New ‘co-living’ housing option spreads its wings in New York

Gil Hirak, head of US operations and community of Quarters, speaks with a colleague on the rooftop of Quarters Co-Living in New York City. (AFP)
Updated 12 August 2019

New ‘co-living’ housing option spreads its wings in New York

  • Companies reduce many traditional sources of friction between roommates

NEW YORK: Nandita Iyer landed in New York from Bombay without knowing anyone, but she did not want to live alone in a “sketchy studio.” So instead she opted for a room in a “co-living” unit.
She lives with roommates in one of the 14 apartments in a small building run by the housing startup Quarters in the trendy Lower East Side neighborhood.
The best part of the arrangement, she said, are the common areas: A large kitchen with a big table and comfy couches, a terrace where she can work and a luxurious rooftop patio.
“I met people from such different backgrounds. And I became very good friends with them,” she said.
And she even found mentors to help with her job search.
Group living arrangements are not new: Many people have lived with roommates, in student dormitories or retirement homes.
But with housing costs skyrocketing in major cities and amid changing lifestyles, start-up companies are offering to take care of everything for renters, including the social life of their residents.
Demand for these new group housing arrangements is on the rise, especially among young people aged 18 to 35 — the millennials — so more and more projects are appearing on the rental landscape.
Real estate brokers Cushman & Wakefield estimated in May that the major US co-living startups had about 3,200 rooms available with 16,700 in the pipeline. The new players include Quarters, Common, Ollie, Starcity, X Social Communities, The Collective and WeLive.
Quarters manages three residences in New York and Chicago and is preparing to grow quickly. Its German-based parent company, Medici Living, just raised $300 million to expand in the US market, in addition to €1 billion to develop in Europe.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Amenities are more sophisticated than at Quarters: Residents have access to a gym, golf simulator and top floor with open views of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.

• Like many coliving providers, Ollie’s boasts that it organizes social events several times a week, like museum visits or cooking classes.

• It also allows residents to communicate with each other on a dedicated application.

“We provide an easy solution for people looking to move into big cities,” said Gil Hirak, head of US operations for Quarters.
From the virtual tour to the signing of the lease, everything can be done online. Then “you just move in with a suitcase,” since units are furnished.
The companies also reduce many traditional sources of friction between roommates by taking care of all the practical details: Basic products such as toilet paper, cleaning, internet or electricity bills.
“During the week, we’re so busy. Housekeeping is really helpful,” said resident Eric Tauro, a 29-year-old architect.
After finishing his studies he was “researching what would be the easiest way” to move to New York.
He set his sights on Ollie’s third project in a large new building in fast-growing Long Island City. The startup occupies a third of floors in the complex, with 422 beds available in 169 apartments.
Amenities are more sophisticated than at Quarters: Residents have access to a gym, golf simulator and top floor with open views of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.
Like many coliving providers in the city, Ollie’s boasts that it organizes social events several times a week, like museum visits or cooking classes.
It also allows residents to communicate with each other on a dedicated application.


Small reactors could meet Saudi Arabia’s energy needs, report says

Updated 15 December 2019

Small reactors could meet Saudi Arabia’s energy needs, report says

  • Small modular reactors are a type of nuclear fission reactor that is smaller than conventional reactors

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia is exploring ways to produce energy to achieve sustainable development and protect the global ecosystem.

The Kingdom currently relies heavily on oil and natural gas to meet its electricity needs. According to official estimates, Saudi Arabia expects a 40 percent rise in local electricity demand between 2019 and 2030.

This expected rise in electricity use is due to the rapid growth of urban areas and the Kingdom’s plans to develop a strong manufacturing sector and expand its industrial base as envisioned in Vision 2030.

Such a scenario calls for exploration of alternative methods of electricity generation such as nuclear energy, solar and wind power.

Nuclear power provides 11 percent of the world’s electricity, with 454 nuclear reactors operating in 30 countries and 54 plants under construction — including 11 in China, seven in India, and six in Russia.

The Saudi government announced its nuclear national policy in 2018. It plans for as many as 16 nuclear plants over the next 25 years at a cost of more than $80 billion. The Kingdom plans to meet 15 percent of its growing energy needs from nuclear power by 2032.

The government has also set ambitious goals for renewable energy, such as achieving 27.3 gigawatts of solar and wind power by 2024.

Nuclear energy is not only clean but available around the clock. Renewables such as solar and wind are good energy sources but are dependent on weather conditions, which are not always stable.

The King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KAPSARC) recently published a study calling for the use of small modular reactors (SMRs) in the Kingdom to achieve its Vision 2030 goals.

SMRs are a type of nuclear fission reactor that are smaller than conventional reactors. They are manufactured at a plant and brought to a site to be assembled. These reactors allow for less on-site construction, increased containment efficiency and security of nuclear materials.

“The average capacity of nuclear reactors has grown from 50 megawatts electric (MWe) in the 1950s to around 1.65 gigawatts electric (GWe) today,” according to the study.

The study said the deployment of SMRs in the Kingdom would allow it to use its oil reserves better and meet its increasing domestic energy demand. It would also enable the development of human capital through knowledge transfer and the growth of public and private sector investments through the development of the SMR value chain.

The localization of SMR technology in Saudi Arabia would also offer great economic and developmental benefits toward the realization of Saudi Vision 2030’s targets and goals.

Since the 1950s, nuclear generation technology has transformed and developed. After the three major nuclear accidents — at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima — nuclear power has become more robust, safer and more secure.

According to KAPSARC, the design of SMRs requires lower initial investment and shorter simplified design construction times compared with large modular reactors (3 years as opposed to 7-10 years), as the unit can be expanded at any time (buying one module and adding others later).

Additionally, the operation of SMRs requires less capital compared with large reactors (LRs). The paper shows that the cost of SMRs is less than that required to fund LRs, which would help to build investor confidence and allow for investment. Additionally, the safety of SMRs is greater than that of LRs.