Last week I wrote about the circular economy, how it can help our planet and how landlords can help.
One of the ideas put forward on the circular economy site is a different way to provide services. Rather than buy a thing. use it and throw it away – why not buy the service itself and allow the providers of the service to provide the ‘things’?
What do I mean by that? Well, an oft-cited example is that people don’t really want drills, what they want are the holes made by the drills. So unless you make a lot of holes, a lot of the time the actual drill is just taking up storage space. It’s wasteful.
So what about light?
One of the case examples on the Circular Economy site is this one about selling light as a service. Architect Thomas Rau when fitting out the Amsterdam office of RAUArchitects, asked for ‘light’ rather than the light fittings.
I told Philips, ‘Listen, I need so many hours of light in my premises every year. If you think you need a lamp, or electricity, or whatever – that’s fine. But I want nothing to do with it. I’m not interested in the product, just the performance. I want to buy light, and nothing else.
So they developed an ‘intelligent lighting system’ where Phillips retain ownership of the materials and ensure that light is provided at all times. Which gives them an incentive to make the fittings as efficient as possible, and the company doesn’t have to worry about maintenance.
A ‘win-win’ situation, especially for the planet.
How could this work for landlords?
Well, light can be a problem for landlords. All those common parts where lightbulbs keep failing and tenants complaining.
What about a service where all the light fittings are ‘intelligent’ so you know when they are about to fail? The light service company could then schedule their fitter to go round and replace them. The bulbs could then be properly recycled rather than just thrown in the bin where they go to landfill.
Being responsible for the replacement and materials would give the company an incentive to make the bulbs and other equipment as energy-efficient and long-lasting as possible (which, to be honest, they don’t have when they are selling them as a product).
Landlords wouldn’t have to worry about replacing light bulbs and tenants wouldn’t have to struggle to their doors in the dark.
But what about the rented properties themselves? Landlords often complain about tenants who are so useless, they don’t know how to change a light bulb. What if they didn’t have to? What if the light company did all the maintenance so they didn’t have to bother?
This needn’t inconvenience the tenants. Sensors and other intelligent equipment could sense when the property is occupied ensuring that maintenance is only ever done when the tenants are out.
Further, if the light company were able to access the property while the tenants were out as of right (for this and maybe for other services), this would ensure that the property was a residential license where landlords have greater rights.
Which could be important if the government get rid of section 21.