Industry Insider

Senior Citizens’ Day

With new holidays and observances cropping up all the time, can be hard to keep track. But there’s one upcoming celebration not to be missed: Senior Citizens’ Day, marked each year on August 21st. Before thinking of ways to honor the special seniors in your life, let’s recall the origin of this important observance.

It began with a proclamation by Ronald Reagan on August 19th, 1988. Our former President lauded the achievements of our nation’s elders, thanked them for their leadership, and highlighted the ways in which older people, living longer and fuller lives than ever, continue to make their presence felt for their own good, and that of others.

As we consider all the seniors we know and what they’ve contributed to our lives and to our society, it’s important to think about what we can give back. The Senior Citizens’ Day proclamation addressed this too:

We can best demonstrate our gratitude and esteem by making sure that our communities are good places in which to mature and grow older— places in which older people can participate to the fullest and can find the encouragement, acceptance, assistance and services they need to continue to lead lives of independence and dignity.

The words proclaimed decades ago still hold true. The most important way we can repay those who came before us is to ensure they’re well taken care of in the communities in which they now reside.

How much progress have we made in the thirty years that have passed since these words were penned? While we still have opportunities to better the senior living industry, today’s seniors have more choices for quality care than ever before. From luxury independent living to high-tech, patient-focused care regimens, residents are no longer resigned to just a handful of traditional options. They have active, vibrant lifestyles. Retirement living in 2018 isn’t an end stage; it’s about growth and the start of something new. And that’s something to be proud of.

Oak City Soccer

Established in 2016, Oak City Soccer provides active, hands-on programming to help children with autism, ADHD, sensory processing disorder, and anxiety. Through activities, particularly soccer,  youth improve motor functions, establish social skills, and experience fun and acceptance in a team setting. The program has changed the lives of hundreds of children living in Cary and Wake Forest, North Carolina.

Yardi Raleigh recently formed a relationship with Oak City Soccer that has been inspiring and uplifting

Answering the Call

The relationship began during the Yardi Cares Committee’s annual request for grant nominations. Each year, Yardi offices around the world receive a sum of funds to allocate the local non-profit organizations.

“When the Yardi Cares Committee asked for suggestions for organizations to support, I immediately thought of Oak City Soccer,” says Thomas Duncan, Technical Account Manager, Residential NC – Consulting Practice 2 at Yardi. “They are also local to our Yardi Raleigh office and I really wanted to help out some local charities in addition to larger, state-wide charities.”

After reviewing the nomination and researching the organization, the committee casted its votes. Oak City Soccer joined the league of grant recipients for the year!

Yardi’s donation supported the expansion of Oak City Soccer to a second location, expanding from Cary to Wake Forest. Additionally, the funds provided scholarships to low-income families, as well as the replacement of worn out supplies such as soccer balls, new therapeutic tools, and visual cues.

Roxy Shelley, Executive Director of Oak City Soccer, received the donation on behalf of Oak City Soccer. “Thanks so much to Thomas for the nomination, and Yardi for the amazing support this past year. We are truly grateful!”

More than a Game

Shelley has witnessed the way that the Oak City Soccer impacts kids on a daily basis. “Soccer provides a physical outlet for children with autism and ADHD. All children need physical activity, and our current lifestyles don’t allow for much of it. If a child with a diagnosis of autism or ADHD is provided with appropriate amounts of exercise, their brains are better prepared to learn in other areas, because they’re less focused on the survival of just moving their bodies with excess energy,” explains Shelley.

Specialized soccer instruction provides opportunity to enhance gross motor and social skills. Kids develop the most foundational steps of learning: how to be comfortable in a group setting, take turns, communicate on the field during a game, strategize with teammates, and work toward a common goal.

Those developmental gains come with unique challenges and rewards. “One of the greatest challenges of working with children at OCS is the unique personality and skill set of each and every child,” says Shelley. “What works for one child, may not work for another, as all people are different kinds of learners. OCS strives to adapt their coaching styles and strategies to meet each player where he or she is, and build on skill sets, always allowing for as much independence as possible.”

The reward comes when the students demonstrate growth. It comes in different forms and at different times for each child.

“Some players have been with us for two and a half years, so there is the actual physical growth, but also the growth as a person: children who were once too afraid to speak, now telling us stories, making friends, and joking on the field. The athletic gains are just an added bonus!” says Shelley.

