As a fully occupied apartment building is a better sustainability model than one with vacancies, some insights into the tenant seeking an uber-green apartment might help. We know the following offers too many suggestions for any management budget to incorporate simultaneously, but we wanted to demonstrate that a green substitute can be made whenever an improvement is needed.
Owners are already spending to maintain and improve their properties. Perhaps with some green planning, the rewards, and your occupancy rates, will be higher.
Keep it simple: Green building and maintenance focus on eliminating the unnecessary use of materials, properly maintaining existing features and re-using products or materials whenever possible. (We all love something ‘new’, but there is a cost to having produced that product already. ) Try to avoid floor, wall and window coverings that employ the use of fabric. Sustainability principles can be employed to minimize or eliminate drapes, curtains, carpet, grasscloth and wallpapers. These are short-lived materials, installation can produce off-gasing and they harbor unhealthful dust mites, particulates and other antigens.
Avoid Off-Gasing & Toxic Products: Use non-VOC paints, stains and finishes in all your repairs and maintenance. This improves indoor environmental quality dramatically. Larger tiles, by the way, reduce the use of grouting materials and are considered more earth friendly than the small ones. Cleaning and maintenance personnel can use GreenSeal or other certified green products whenever possible. Use only organic and natural landscaping products for fertilization, pest and weed control. If you outsource these jobs, have your contractors and outside service people sign a green maintenance contract. Post this in your leasing office and promote it with your prospective (and current) tenants. Tenant retention is also a by-product of good green management practices.
Substitute Local for Exotic Materials: If you use wood, make sure it is FSC certified or is a composite of recycled products. Green principles encourage use of local products. The intent is to support local businesses, reduce transportation costs and lower the energy used to excavate, transport and distribute materials that can be incurred with distant suppliers.
Think Natural Lighting: Incorporate the use of solar tubes (inexpensive tubular skylights to add daylight to interiors) and other daylighting techniques. Install sensors in interior hallways, parking areas and grounds that allow dimming when no persons are present. Turn off outside lights within 30 minutes of sunrise and don’t turn them on until after dusk. Use exterior lighting that does not create light pollution or contribute to skyglow but uses features that direct the light only on the areas needed for safety.
Green Landscape: Plant drought-tolerant, indigenous or adapted plants that require less water. If possible, institute food waste composting and use the compost generated for your own landscaping needs. Install pervious paving for walkways (drivable grass and pervious concrete) to control stormwater runoff and replenish ground water on the property. Recapture rainwater if your municipality allows it, and use it for irrigation and other permitted uses. Irrigate only when necessary and hydro-zone automatic sprinklers so that plantings (like shrubs) are separately watered according to their needs. Ask for assistance from a nursery person, landscaper, master gardener, horticultural department of a local college or landscape architect in your region.
Discourage Private Vehicle Use: Install covered, secure bike racks and consider creating a shared car parking policy with convenient parking spots. Encourage your municipality to make the neighborhood walkable with safe pedestrian crossings and overpasses , bicycle lanes, etc. A more public presence in this area will certainly gain you some big fans, which will help reduce vacancy in your properties too.
Green Maintenance is Consistent & Innovative: Maintain your heating, air conditioning, filtration and ventilation systems by following ASHRAE’s maintenance schedules and operating recommendations. Use filters in your outdoor stormwater drains to collect and sequester oil, gas and asphalt residues from your garage and parking areas. Replace torn or defective window screens and maintain window functions appropriately to encourage natural ventilation. Make sure any water features use re-circulating water systems and graywater when allowed. Whenever you need to replace drywall or have access to the interior of a wall, replace lesser insulation with a better one. Not only does the latter reduce energy loss and increase thermal comfort , but it reduces noise pollution.
Go Smoke Free: Consider becoming a ’smoke free’ complex or dividing the building into smoking and non-smoking sections.
Take Risks: Old-time aesthetics may not conjure visions of luxury, but if you really want to step out on a limb, the most efficient solar clothes dryer has always been a clothesline. Enclosing these from view with a lovely ‘green’ wall can be a solution for any visual aesthetics concerns, and nostalgia can help overcome objections if your clothesline area is nicely designed and has a play area for children. (Avoid the sandbox.)
Although many neighborhood developments and condominium CC&R’s specifically forbid clotheslines, times have changed and energy reduction is on everybody’s mind. Take a resident survey to check their pulse for property care http://propertycarehouston.com.
Create a Green Improvements Budget Item: Rome wasn’t built in a day, as they say, but unless you develop a budget for energy improvements you are unlikely to find those dollars later. Install EnergyStar front-loading washers and other energy-efficient appliances in your units or if you lease your equipment, ask to exchange it out. Put aerators in your faucets, install low-flow showerheads and replace old toilets with new dual-flush models. (Check for rebates!)
Use roofing materials that are light in color or specially designed to be reflective to reduce heat absorption and lower energy bills. Replace old single-pane windows with double or triple pane options that reduce unwanted solar gain and glare. Install a central vacuum system, as this convenience can greatly reduce particulates and dust retention in living spaces.
Implementing upgrades is always a business decision for property managers, and green improvements are no different. They have to make sense and meet the goals of the owners while they protect the well-being of residents.
If you have other ideas for greening living spaces – or something you’ve done to effectively attract tenants – please share with a comment or link.