Last modified on April 22nd, 2022
By Rae Parker
As society returns to a “new normal,” it’s more important than ever to develop a different perspective on how we impact our environment. Climate change and environmental issues continue to be hot topics on a global scale, with more people trying to do their part to “go green.” With more people working from home, CO2 emissions may have decreased temporarily, but energy use and waste have increased. Additionally, residents are looking for sustainable properties that align with their values. Offering this can set you apart from the competition.
The multifamily industry may not be aware of its impact on the environment. Buildings account for about 40% of all U.S. energy consumption and a similar proportion of greenhouse gas emissions. According to the Quadrennial Technology Review, the major areas of energy consumption in buildings are heating, ventilation, and air conditioning — accounting for 35% of total building energy use. Lighting accounts for 11%; major appliances (water heaters, refrigerators and freezers, and dryers) contribute to 18%; and the remaining 36% is used in miscellaneous areas, including electronics.
We’re not saying that the rental housing industry is the key to solving the world’s environmental issues, but it’s important to know how we impact our environment and discover small things we can do to make this a better place for all. Investing in sustainable building and community features can better the environment, benefit your residents and team members, and appeal to a wide range of prospect demographics. In fact, 89% of people surveyed by Ecobnb prefer an environmentally friendly apartment, with more than 25% saying they would pay more in rent to save on energy costs.
With this in mind, here are some tips you can incorporate to make your communities more sustainable and contribute to improving the environment:
Upgrade Your Lighting
Lighting is an easy and low-effort change that produces a high impact. Having energy-efficient light bulbs throughout your property is the first step toward making your property greener. It’s important to know that ENERGY STAR-certified compact fluorescent light bulbs can last longer than traditional incandescent light bulbs, reduce waste in landfills, and use less energy without sacrificing lighting quality.
To appeal to the digital world, consider installing smart bulbs and lighting fixtures inside and outside your properties to maximize efficiency. Smart bulbs are easy to install, and you can control them with apps or timers, programming them to turn on and off at specific times of the day no matter where you are. Companies like SmartRent provide lighting and other smart home solutions for those who want to embrace technology.
You can also apply technology to other areas in your building or units. People value technology that allows them to automate temperature, lights, and alarm systems because it makes their lives easier. Smart home technology can also provide insight into energy use to help you become more energy efficient and mindful of ecological factors. A study by Safewise.com found that the pandemic brought an increase in spending on smart home technology — according to their data, 85% of Americans bought a smart home device in 2020.
From a management perspective, investing in smart home technology makes sense. Besides improving the resident and employee experience, property owners can utilize this technology with enhanced security in common areas, built-in motion detectors, two-way video communication, and smart locks to track entry and remotely change locks instantly. To learn more about how smart home technology can benefit everyone, read this article.
Outside of HVAC systems, appliances can be one of the highest energy consumers. Looking for products that are labeled ENERGY STAR-certified is a great way to ensure that you maximize your dollar and energy savings without sacrificing the features you want. ENERGY STAR-certified refrigerators are about 9% more energy efficient than models that meet the federal minimum energy efficiency standard.
It’s also best practice to provide regular maintenance or replacements for appliances. While appliances are designed to be durable, it’s easy to assume that they’re working fine until one day they’re not. Appliances like dishwashers or washing machines that are over 20 years old could be wasting an extra 10 gallons of water in every cycle.
If you were to ask multifamily property managers and owners what their highest utility expense is, they’ll often say it’s the water bill. While it’s only an estimate, the U.S. Geological Survey reports that on average, each person uses about 80-100 gallons of water per day. It’s important to practice water conservation, not only for the financial aspects, but because we should consider saving this limited resource.
A great way for residents and property managers to conserve water is to perform routine maintenance and repairs on faucets, sinks, toilets, and other plumbing. According to the EPA, household leaks waste nearly 10,000 gallons of water every year. The most common leaks are worn toilet flappers, dripping faucets, and other valves. Reporting issues and performing maintenance ensures that leaks don’t cause substantial damage to your property and cost you thousands of dollars. Equipping your units with low-flow aerators, shower heads, and faucets is a great way to conserve water and keep costs low.
Recycling isn’t a new trend — its evolution dates back to the 1800s — but it wasn’t introduced as an environmental movement until the 1970s. One of the main reasons for recycling is to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills. Based on a NMHC/Kingsley Associates Report, 79% of renters want a recycling program. By allocating a communal space for residents to recycle, it increases their satisfaction in knowing that they live in a building that aligns with their personal values.
Something as simple as offering a recycling program can help you stand out from the competition and keep your properties clean and eco-friendly. For this to be effective, you should promote the program to your residents through flyers and signs throughout the community; as a resource on their online portal; or by hosting a property-wide recycling day.
With some small changes and thoughtful investments, you can easily transform your property into something more sustainable that makes everyone happy.
Comments by Rae Parker