Yardi is Energized for good! Join us by supporting Oak City Soccer. You can learn more about philanthropy at Yardi by visiting our Giving page.

Energy Storage

Though energy storage is a relatively new addition to the property operations toolkit, it offers vast potential. Battery systems have demonstrated multiple ways to enhance sustainability, cut costs and supply reliability.

A key tactic is load shifting, the process of obtaining power during off-peak hours and storing it for use during costlier peak hours, noted Elliotte Quinn, an energy and construction attorney with Charleston, S.C.-based law firm Parker Poe.

Batteries offer an alternative backup strategy to diesel generators, and can store solar power for use at night or on overcast days, Quinn noted.

Earlier this year, The Irvine Co. launched a multi-property storage strategy at 21 office towers in Orange County, Calif. When requested by local utility Southern California Edison, the buildings switch their power source from the grid to a storage system that’s powered by Tesla batteries (pictured above).

The office portfolio becomes a “virtual power plant that can be used to take the load off the grid instantaneously,” explained Susan Kennedy, CEO of San Francisco-based Advanced Microgrid Solutions, the system’s designer and manager. Shifting to battery power reduces the load by 10 megawatts for as long as four hours to help SCE balance the grid.

Wholesale Changes

An order issued this year by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission should make it easier for property owners to sell energy into the wholesale market, but there is a hitch. “If you do that, you’re making yourself subject to federal regulation,” said Quinn. Wholesale selling is likely to be the purview of larger owners, he predicted.

As is generally the case with newer technology, battery storage remains a work in progress. By most estimates, costs are dropping, yet the difficulty of predicting payback periods presents a challenge for owners that need to make a multimillion-dollar investment in the technology, observed Kyle Wamstad, an Atlanta-based attorney with Eversheds Sutherland (US) LLP who advises clients on storage systems.

Scale remains an issue, as well. Despite improved technology, the return on investment for battery storage systems “is not there at the building-size scale,” said Brad Pease, vice president of building science at Paladino and Co., a Seattle-based sustainability consulting firm. Noting that solar panel installation costs have plunged from $8 to $3 per kilowatt, he hopes that batteries will follow a similar trajectory.

The widely used lithium-ion battery has limitations, as well, in particular its four-hour maximum storage time. “You also have supply risks (because) the batteries use lithium and rare earth materials obtained from countries that may not be stable, or with which we don’t have the best trading agreements,” Quinn explained.

What’s in Store?

Expectations for the future of storage vary widely. The biggest gains will be driven by energy producers struggling to add enough capacity to meet demand, Pease predicted. They will spur building owners and developers to install ice batteries to reduce peak demand.

Nall envisions phase-change storage materials becoming less costly, and expects to see combined cooling-source and thermal-storage systems, a step that would make the technology more accessible to owners. Also possible is the introduction of pre-packaged or turnkey electrical systems, which would further simplify implementation.

Vehicle-to-grid storage offers yet another intriguing idea. “As more and more people drive to work in electric cars, which are essentially batteries on wheels … those batteries can be used as a storage system for the grid or the building,” Quinn said. “The interesting part is convincing vehicle owners to let someone else charge and discharge their car’s batteries.”

The Holy Grail of energy storage may be the flow battery, which never loses its charging capacity and can produce maximum output for much longer than its lithium-ion counterpart, Quinn noted.

Nevertheless, a formidable barrier stands in the way: “No one has been able to develop affordable flow batteries.”

Editor’s note: This article was first published in Commercial Property Executive. Reprinted with permission.

CRE Leans Green

In July, parts of the U.S. saw record demand for electricity, driven by higher temperatures pushing up power usage. Pennsylvania-based regional transmission organization PJM Interconnection LLC reported 144,557 megawatts of demand on July 3, the highest level in almost two years. Power usage in New York City reached its highest level since 2013 the previous day, July 2.

On the other coast, move than 80,000 Southern California residents lost power on the July 7-8 weekend as a heat wave caused problems with distribution system equipment.

Meanwhile, ERCOT, the grid operator for most of Texas, expects to set a new peak demand record this summer. Resource capacity should allow the grid to operate reliably, but unexpected outages to major generators could prompt demand-side management measures, including potential emergency load shedding.

Strain on the grid has obvious implications for property managers, since the residential and commercial sectors account for about 39% of total U.S. energy consumption and more than two-thirds of the electricity used nationwide.

