Homeservices by the company of tomorrow
Regardless of the advantages and the high expectations of consuming without owning within sustainable development, this vision has to be viewed from multiple angles. It is not ensured that consuming a service rather than a product will reduce the environmental strain. To a high degree the sustainable effects depend on the basic framework and terms of consumption. There are only a very few models of successfully implemented environmentally oriented services. Services that have a distinct sustainable background are hard to find.
In the following research project it is assumed that a market exists for home and person oriented services. These are called HOMESERVICES. Due to the close proximity to the consumers, housing organisations, specifically the public building organisations, can provide these services. Homeservices can be any services that a resident consumes for himself or for his apartment, including, household services like information, safety and security, consulting, repairs and maintenance. Mobility, care taking, and communication are examples of person oriented services. Thus, Homeservices are not only to be substituted for products.
Due to its functions and close contact to the residents, the housing sector is predestined to be a direct supplier of Homeservices. The housing organisations can also act as a virtual service provider by initiating services with third parties and creating cooperation with small service providers and social organisations. Through of the combination of demand structures for services and the creation of the necessary infrastructure, the housing sector can be a significant stimulant on many levels for the service sector.
These following questions have originated from this initial situation:
- Which of these services can be competitively provided by the housing organisations, either directly, through recommendation, or in cooperation with other service providers?
- What are the potential environmental and employment benefits?
- Which obstacles exist for the service to be provided?
- How should the basic framework for the supply be arranged?
The content-based emphasis in this project lies in the
- Finding the status quo of environmentally or socially friendly services that can be provided by housing organisations or other service providers;
- Analysis of consumption behaviour in demand, acceptance, and obstacles especially in mobility, energy, cleaning, maintenance, rental, safety and security, and social care;
- Analysis of the promoting and hindering factors of buildings designed to lay a foundation for the service provision given by architects and building organisations as well as analysing various pilot projects;
- Analysis of employment effects and the social impact of the proposed forms of services;
- Analysis of the costs, especially in terms of contracting;
- Benchmarking for the housing organisations as service providers and promoters;
- Creation of an ideal scenario, policy recommendations and further promoting conditions, and the creation of a Viennese Service Catalogue for consumers and dissemination.
The implementation of the project was closely linked to the mentioned actors. The status quo was identified by surveying the consumers, providers and housing organisations. The results of the surveys have been disseminated at three workshops with the service providers and representatives of the housing organisations.
The survey is based on data collected in 12 best practice buildings, on 120 interviews carried out with residents of these buildings and on information given by about 40 external service provider, whose company profiles are also available in the online catalogue.
To ensure for an all encompassing evaluation of the service supply, the external service providers, the housing organisations and the residents were targeted.
The majority of external service providers concentrate on the classical service areas such as cleaning, repairs, mobility, and care taking. Traditional social providers are generally municipal posts or subsidised organisations. Within the traditional environmental service providers like carsharing and organic food deliverers, the social aspect is mostly neglected. The few social and environmental service providers usually have no connection to the housing organisations. The typical building services, such as cleaning and maintenance, usually do not fulfil either social or environmental criteria. External service providers usually bill by the amount of use. Consulting and care taking providers usually cannot cover costs, hence these services usually are provided by public posts. Subsidies for these organisations exist in some cases. Service providers can offer re-entrance for long-time unemployed people, however the employee must be flexible in working times, location, and further training. Since primary services are the norm, it is not possible to quantify the environmental benefits. Areas where this is possible is in repairs and mobility.
The supply of services by the housing organisations is restricted to ones from their core business. Consulting is primarily for buying, furnishing, and financing apartments. Care taking of children, the elderly, or handicapped is supported by supplying the necessary infrastructure, such as a kindergarten, a doctor's practice, and social services. The infrastructure for leisure time, such as playing areas, pools, etc, are provided by the housing organisations. Cleaning and maintenance belong to the core business of the organisations. To promote communication and information, common rooms, black boards and white boards are provided. For mobility, car parking areas, bicycle racks and baby stroller parking areas are provided. In the service area of supply, warmth and hot water are supplied. Waste disposal is provided as prescribed by law, but usually only to a minimal degree (paper container). The Best Practice examples have a significantly better infrastructure and management than described here.
The janitor (previously a legally required on-site position), was eliminated to reduce costs. However, as the work previously done has to be continued, building care takers and external providers now can supply these services. Large housing organisations usually redirect these services to service centres. This sometimes has caused an increase in services to buildings that previously were not supplied with them. This also leads to an increased need for general and work-specific personnel.
The environmental effects within the housing organisation are not easily recognised.
There is a good foundation for reducing energy consumption. Systems to monitor energy consumption lead to increased awareness by consumers. Contracting aids in replacing energy inefficient equipment. Legal requirements for increased insulation and so forth are good basic conditions to build on.
The residents/consumers do not go out of their way to find environmentally friendly services. Social services are only used when absolutely necessary. To be accepted, the services must be as comfortable to use and may not cost more than the traditional service or product. Hence, the main goal is to increase comfort with these services. Other positive effects are welcome but only secondary.
One of the most important results is the need for information exchange between the external service providers and the housing organisations. Both of these industries can benefit from cooperation, and gain market share by doing so, since it is anticipated that in the near future, residents will not only demand living space but also an attached service package.
Univ. Doz. Mag. Dr. Christine Jasch
Institut für ökologische Wirtschaftsforschung
1040 Wien, Rechte Wienzeile 19/5,
Tel.:01/5872189, Fax: 01/5870971