There was a time when gadgets were strictly the domain of James Bond, but these days, cool gizmos and technology are showing up everywhere, including new apartments.
With the glut of new rental spaces hitting the D.C. market in the coming year, developers are always looking for a competitive advantage to attract renters. One tack is infusing the rental experience with high-tech gadgets. Some new buildings boast iPod docking stations in each apartment that connect to TV and speaker systems, computer monitors displaying Metro arrival times and weather forecasts in the lobby, and even mobile apps that let residents communicate with one another.
“This tech facilitates meeting people and finding friends,” says MariettaGelfort, 34, a student at George Washington University.
She and her husband, Volker Sorger, 33, live in the Lotus at Halstead Square (2729 Merrilee Drive, Fairfax; 703-638-1495).
When they’re in the mood to stay in, the couple can check out one of the building’s iPod Touches, which come preloaded with movies. Pop the device into their apartment’s built-in iPod dock, and the movie will play on their TV and over the apartment’s built-in speakers. Some units even come with built-in 42-inch flat-screens.
If they feel like some fresh air, Sorger and Gelfort can head to the outdoor movie pavilion, complete with a 16-by-9-foot screen, a movie projector (it connects to AppleTV and to cable television) and a grassy spot to lie on.
Halstead isn’t the only building with these perks. When Alyssa Westenberger, 35, a project manager with Presidio Network Solutions, moved into Trilogy NoMa in Northeast D.C., she was surprised to find that she could get into her apartment with the wave of an electronic device called a fob that is individually coded to her door.
She was pleasantly surprised to discover a common room with not only billiards, but also Wii, PlayStation and Xbox.
“It sounds silly, but it’s great to have these things,” she says.
Tech isn’t just for show. “It creates a community in the building,” Sorger says. “It encourages you to participate.”
In the complex’s two common areas equipped with Apple TV, Sorger can take a few swings in a virtual golf game on a giant screen that lets users “play” on 200 courses.
Sorger can be social online as well by using an online portal called MyHalstead.
“It’s our own little Craigslist,” says Kristi Sherman, 28, the general manager of Halstead Square.
The app lets you check out events going on at the building and in the neighborhood, get alerts about packages, pay your rent, put in maintenance requests and even buy or sell items in a marketplace.
When the building first opened, residents who liked to jog used MyHalstead to find fellow enthusiasts. The building staff saw this and created a running group.
“It gives us the ability to see what residents want and then deliver it to them,” Sherman says. She has also used the app to get residents to vote on which movies to load onto those iPod Touches.
The Future Is … Soonish
While all this new technology brings benefits, it also creates new challenges. Building maintenance now has to know how to repair a faucet, maintain an iPod dock and set up an Xbox such as the ones in Trilogy NoMa’s entertainment room.
“Training the staff was incredibly important,” says Sherman, who made sure the people who installed the technology stuck around to teach them how it worked.
Relying on cutting-edge technology can lead to cutting-edge problems. According to Westenberger, the entire lock system at the Trilogy NoMa failed when there was construction at the apartments. “No one could get into their apartments for four hours,” she says.
Not All Fun and Games
Gadgets and gizmos aren’t just for fun. They’re also making apartments environmentally friendly.
“The entire building really supports green living,” Gelfort says. “There are even chargers for electric cars.”
In some buildings, older technologies — such as rainwater-filtration systems and cisterns — have gotten a modern makeover.
New designs and construction methods mean that water-filtration systems on the roofs of apartment complexes are feasible and productive, says Kelsey Mullen, the director of residential business development at the U.S. Green Building Council.
Back to the Future
Even if you weren’t looking for high-tech amenities, once you’ve lived somewhere with them, it’s hard to give them up. “It gives a feel of living in the 21st century,” Sorger says. “If we went back to a building one or two generations older it would feel like a setback.”
The extra cost for the technology, some say, is worth it. “The rent is a bit more, but when you think about all the entertainment in the building, you really save a lot,” Gelfort says. MATTHEW RAZAK (FOR EXPRESS)
The five things we wish existed, but don’t yet. Get on it, technology!
The Metro Alarm Clock: Track maintenance means a train won’t be showing up for the next 30 minutes? We dream of a clock that knows it and sets your alarm later so you get extra sleep and not extra standing-on-the-Metro-platform time.
Traffic Updater: When traffic reports come in saying 495 is moving slower than a deadlocked Congress, we’d like an app that automatically calls your boss to tell him or her you’re going to be late. Then we can use those five minutes for more sleep.
Don’t-Bother Door Lock: There’s an event/parade/protest downtown. Your apartment locks the doors so you don’t stupidly try to go into the city to meet up with friends, but end up spending three hours looking at the inside of the Metro instead.
Auto-Jumbo Slice Oven®: It’s 3 a.m. and you need food, but the nearest Jumbo Slice is too far away. No worries; your apartment has a big slice cooked up and warmed in your Auto-Jumbo Slice Oven®. Version 2.0 will include falafel.
There’s Always Next Season: It’s tough out there for a D.C. sports fan. Every time one of our teams blows it, your apartment will automatically dim the lights for three days and not let anyone disturb you as you curl up in bed and mourn. M.R.