Summer heat and havoc it wreaks on the power grid is one reason many property owners seek to incorporate energy efficiency as a core business tenet. One resource in that effort is the Green Lease Leaders program, which encourages lease terms that give both landlords and tenants a stake in adopting building efficiency practices and investments. The Institute for Market Transformation, which administers the Green Lease Leaders program with the U.S. Energy Department’s Better Buildings Alliance, estimates that green leasing could help reduce utility bills by up to $0.51 per square foot (22%) in U.S. office buildings alone; if all leased office buildings executed green leases, the market could achieve over $3 billion in annual energy costs savings.

In June, IMT and Better Buildings Alliance recognized companies that incorporated innovative energy efficiency and sustainability standards into leases over the past year. The group included Kilroy Realty Corp., Prologis, Triovest, CommonWealth Partners, Federal Realty Investment Trust and Kimco Realty.

The cumulative floor area of all Green Lease Leaders participants in the commercial, industrial and retail sectors exceeds 1.8 billion square feet.

“As building owners, developers, tenant companies and other real estate decision-makers strive to keep up with evolving market pressures, leading-edge companies are using the lease as a powerful instrument to create higher-performing buildings that not only save energy and money but also provide healthier work environments,” Cliff Majersik, executive director for IMT, said in a news release, adding that the Green Lease Leaders program has put a “much-needed spotlight on the growing number of innovative firms that use their lease to achieve ambitious energy, sustainability and business goals.”

By optimizing building equipment and operations, the Yardi Smart Energy Suite helps property owners meet the criteria set by Green Lease Leaders and other sustainability programs.

Alexa and the Elderly

When conversation shifts to home automation, references to Millennials are rarely far behind. While it’s true that the emerging generation of homeowners loves their tech toys, they aren’t the only ones harnessing the power of smart home technology. Senior living providers have joined other industry leaders in the pursuit of more automated options for residents as well.

Amazon + Senior Housing

Amazon has made huge strides as a provider of integrated automation and voice control for major home builders across the industry, including prominent developers Lennar and Shea Homes. Communities created by these companies are part of a growing “Wi-Fi Certified” trend, offering housing with built-in automation and voice control. For seniors, that means controlling features within their homes and interacting with the outside world is simplified, thanks to voice commands.

Enabling the integration is Amazon’s Alexa, a cloud-based virtual assistant, which appears in various forms throughout the homes. She’s most often takes shape as a sleek, tabletop pillar in the Echo line of products. Through Alexa, seniors can set reminders for appointments and medications; control music and home ambiance; check weather; get news and sports updates; and order just about anything fathomable on Amazon.com.

Amazon Echo Dot speakers permit seniors to access Alexa anywhere in their home. They also serve as Bluetooth speakers that are capable of connecting to a myriad of seniors’ personal devices.

With so many ways to integrate, Amazon’s variations on Wi-Fi centric homes are quickly becoming the new standard for incoming baby boomers, but the tech toys come with a few caveats.

Too Smart for Its Own Good?

As technology develops at a rapid pace, home builders are left wondering just how quickly their newly installed gadgets will become obsolete. Alternatively, what are the costs associated with staying up-to-date and on trend? While software within the Echo line of products may update automatically, for example, what happens when the hardware itself becomes outdated?

Security is also a major concern for Wi-Fi enabled homes. Invasion of privacy, remote control by strangers and identity theft are common worries for seniors and their loved ones. While Amazon works behind the scenes to prevent such attacks, cloud-based services do not demonstrate proven immunity to penetration.

Another looming question is how automation may affect quality of life. Seniors can order groceries, refill prescriptions, and contact friends and family without ever leaving their bedroom. While this is good news for immobile seniors, it can create a culture of immobility among seniors that would be otherwise active. Sedentary and isolated lifestyles lead to a lower quality of living, which can affect physical and mental well-being.

All trade-offs considered, one thing’s certain: smart homes have the potential to enhance the everyday lives of seniors, many of whom are becoming increasingly savvy themselves, waiting to see what tech companies will think of next.

Samsung Unpacked

Samsung’s annual product conference gathered a big crowd in Brooklyn last week. The main focus was on productivity and performance upgrades across Samsung’s entire collection of devices.

The most anticipated gadget was the company’s phablet, Galaxy Note 9. On the exterior, not much has changed, but under the hood some upgrades took place, including a bigger battery, an even bigger screen (6.4-inch) and a more potent S Pen.

