The international developer set out to raise the bar with its first premium multi-family project in Germany. Fully let within six months and several awards later, the project team explains how they approached the challenge and the lessons learned along the way. PlaceTech spoke with Christoph Reschke, senior managing director; Joachim Wintzer, managing director; Maximilian Winkler, associate at Hines.
We wanted the coolest things for the building, and to get the best feeling for that as long-term investors we met brokers and discussed what the floor plan should like, what the best experience was that customers were looking for today and so on. We found out there was no data to answer our questions.
So, we put in three or four times more research than we do in a regular project – in total conducting one year of research before starting. The desire was to digitalise the services and we needed an app that could include all those services. There was no solution for full leasing. No holistic app. We toured different buildings in Germany, US and Switzerland. We wanted to offer amenities, room booking, and the possibility of leasing the building online.
This was Hines’ first multi-family project in Germany is the first building on site at a large development area next to train station Bahnhof Berlin Südkreuz. There are 664 units in 11 contiguous buildings of up to seven storeys above underground parking. The units are a mix of full market, social and student for lease. There are extensive community amenities (see below) including a guest room bookable for tenants’ friends and family, music room and laundrette. The concept was ‘access instead of ownership’. Going digital enables shared services in a way that was not possible before. Tenants receive one month’s free internet and then have the choice of whether to stay with the provider or switch.
Eventually we chose Reos Software for our full-service app. Tech firms understand now they cannot be only a silo app and they have to integrate. The facilities management team received 40,000 tickets from customers in the first months, asking where this or that was in the building. Dealing with all these tickets was a huge task at first but now we see less than the average number of tickets raised. It was an experiment and in the end it worked. We moved in 1,200 new people in six months. The average age is 33 years. They can contact us 24/7. The app is also used for comms such as to incentivise tenants to reduce energy consumption. A digital doorbell sounds on their phone and they can open the door from anywhere.
In terms of lessons learned we are reviewing which floorplate there was the biggest demand for and new projects will reflect that, starting with our next development in Munich.
We had to learn how tech partners work and at times had to insist we get new features now and not wait. Our construction partners complained during the build phase but now they say ‘this is the future’. The integrations between service providers are key and some came too late in the project for our comfort. We had started construction and had to re-lay cables; our advice would be to ‘think digitally from the start’.
In future we would like to combine office and residential apps. For instance, the direct contact from a tenant in residential is rarer in office. We also want to explore more low-tech buildings, use the best digitalised solutions to reduce the overall amount of tech needed. That’s the next step. Raising the bar again.
Closer look at Südkreuz
Since completion the development received two platinum certifications for its digital infrastructure and connectivity by WiredScore. Südkreuz was named winner of the immobilienmanager award 2021 in the digitisation category. CBRE Investment Management acquired the development in September 2021.
- Doorbell: video signal, remote control tenant app
- Parcel station: send and receive parcels, notification via app, digital letterbox labelling
- Locking: lock door with transponder fob or via mobile app as key, temporary access possible
- Facility management: ticket mailing system, easier process for damages and status
- Tenant app: Booking amenities, community chat, messaging to all tenants
- Smart metering: real-time consumption data in back office and tenant app
- REOS: responsible for intelligent Internet of Things building control system and all data processing. Also developed Südkreuz-App, accessible exclusively to residents and allows to adapt community offerings to individual needs
- BRICKS: responsible for project website südkreuz.com based on REOS system including fully digitalised rental process provided together with Moovin
- Moovin: real estate agent with focus on digital processes
- SimonsVossS: digital locking system
- SKS: digital doorbell system
- RENZ: digital parcel station
- WeWash: washing solutions
- Zenner: Smart Metering & Digital Measurement
- DT.Net: Internet Provider – offers glass fibre directly into the apartment including free internet for first month of moving in, already pre-installed at move-in
Rental levels €
- The price per square meter for the 116 subsidised social housing apartments is €6,- plus state funding of €2,-. The freely financed apartments were designed for the medium to upper rental segment (€16-19,-) and thus reflect the land and construction costs as well as building quality. The micro apartments were priced around €22.
- Short average letting time of approx. 26 days after buildings/apartments were handed over by the prime contractor. This resulted in a high leasing rate of more than 100 apartments a month. This was only made possible with the highly digitized processes, which allowed for efficient contract management and apartment handovers.