Condo Media - September 2013 - (Page 56)

VOLUNTEER SPOTLIGHT Harbor Towers’ Screen Saver A High-Tech, Low-Cost Communications Solution is Keeping Residents Informed C ommunication is a priority, or at least it should be, at all community associations. But the determination to improve communication at Harbor Towers, a highrise condominium in downtown Boston, is a case study in what the creative use of technology and a collaborative effort can achieve. That effort and the innovative communications solution it produced earned Harbor Towers CAINew England’s “Excellence in Service Award for Communications,” along with high praise for the association’s board and its management company. Communicating with residents of this densely populated, 624-unit, twintowered community has always been a challenge, notes Christopher Lanni, CPP, CMCA, AMS, residential security consultant for Barkan Management Company, Inc. and director of security and resident services at the complex. The go-to method for most essential messages had been paper notices handdelivered and slipped under residents’ doors. That was the best means at the time of ensuring that the maximum number of residents received the information, Lanni explains, but it was also costly and not entirely satisfactory. Some residents complained about the environmental impact of paper communications and some simply didn’t like having the paper underfoot. Others ignored the notices or claimed never to have received them. The labor costs also resulted in a kind of triage to determine which messages required hand-delivery. Need for Change “We tried to be selective about what we put under doors,” Lanni says. But that necessarily relegated some messages to 56 CONDO MEDIA • SEPTEMBER 2013 even less dependable venues, such as e-mail or bulletin boards. “And because we were spending so much,” Lanni says, “we knew there had to be a change.” So the board and management staff began exploring alternatives. Increasing reliance on the community’s recently upgraded website was one option, but limited and unpredictable usage patterns (some residents visit the site again, was a primary concern. They had to deliver information to screens in two different buildings, requiring (the board thought) complex wiring and a sophisticated system costing in excess of $30,000, making the idea pretty much a non-starter for budget reasons alone. Robinson, whose high-tech background has made him, in Lanni’s words, “the patron saint of all things technical” at Harbor Towers, wrestled with the problem for a while, but couldn’t find a solution. A high-tech friend he called did have one, however: Use televisions programmed (as many are today) to access the internet via a Wi-Fi connection. “Eureka!” (l-r) CAI-NE Chapter President Pete Garrett presents Association Excellence in Service Award to Harbor Towers’ Director of Security and Resident Services Chris Lanni and board member Gary Robinson regularly, some occasionally, and some not at all) eliminated this as a primary distribution channel. Gary Robinson, the board member most directly involved in the communications project, suggested placing monitors on which information could be scrolled in elevators. But wiring the monitors to receive a TV signal would have been costly and the elevator companies would have had to do the wiring, increasing the cost even more. The ultimate solution — placing computer-linked screens in heavily trafficked areas — seems obvious now, but it wasn’t embraced immediately. Cost, If this had been a cartoon, a large light bulb would have appeared in a bubble overhead. Everything fell into place, Lanni says. For the board, which didn’t want to spend a lot of money, the idea of “using what we had available to get us to the next level” had great appeal. And web-enabled monitors fit that bill. The common areas in both buildings had recently been equipped with commercial-grade wireless service; the association had a robust website with multiple capabilities and a vendor who could design a frame for the content and do the minimal programming required to update the information to be displayed. Creating the new system was both easy and inexpensive at about $1,500 for each building, most of that the cost of four wide-screen, high-definition plasma televisions (two in each building). “When you consider the cost of hand-delivery,” Lanni notes, “it doesn’t take long to recover that investment.”

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Condo Media - September 2013

Condo Media - September 2013
From the CED’s Desk
Editorial Board
CAI News
CAI Regional News
Asked & Answered
Homeowner’s Corner
Vendor Spotlight
Volunteer Spotlight
Self-Managed Association Boards
Classified Service Directory
Advertisers Index

Condo Media - September 2013