Additionally, Samsung’s DeX software is now built into the phone, which means that the phone now can be plugged into any external display for a desktop-like experience. Available in two configurations—a 128GB/6GB RAM model for $999, and a 512GB/8GB RAM for $1,250, the phone will start shipping later this month.

Design wise, the rear fingerprint sensor was relocated below the camera, but everything else is still in its place: water resistance is still a feature, as is fast wireless charging, expandable microSD storage, the Bixby button and the mighty headphone jack.

What’s most baffling about this device is the storage capacity—add a 512GB microSD card into a 512GB Note 9 and you’ll have 1TB of storage and that is pretty insane. Galaxy Note 9 will run on Android 8.1 Oreo without any changes from the user experience on previous phone versions.

The battery, a hot topic in Samsung’s world, has been increased to 4,000mAh, the largest so far in a Note. To keep their customers’ cool related to battery safety, Samsung has validated and certified its new batch of batteries through outside companies as well as in house.

The heart of the Note 9 is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor with new optimization to the GPU. A pretty cool feature we still don’t know too much about is the Water Carbon Cooling system, but it sounds interesting and we’re curious about its functionality.

Note 9’s camera system comprises two 12-megapixel cameras with the same dual-aperture as S9 Plus (f/1.5 or f/2.4). Samsung has been focusing its camera improvements on software and AI. A new Scene Optimized mode analyzes the subject and identifies about 20 different scenarios (pets, food, plants, urban/street, etc.). Before taking the shot, the software automatically applies changes to brightness, contrast, saturation and white balance to ensure the best result.

The S Pen has been upgraded to include Bluetooth connectivity. This means that the pen now can be used as a remote shutter for the camera, a slide clicker during presentations or as play/pause button for your music apps. Samsung integrated a supercapacitor in it for rapid charging whenever it’s seated in the phone.

The DeX software is what turns the smartphone into a computer once connected to an external display via an HDMI adaptor. Considering this feature and the 1TB of storage attainable, DeX software might be a feature of the future.

Samsung Unpacked revealed the company’s latest smartwatch—it will come in two sizes, an improvement from previous Samsung watches that were too large for many wrists. The gadget comes with LTE functionality and uses Tizen as OS.

Bixby, the company’s voice assistant has been upgraded to be able to carry on conversations and follow-up questions. Moreover, it features a series of app integrations with Yelp, Uber, Ticketmaster and more. Using AI, the device will learn from past decisions to better serve requests in the future.

Bixby’s revamp led to the unveiling of Samsung’s own smart speaker—the Galaxy Home is a built-in subwoofer and eight microphones designed for far-field communication. No news yet about its availability or pricing.

Associated with the speaker was the announcement of Samsung’s partnership with Spotify. Another battel in the ongoing war between Samsung and Apple, whose HomePod has exclusive integration with Apple Music.

Last, but not least, Samsung introduced the new dual wireless charger—it has two, 12W charging pads with a flat area meant for the new Galaxy smartwatch and a propped up charging spot to keep a phone display visible during a charge. No news on availability and pricing on this one either.

Eric Michaels

Eric Michaels joined Yardi as an account executive for the Yardi Energy team in the spring of 2018. He recently discussed his position and background from his office in New York City.

TBS: Eric, what types of businesses do you serve with the Yardi Smart Energy Suite, and what makes up your territory?

Michaels: My focus is on commercial property ownership groups, management companies and investment firms. My clients are primarily in larger metropolitan areas such as New York City but my territory also encompasses New York state, New Jersey, Connecticut and other New England locales. Any commercial real estate business, from industrial to retail and high-rises to strip malls can benefit from the Yardi Smart Energy Suite. We have solutions that also work for new construction projects or owners that have been using Yardi Voyager and other products for a long time.

Q: Where were you before joining Yardi?

A: I spent 11 years in energy-related positions with utility providers and commercial building operators in New York. I worked in project management, sales and implementation, so I got experience in everything from boiler rooms in a building’s basement to chillers on the roof from multiple perspectives as a vendor and client.

Q: And before that?

A: I was a school psychologist in the New York public school system.

Q: Why did you leave that position?

A: I was ready for a new and fulfilling challenge. Energy efficiency was just beginning to take off, and utility companies were offering incentive and rebate programs for properties that upgraded to energy-efficient lighting solutions. I received an offer to manage the Long Island Power Authority’s residential energy conservation program for an energy service company.

Q: How did you learn about Yardi?

