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Transforming Property Management: Urbanbubble’s ESG and Technology Fusion

urbanbubble, founded in 2008, is a pioneering force in the UK’s residential property management sector. Headquartered in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, the company has expanded its operations across every UK region, managing over 11,000 units in more than 85 communities. urbanbubble‘s impressive portfolio showcases their expertise in providing holistic residential property management services, encompassing block and estate management, Private Rented Sector (PRS) lettings and management, Build to Rent (BTR) and Co-Living operations, detailed consultation, full management strategy and financial modelling from design stage and more.

The company’s vision is to become the greatest residential property manager and contribute to making cities better places to live. This vision is underpinned by a mission centered on delivering unparalleled service that places customers at the heart of everything.

Their approach is characterised by robust performance management, including regular reporting and client engagement to ensure transparency and efficiency across all touchpoints. This customer-focused approach, combined with their expertise in BtR and residential property management, makes urbanbubble a standout choice for developers and investors in the real estate market, especially for those seeking partners aligned with market leading technology, underpinned by clear ESG principles.

Technology’s Role in Supporting ESG, an interview with George Ahye

George Ahye – Head of Co-living at urbanbubble

We are very pleased to have George Ahye today, Head of Co-living at urbanbubble. With George, we are going to explore how technology acts as a backbone in supporting Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) initiatives. We’ll discuss cutting-edge tools and software solutions that are shaping ESG strategies in real estate, highlighting how technology not only enhances compliance but also drives sustainability and social responsibility in the sector.

Thank you for being here George. To begin, would you tell us a bit about your role in urbanbubble, but also about the great work the urbanbubble team is doing? And what is the role of technology in your value chain, inside and outside the building?

Sure. Firstly, thanks for having me. Technology is such an essential part of property management, so I’m pleased to be discussing it with you today. My role as Head of Co-Living is to grow our portfolio under management, and to ensure we deliver a great experience for our residents, and a fantastic investment for clients. 

Our community teams manage the day-to-day running of Co-Living schemes and go above and beyond to deliver an exceptional resident experience. From a warm greeting each day to building meaningful relationships that have a real impact on someone’s happiness, in addition to ensuring the building is managed effectively and efficiently behind the scenes. These team members are the heroes.

Technology plays a vital role in enabling us to procure, deploy, recycle and measure the services we deliver, but also how we communicate with prospects, residents and the wider community. Almost everything we do has an element of tech, which is why efficient systems can mean the difference between effective and ineffective property management. 

Folk at Florence Dock (Battersea) – © Luke Hayes

Can you provide examples of specific technology tools or solutions that have had a significant impact on advancing ESG initiatives within the real estate industry?

There’s varying technology in construction, and the initial design and development of the building is what determines whether it’ll be completely green, environmentally damaging or anything in between. 

Some common tech we’re seeing is air source heat pumps replacing gas and oil alternatives, solar panels subsidizing mains electricity, or simple PIR sensor lights that reduce overall consumption. We’re also moving from manually recording meter readings to installing automated meter reading devices to individual apartments and communal areas. This allows us to accurately measure and effectively manage consumption, and to engage with residents about the impact they have on the environment. 

How do you think the integration of technology is influencing the measurement and reporting of ESG metrics in real estate? 

We have known what data is needed for a while, we just haven’t had the tech to extract or record it efficiently. New technology allows us to make progress in this area. For example, automatic meter reading devices allow us to effectively measure utility consumption which in turn leads to environmental building initiatives.

Technology can help with social measures by enabling surveys and general engagement from staff, residents and the local community. This information can be analysed, stored safely, and then used for further engagement and meaningful conversation.

Governance of decision making can be helped by tech, as intelligent layers of requirements and approvals can be designed to ensure a fair and consistent decision is made. This can be easily applied to procurement and contractor management, and there’s opportunity for further advancement for managing the strategic decision making process.

Co-working at Folk Battersea – © Luke Hayes

What challenges or barriers have you encountered in implementing technology-driven ESG strategies, and how have you addressed them? 

We predominantly only have control over the software we use as the hardware in buildings is inherited from the developer. When we consider changing or adding software, there are challenges around whether it’s compatible with our tech stack, what API integrations it has, the location of the company servers and so on. Our approach is to ask detailed questions at an early stage, to determine whether they will meet our requirements.

Could you share success stories or case studies where technology played a pivotal role in achieving sustainability and social responsibility goals in real estate? 

Going back to the topic of solar panels which are a common installation of large-scale developments now. These have an immediate and noticeable impact on the environmental impact of a building.

What are in your opinion must-have technologies in the Co-living business model, especially under the ESG point of view?

From an operational point of view, having the hardware and software to control a building efficiently is essential. From lighting to temperature, and access control to AV, buildings draw a lot of energy for simple functionality so small efficiencies go a long way.

Being able to monitor utility consumption provides great value and will result in better resident engagement, positive behaviour and ultimately KwH and cost savings. Most Co-Living models offer utility bills included in the rent, so a reduction in consumption has a direct impact on profit.

And from a social standpoint, having the tools to be able to properly serve and communicate with residents and the local community is crucial to success.

Standard Studio at Folk Battersea – © Luke Hayes

In what ways has technology-driven ESG compliance affected investors perceptions and priorities in the real estate market? 

The industry has applied greater importance on ESG in recent years, and investors have a better view of performance against strategic goals due to emerging technology. This means having a clear and deliverable ESG strategy has become a key topic for investors, and for many, a determining factor when deploying capital. A green building is now valued higher than a less green comparative.

What emerging technologies do you believe have the greatest potential to further enhance ESG efforts within the real estate sector in the coming years? 

The most pressing improvement needed is environmental. Any technology that is cost efficient and results in a net zero building should be delivered as a priority, whether it is gas boiler alternatives or mycelium (mushroom) bricks!

Considering future projects that your company will have to handle, which are the ones that will use technology to support ESG? 

All the buildings in planning have a degree of smart technology that contributes to our strategic ESG objectives. The importance of technology will depend on the scheme location, size, spec, resident offering and more. We always encourage intelligent technology that supports our ESG vision, and it is great that these form part of early-stage conversations.

For further information over technology and ESG principles: