• In response to their growing concern for the environment, clients are citing eco-friendly transport, water management and LEED certified housing among their most important criteria.
  • Many apartments offer rooftop gardens, which make the entire community more sustainable.
  • Seek out developments that contractually require eco-friendly initiatives.

As the appeal of city living attracts more Americans to metropolitan centers, the multifamily real estate market has risen in prevalence and popularity.

The upsurge in apartment rentals is largely due to convenience, urban accessibility and affordability. To keep pace with this growing demand, however, an emphasis on “green” leasing has also gained recognition along with eco-friendly installments in apartment communities.

When helping your clients find a multifamily complex to call home, take these sustainable features into consideration:

1. Energy Star approved utilities

Verify whether the unit includes high-performance light fixtures, ceiling fans, kitchen appliances and double-glazed windows, as these upgrades allow tenants to regulate their energy usage.

Also, inquire about complex fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs, which use about 70 percent less electricity than their counterparts and save about $40 in utility costs throughout their lifespan.

2. Water-saving plans

Look for low-flow faucets, high-efficiency toilets, irrigation system timers and tankless or solar heaters to limit water consumption, promote conservation and minimize unnecessary expenditures.

Also, determine if the apartment board offers a Water Monitoring Program to help residents track their water savings.

3. Recycling programs

Ensure the complex equips residents with recycling containers to reduce overall utility costs and encourage energy-independent living.

On average, each American produces 4.4 pounds of trash per day, but 86 U.S. facilities use municipal solid waste to create energy, which allows them to yield about 2,700 megawatts of power annually from 28 million tons of trash.

A housing development that converts waste into generated power can significantly diminish its carbon footprint.

4. Weatherized apartment units

Find out whether the exterior doors have been weather-stripped. Also, see if storm-proof windows have been installed, outdoor or carport pipes have been wrapped and attics, walls or crawl spaces have been insulated.

For a measurable benchmark, consider the following example of an apartment that, upon completion, will lead the industry in weatherization.

Located in Kansas City, this $60 million Passive House Institute certificate structure, named “Second and Delaware,” will be the largest multifamily complex to feature 16-inch thick walls insulated between concrete panels and energy recovery ventilation systems to reduce heating and cooling needs by 90 percent.

Developers also allege that Second and Delaware’s durable infrastructure allows for a potential 200-year lifespan.

5. Community rooftop gardens

Look for apartments that provide a gardening space for residents to grow their own food, as this naturally purifies the atmosphere and makes the entire complex more sustainable.

Throughout Washington, D.C., for instance, communal herb and vegetable rooftop gardens have become increasingly popular.

In fact, the Annual Green Roof Industry Survey has reported that over 1.2 million square feet of city-wide green roofing has been installed in the nation’s capital — the highest quantity in North America.

6. Solar panels on the roof

Gary Whitton / Shutterstock.com

Gary Whitton / Shutterstock.com

Inquire if the building has installed rooftop photovoltaic (PV) or concentrated solar power (CSP) panels, which can generate an estimated 400,000 terawatt-hours (tWh) of renewable energy per year.

This power is harnessed directly from natural sunlight to decrease fossil fuel reliance. Plus, tenants with access to solar paneling rather than conventional electricity can save upward of $1,000 annually.

7. Water system partnerships

Determine whether the complex partners with private or locally owned utility companies to sponsor water conservation campaigns by the nationwide WaterSense alliance.

This program, initiated by the Environmental Protection Agency, offers educational resources for participating establishments while installing “water-wise” fixtures that prompt eco-friendly filtration methods. Another benefit of this venture is the positive impact on community collaboration.

8. Green lease mandates

Seek out developments that contractually require tenants to observe eco-friendly initiatives for the purpose of saving money, conserving resources and creating safer living environments.

In a green lease apartment, residents are encouraged to choose non-toxic materials when painting or remodeling, participate in recycling programs and unplug appliances after usage.

Specific examples can be found in Boston’s Allston neighborhood — among the city’s greenest districts. “The Edge,” for instance, is an LEED Platinum level apartment that features floor-to-ceiling windows and a highly reflective solar panel rooftop.

Also, in the Boston Green District building, all units come equipped with an HVAC system that enables residents to monitor their energy expenditures.

Green lease complexes target environmentally conscious renters because, as the Building Design and Construction Network explains, “If you have a high-performance building but low-performance tenants, then what’s the point?”

Therefore, make sure your clients understand that by signing a contract like this, they’ll agree to recycle consistently, compost, use public transportation and follow other sustainable practices.

9. Eco-friendly transportation

Find out if the surrounding area offers alternatives to gas-powered vehicles such as pedestrian or cyclist trails, on-premises Zipcars, electric car charging stations and bicycle rack storage.

For example, Chattanooga has launched a successful transit system that allows the local population to commute on city-owned bikes for an affordable price without emitting petroleum fumes into the atmosphere.

10. Green building certifications

Verify whether the apartment is certified by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), EPA Energy Star or OMB Energy and Sustainability Scorecard. These accreditations indicate the building promotes water and electricity conservation efforts while developing energy-efficient improvements.

Why advocate LEED certified apartments?

These properties cause a lower impact on natural resources than traditional multifamily developments because they are designed to conserve utilities and materials, which protects the environment. LEED certified apartments also require less electricity and water to operate, thereby yielding ecological and economic benefits.

So, for any clients who express interest in the multifamily sector, steer them toward units that prioritize environmental responsibility and minimize wasteful depletion of our planet’s finite reserves. This housing option effectively sustains energy sources, while making the green lifestyle more accessible to urban dwellers nationwide.

Ted Rollins is the co-chairman, founding principal for the Valeo Groupe. Connect with Ted on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter.

Email Ted Rollins.

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