A: When I joined the world of energy efficiency my learning curve was insanely steep. I needed to learn a lot to compete with industry veterans. Yardi was one of the companies that my colleagues knew about and suggested I study. I initially knew it as a financial and accounting firm back then, and subsequently learned about its dynamic energy offerings.

Q: What are major trends in energy management, and how does the Smart Energy Suite fit into them?

A: A big trend is the increasing use of data analytics in managing buildings for an entire portfolio. In the past, facility managers focused on keeping their buildings’ energy systems operating and that was it. Now, building owners and operators can use energy management solutions from the Yardi Smart Energy Suite as part of a long-term investment strategy for  their entire portfolio, not just one or a few buildings. Clients aren’t just saving $10,000 annually in energy costs; instead, their energy system actually represents a source of revenue, because asset managers can use insights gained from the Yardi Smart Energy Suite to increase the property’s value, to elevate net operating income and to enhance resale value.

Q: What’s the main point about Yardi that you try to get across to clients and prospects?

A: There are two things I think everybody should know about Yardi: the company values its clients and knows that without them there would be no Yardi; and it does care about promoting the benefits of energy efficiency in the real estate community. These are energy related issues the CFO, the COO and the accounting team should know about rather than just the building engineers. All of these people in these various roles are involved in managing property operations efficiently, ensuring tenant comfort and satisfying regulatory requirements. Of course, there are always some people who are leery of spending money on new systems. But I try to show how the suite, used to its full potential, is a true investment with very real returns for an entire portfolio rather than a cost burden. I also point out that the products that make up the Yardi Smart Energy Suite can be deployed independently, but our clients are finding a greater return using the solutions together in one single connected platform.

Q: Isn’t sustainability support another selling point?

A: Very much so. I meet clients every day that make sustainability, energy efficiency and carbon footprint reduction a big part of their corporate mission—and our solutions can help them achieve their goals. With Yardi Pulse®, our integrated platform featuring real-time metering with alerts, HVAC optimization, scheduling, fault detection and more, our clients can actively see their building’s energy performance and make decisions in real-time that change their impact on the world.

Even beyond supporting a client’s individual sustainability goals, the Yardi Smart Energy Suite can also help support the legal requirements. For example, by using Yardi for automated invoice processing, we can collect and record a client’s consumption and cost for use in ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager®, an online tool that measures and tracks energy and water consumption, and provides valuable ENERGY STAR scores. Benchmarking the performance of one building or a whole portfolio of buildings is a time-consuming and tedious process requiring familiarity with building systems and mechanics. By having Yardi do this, the client creates a seamless conduit between the collection and analysis of building data, the delivery of data into Portfolio Manager and compliance with benchmarking requirements. Yardi Utility Expense Management, in conjunction with E2 Insight, also provides data required to satisfy New York City benchmarking requirements.

Q: So part of your job is education. That’s where the school work experience comes into play.

A: Right! And knowing a bit of psychology doesn’t hurt either.

Wellness from Nutrition

When it comes to the discussion of seniors’ mental wellness, we are often directed to the latest medicines and advances in technology. To help many seniors prevent and mitigate illness, we need to look no farther than their plates. 

Mental Wellness Starts from Within

Psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky led a team of researchers on a quest to understand just how much of our happiness lies within our control. Based on their research, the team proposed the 50-10-40 formula: “approximately 50 percent of variance in happiness is determined by genes, and 10% of variance in happiness is determined by circumstances.”

That leaves the remaining 40 percent of our happiness to be determined by our actions. We may immediately think of how we handle stressors as a factor of joy, but one of our most important actions is how we nourish our bodies.

Feel-good hormones, such as serotonin and dopamine, are produced in the gut. When we consume inflammatory foods—which for many include dairy, sugars, processed grain, and alcohol–we interrupt the natural balance of the gut. The probiotics, or good bacteria and yeasts, cannot operate optimally. Bad bacteria, yeasts, and parasites thrive, adversely affecting the production of feel-good hormones.

The results can cause or aggravate several ailments that affect seniors including fatigue, anxiety, and depression, as well as digestive issues, respiratory problems, several autoimmune disorders, arthritis, and more.

In addition to a hormone imbalance, poor nutrition can weaken our immune system. The gastrointestinal (GI) tract is responsible for antibody production. When the GI tract experiences inflammation and imbalance, protective antibodies are not produced adequately. We are more susceptible to infection and illness.

