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New digital home

Rüsselsheim is currently offering two innovations for the housing industry, as an attractive residential building emerges from a former office block. For the project real estate developer DIWO has joined forces with the noventic group to break new ground in the digitisation of residential space. Both tenants and landlords will benefit from this development, and people interested in renting there are forming a long queue.

At the moment there is no residential neighbourhood hereabouts, at least not a typical one. Car dealerships and smallish IT firms reside here, and one of the first buildings you come to in the street is the Rüsselsheim police stations, a building of unadorned design, clearly a product of the 60s or 70s. In the November mist this district in the south of Rüsselsheim comes across as even more melancholy than usual, making it hard to imagine that modern, urban living is on the march here. But it is happening anyway. It all began with a residential block which is not really one at all, or at least was not one until recently. The building in Rüsselsheim’s Eisenstraße used to be the European headquarters of US computer and printer manufacturer Hewlett Packard. But at the start of 2018 the building reinvented itself. It now houses 129 homes, ranging from one-room studios to a four-room family apartment.

A wide range of people are interested in living there, from single persons and students to young families and older people. They have three things in common, though: a positive attitude to technological innovation and the opportunities it throws up, a desire to keep their energy costs down and a sense of their responsibility to protect the climate through their everyday lifestyles.

The Rüsselsheim construction project is innovative in two different respects

Firstly, the project involves the refurbishment and repurposing of an office building, “the first project of its kind” for the real estate developer DIWO, as CEO Bernd Dillmann points out. Secondly, DIWO Living, as the property has been named, sets new standards for the digitisation of rented apartments, something from which both the tenants and the landlord will benefit. Current and future residents can communicate directly with their landlord via app. As Bernd Dillmann, CEO of DIWO Living, says, in the noventic group they “found a great company to have as partner“. He needed one too, because his ideas around digitalised living space are far-reaching. At the heart of the matter for him were “the metering equipment and connected communications infrastructure which we have installed here”. That is why he entrusted the noventic group with the complete digitalisation of the 129-apartment complex, thereby connecting it up with the Internet of Things.

What are the advantages of digitisation?

Tenants can quickly check their consumption behaviour, viewing their use of heat, hot water and electricity. In his discussions with prospective tenants Bernd Dillmann found that this went down well. “Tenants feel almost like they’re embarking on a new lifestyle. Instead of just getting a boring statement of overheads at the end of each year”, he reports, “at any time they can view what they are consuming and where they can make savings.” With the help of this feature tenants can “set personal benchmarks which enable them to significantly reduce their energy consumption.” A smartphone app shows how high their own consumption is and how it compares with the average consumption in comparable apartments in the neighbourhood. If the bar chart shows that their own consumption is above average, some tenants are bound to reflect on how they can make savings without freezing in the process.

Technical Project Manager David Robertson of noventic and Roland Klaiber, the PPC Project Manager

IP network in buildings – with broadband powerline

The technological basis for this is provided by a combination of modern sensor systems, a data stream which is securely available over the mains power grid and guaranteed by broadband powerline technology, plus the so-called smart meter gateway. Europe’s biggest independent device manufacturer QUNDIS and Power Plus Communications AG (PPC) supply the necessary technology. The powerline technology “is distributed throughout the entire building over the mains power line, thereby forming a complete IP network”, says Technical Project Manager David Robertson. “At the moment we chiefly use this infrastructure for the submetering.” However, other useful applications are also made possible by this infrastructure. “For example, it offers the building management the option of monitoring the temperature and atmospheric humidity in order to take preventive action against mildew and ensure a healthy atmosphere in the living spaces, as well as protecting the building fabric”, says Robertson. A benefit for landlords and tenants alike. All in all, the digitalised, direct information exchange offers added value for everybody. Billing processes become faster and more straightforward, particularly during changes of tenant.

And naturally it is an investment in the future

If, in the upcoming years, many real estate owners find themselves in a hectic rush to meet the legal requirement, in force since 2020, to provide all-year-round consumption information, the occupants and landlords of DIWO Living can sit back and relax. “We can already offer that today”, says Robertson. And that is not all: “We are already moving far beyond the current legal requirements.“

For DIWO boss Bernd Dillmann something else is also important: the mix of tenants from different social backgrounds and generations. “That ensures a stable body of tenants”, the real estate developer points out. The older generation, who often look askance at the digitisation of everyday life, will also benefit in future from the system that the noventic group has installed in Rüsselsheim. As David Robertson explains: “If an elderly person who lives alone unexpectedly deviates from his or her normal lifestyle, for example by not having consumed any water by late morning, which can be measured by the system, then somebody can be informed and can go and check up on them.” The model is known as ambient assisted living (AAL). It “stands for concepts, products and services which introduce new technologies into everyday life in order to improve the quality of life of people of all ages, especially the elderly”, explains the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung). However, the Ministry laments that there are “hardly any successful examples of the use of new technologies to enhance the quality of life of older people.” Rüsselsheim is one of them, though.
Menschen“. In Rüsselsheim schon.

Eisenstraße 58, Rüsselsheim

An interim summary from the portfolio holder

The concept appears to be proving a success: As of mid-November 115 of the 129 apartments had already been let. “We had two or three applicants to choose from for every residential unit”, says Bernd Dillmann. No wonder, given that living space is in short supply in the Frankfurt am Main metropolitan area and that Dillmann was able to score points thanks to the advantages of this residential complex, many of which have a lot to do with digitisation. Moreover, at an average of ten euros per square meter the rent is not too high for the region. Another important point for many tenants is that the Rüsselsheim Triangle, an important motorway intersection in the Rhine-Main region, is in close proximity. This means that this new residential building is just a few minutes drive from Frankfurt Airport. A fact that makes the advantages of the DIWO Living project particularly apparent for a few of the new residents: they are pilots.

Encouraged by this success, DIWO boss Bernd Dillmann will soon be embarking on his next project. Right next to DIWO Living, and currently only separated by a car park, the next office block, totalling 25,000 square meters, awaits its transformation into a residential building, naturally also digitalised throughout.