Tom Soter in Building Operations on January 31, 2017
For many co-ops and condos, packages have become a headache – their growing numbers, the need for security, the clutter they cause, and the staff time required to deal with them.
About two years ago, the package problem was becoming acute at an 83-unit condominium in Long Beach, California. Dawn Radue, the president, says that the five-member board’s main concern was that the property was “having a lot of problems with packages going missing or being stolen. It seemed like every so often we’d have a rash of thefts.” There was no doorman or staff, so packages just sat in the lobby, an inviting target. Radue surfed the web and found companies offering automated package lockers (APL).
How does an APL work? The system includes a set of different-size metal lockers that are controlled by a touch screen and a computer system that connects with the internet. Instead of leaving packages in the lobby or with the front desk, the carriers input a unit-number or person’s name into a keypad. Then, before the parcel is deposited, the APL takes a picture of the tracking label. After the package is placed in the locker, the resident receives an email or text notification. He or she then goes to the lockers and types in a personal access code on the keypad on the APL. The door of the locker containing the delivery pops open. (If the parcel is not retrieved after a few days, the system administrator – usually a board member – is notified.) Some APL set-ups include video surveillance as well.
How is the system installed? The APL company meets with the board and the manager to review the needs of the property and to determine how many lockers are necessary. The lockers, which come in a variety of sizes, are stacked and can be placed in a mail or parcel room, in unused lobby or basement areas, or even in the garage.
How does it help? APLs can save staff time. Lori Torres, CEO of Parcel Pending, an APL supplier, says that her company’s research indicates that the average 300-unit apartment complex receives about 875 package deliveries per month, and “for every 15 packages delivered to an apartment building, it takes approximately one hour of staff time to manage them.”
What does APL cost? The board can buy the lockers, starting at $6,900 and going as high as $20,000, or it can lease them to the residents who pay fees directly to the APL company.
What are the drawbacks? Smaller buildings with limited common-area space may find the system challenging. Another consideration is the carriers. “When we installed it, the carriers weren’t used to it,” recalls Radue, whose board purchased the Luxer One system. “But they caught on.” And many buildings in New York have old-fashioned buzzers, meaning co-ops and condos will have to supply keys to all the carriers.
The biggest drawback, however, is that most of the APL companies are based out of state and have only made limited forays into New York – and then only in rental properties. But, says Torres, “New York will be our next big focus.” She adds: “If you needed lockers this month, we could get you lockers this month.”
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