When we are sick, our social interactions suffer as well as our ability to exercise and maintain high spirits.

Food: Tried and True Medicine

When it comes to nutrition, we know the basics whether we abide by them or not: eat whole foods and drink plenty of water. Those basic guidelines alone are enough to improve the physical and mental wellbeing of millions of seniors.

Unfortunately, simple carbs, sugars, and other refined and processed foods make up 63 percent of America’s calorie intake. Only about 6 percent of our calorie intake comes from whole foods. This standard American diet (SAD) does not promote mental or physical wellbeing. We see the culmination of these poor food choices in seniors, manifesting in illness and dysfunction throughout the body.

But it’s not too late! Changes in diet can benefit seniors, promoting improved health throughout the golden years.

The following foods fight inflammation while promoting gut health. They are rich in antioxidants, essential fatty acids, and minerals:

  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Celery
  • Broccoli
  • Pineapple
  • Bone broth
  • Chia and Flax seeds
  • Turmeric
  • Ginger

Seniors’ diets should also be rich in foods that improve brain function. These foods fight inflammation and contain antioxidants, vitamins (especially B vitamins), minerals, and good fats that protect the brain from diseases.

The following foods are known to boost brain health:

  • Avocados
  • Beets
  • Blueberries
  • Broccoli
  • Coconut and olive oils
  • Dark leafy greens
  • Eggs
  • Low-mercury, fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, herring, and trout
  • Walnuts

Improvements in seniors’ diets can prevent the onset of many illnesses by promoting stable hormone production and a stronger immune system. The improvements can also help treatments, such as physical therapy, work more effectively by reducing fatigue and inflammation.

Some States are protecting First Amendment Rights in Private Residential Communities. Will the Sunshine State follow suit?

In 2012, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled 5-1 that a condominium owner could place election signs on his front door and side window of his townhome over the objections of his association.

Wasim Khan, an oncologist who was a Democratic candidate for the Morris County Board of Freeholders, fought the Mazdabrook Commons HOA when they began fining him $25.00 a day for each day his election signs remained. That wasn’t the first time that Khan tangled with his association; they had previously fined him for his rose bush vines growing too high.
Khan was ecstatic over the Court’s ruling, saying “We won for the rights of a million fellow New Jerseyans and countless more across the U.S.”

Well, maybe not so fast here in Florida. Our State’s Supreme Court has not ruled on the issue of whether a private residential community’s governing documents can restrict signs without running afoul of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment protections which prohibit government from abridging the freedom of speech. Generally speaking, there would have to be some “tie in” between a private residential community and state action in order to have the First Amendment apply. Some people think that the fact that Florida condominiums are regulated by the State is sufficient to create that necessary state action but that theory has not yet been tested in our highest court.

In a Floridadecision that arose from a Naplesneighborhood, a homeowners association sued an owner who refused to remove a “For Sale” sign, which violated the restrictive covenants, from their front yard. The trial judge ruled in favor of the homeowner, finding the association’s rule to be an abridgment of free speech. Upon appeal, the appeals court sided with the association, finding that the association was not an arm of government, that there was therefore no “state action, and enforcement of the no-sign-in-the-yard rule did not violate free speech rights.  SeeQuail Creek Homeowners’ Association vs. Hunter.  Since the Quail Creek case involved what is called “commercial speech”, which is afforded less protection than pure “political speech”, it is perhaps debatable whether the same result would have happened if the test case was a political yard sign.

Meanwhile, the State of California has also taken steps to safeguard the rights of those living in common interest ownership communities to express themselves via signage. A 2011 law sponsored by Senator Christine Kehoe even went so far as to ensure that tenants in these communities could display political signs. There were some limitations on this right including the requirement that such signs be no larger than 6 square feet and that the signs not be installed more than 90 days prior to the election or vote and must be removed no later than 15 days after such election or vote. Moreover, the signage must relate to a specific election, referendum, recall or issue before a public body and not just contain a general political sentiment.
A ride through my own HOA last weekend revealed one brave soul who had installed a small sign for a local candidate near his mailbox. Our community’s covenants ban all signs except the statutorily-permitted security signs. Sure enough, the latest issue of our HOA Newsletter contains a bolded section reminding us all that signs are not permitted including political signs.
What are your thoughts about private covenants and political signs given the upcoming midterm elections in November? Do such restrictions save us all from visual clutter and our neighbors’ questionable political choices or do they abridge our freedom of speech? Will Florida follow the examples set by other states or are we still a long way off from that happening?

