ terrace; and a media lounge and games room, among others.

Given that many of the technological trends outlined by the Times are already taking hold in Seattle, it will be interesting to see how they play out into 2019 and beyond.