What does sustainable housing mean for you?

Henrik Thomsen is a member of the Management Board of Deutsche Wohnen SE. He is responsible for new construction, refurbishment, neighbourhood develop­ment and technology. Connectivity, social networks, mobility and energy are the topics of the future for him. In this interview he outlines how we will be living tomorrow.

Mr Thomsen, intelligent housing is a big trend – also at Deutsche Wohnen. Why is that, in fact? Analogue housing has also worked perfectly well so far …

There are plenty of good reasons. One of the many examples is social sustainability. Why is that? In the past the church and the extended family played an important role in almost every­one’s lives, because they both provided support. Today that is often not the case and people can get lonely. We cannot fundamentally change that, but we can support active neighbourhood communities on our estates. Digital social platforms can be very helpful here, in order to encourage “analogue get­-togethers”. And, of course, energy saving has a vital role in the property sec­tor. As a housing company we have a particular responsibility, and not just in terms of the building itself. For example we are already working on energy­-saving mobility strategies for our estates. That includes building the necessary infrastructure for electric vehicles, but partnerships with public transport companies are also a possibility.

Henrik Thomson
Henrik Thomson

When tenants in Germany in 2030 look back on the year 2020, some things will probably be very different. What do you think will have changed?

We think that housing will get better and safer. That applies to people who need assistance in their day-­to­-day lives, for instance. Sensors like those used today in a smartwatch make it possible to see whether someone is alright or not. There is no need to infringe on anyone’s privacy; certainly not with cameras. Two things are needed, though: one is that we have to listen to what our tenants want, and the other is that we have to spark their curiosity and get them to try out new things. New technology has to be like riding a bike with the wind behind you. Suddenly things are much easier, without me having to think about it or do anything for it. And that is exactly how our solutions for the housing of tomorrow have to be.

Last year more work was done towards the intelligent house. Is that the first step in making the future a reality?

In future the apartment will have an important function as an interface. Our MiA is ideally suited to that, even today, because it is not a finished solution, but rather a platform that we can keep connecting to new functions. For that we have identified many different partners, who can pro­vide modules for this platform. KIWI with its keyless access system is a good example, but only one of many. At the end of the day there are three areas that the intelligent house has to cover: day-­to-­day services, security in the build­ing and the apartment, and greater sustain­ability. But to come back to your question: yes, we have successfully taken the first steps.

Not everyone sees digitalisation as an opportu­nity; there are also reservations, especially when someone’s own apartment is concerned. How do you deal with these reservations?

Two things are vital here. We mustn’t ask too much of our tenants, and the idea is not to intro­duce new technology just for the sake of it. That is one reason why the technology has to adapt to the people and not the other way around. As a housing company we are at the junction be­tween people and technology. It is our task to win over our tenants and to make sure they feel comfortable.

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