Rob Podlesnik

Yardi Canada celebrates 20 years with a spotlight on leaders who have helped the company grow. Today, we introduce Rob Podlesnik, director of Global Solutions  and PSG for Yardi Canada. Podlesnik has been integral to the development of Yardi Canada—and it all started over a cardboard box.

Humble Beginnings

Podlesnik, a York University graduate, began his career in property management. He joined Yardi Canada in 1998. At that time, Yardi Canada consisted of eight people in a brand new office space with absolutely no furniture.

“When I went in for the interview, it was literally an empty office with a cardboard box for a desk,” recalls Podlesnik with a laugh. “They positioned it well, like ‘Yardi Canada is expanding. This is going to be the first office.’ I decided to give it a year. It sounded very entrepreneurial and the atmosphere was completely foreign to me but I loved the startup culture.”

He contributed to that culture, helping to form a tight-knit group that operated as a family. Everyone wore multiple hats, helped one another, and maintained close relationships. They worked together to fulfill a grand vision, one where Yardi led the Canadian property management software industry.

Podlesnik began as an implementation specialist, where he worked on training and consulting, which suited him since he once considered becoming a teacher. The opportunity to visit clients, share his knowledge, and learn ways to improve the products through client feedback excited Podlesnik. But it wasn’t always easy. As a young road warrior, Podlesnik found it difficult to maintain personal relationships but his passion for the work he did and the growth kept him going.

He soon assumed a role on the client services team, which allowed him to put down roots personally and professionally. He was able to hire, nurture and grow the teams at Yardi Canada, the foundations of which are still in place. He is very proud of the way that the company has evolved in the Canadian market.

“The culture is still very team and family-based,” says Podlesnik. “People work with and even socialize with their respective teams and represent a tightly-knit community.”

Growing Pains and Successes

Reflecting on some of the highlights of his Yardi Canada career, in 2001, a contract with Ontario Housing marked the first large project for the social housing industry. Though it involved large implementations, everything went live according to schedule that December. It was a huge achievement for Podlesnik and the project team. Ontario Housing launched the development of an entirely new vertical for Yardi Canada.

One client rapidly became 43 clients.  With each new addition, Yardi software matured to meet clients’ unique needs. Yardi developers also proposed changes that improved efficiencies and helped clients gain leverage over competitors.

“Our clients push us with tech and sometimes we push the clients,” says Podlesnik. “We listened to our clients’ needs and built technology to satisfy that. Clients also invested trust in the advancements that we proposed. It’s a dynamic, mutual relationship.”

Calloway REIT was the first Canadian client on Yardi Voyager 6 International. The transition from Enterprise to Voyager proved to be tough for the client. The latest Voyager product had removed features that were essential to Calloway. The REIT encouraged Yardi to resurrect functionalities from previous Voyager versions that proved useful for Calloway and other Canadian REITs.

Podlesnik says, “Inspiration comes from all different sources. What was old is new again. We take that as an opportunity!”

Moving, Forward

The industry is on the move, working from the field, in the office, and everywhere in between. Such movement has established the reign of mobile technology—but not all Canadian clients were onboard at first.

Says Podlesnik, “Canadian companies are more risk averse than their peers around the world. We had to teach our clients that mobility was the present and future–and we all need to get on board.”

Akelius was the first client to adopt mobility. Podlesnik attributes the early adaptation to the company’s European roots. “They are European, more forward thinking. They told us that they had been using mobile apps in other capacities for years.”

Once Akelius prospered, other companies were more willing to onboard with Yardi’s mobile offerings. Now, mobility is expected.

When Podlesnik looks forward, he sees the Canadian real estate industry surging towards greater energy efficiency, integrated solutions for enhanced customer service, and improved portals for vendors and investors.

“When I first began in the 1990s, the focal point was filling up buildings: renting and maximizing rent. Now, clients understand how the bottom line is improved through overhead savings. They want data on their energy use, faster service from vendors, easier and more accurate transactions. They also know that Millennials want a more full-service approach. Online portals, mobile services, and responsiveness from site staff are a must.”

A lot has changed since Podlesnik’s first interview over a cardboard box in an empty office. Podlesnik is honored to have taken the journey and he is proud of the results.

“It has been great,” he grins. “If I had to describe Yardi in one work, it would be ‘awesome!’”