Most business leaders understand the power of the green movement, which has flourished in recent years and gained supreme influence in nearly every market ― real estate included. Green buildings retrofitted with sustainable features like extra insulation and energy-efficient appliances sell for much, much more than their antiquated, wasteful counterparts. A study in 2011 found that sustainable structures earned at least 8 percent more than comparable buildings without green additions.
Experts predict that as the millennial generation ages, sustainability will only gain more dominance over the real estate market. However, experts have also noted that millennials, more than any other generation, prefer to rent rather than buy. Thus, it is not necessarily single-family homes that require green updates, but apartment buildings and multi-family complexes that demand to be made eco-friendly.
Developers and tenants have the power to make sustainable updates to their apartment spaces. Here’s why and how every apartment building should go green.
Why Green Matters
Energy efficiency, water efficiency, durability, waste reduction, walkable communities ― all of these building features may seem like fantasies for property owners and renters, but with green buildings, they are well within reach. Green multi-family housing is one of the best answers to the ecological problems plaguing the world today.
What’s more, sustainable construction tends to be less expensive, despite developer fears regarding new, expensive technologies and materials. It is actually the construction practices rather than the resources that slash costs so considerably, so retraining workers to build using green techniques will make apartment buildings much cheaper to make.
Yet, perhaps most important to developers and owners, the demand for all sorts of green buildings only continues to increase. One study found that nearly 80 percent of renters believe it is important to live in a sustainable space, and more than 60 percent are more than willing to pay extra for green features, especially resource-hogging appliances such as refrigerators, washers and dryers, dishwashers, and the like. If such a high percentage of potential tenants look for green buildings, owners and developers should certainly provide.
What Developers Should Do
Building green multi-family homes from the ground up is the most effective way to secure all the benefits of sustainable living structures, and there are a number of exciting techniques and technologies developers can employ to make their apartment buildings as sustainable as possible. Here are some of the best new and old ways to build green:
- Make a tight envelope. The more enclosed an indoor space, the better protected it is from outside elements like temperature and precipitation and the more energy-efficient it is.
- Let sunlight in. Daylight is a completely free way to illuminate rooms while the sun is out, and low-e coated windows reduce the temperature impact of solar rays to improve energy conservation.
- Use recycled building materials. In addition to being earth-friendly, recycled materials are often cheaper. Builders can consider using recycled steel, glass, wood, and paint.
- Prefer natural resources. Many building materials release chemicals that deteriorate the environment (and tenant health) over time. Natural alternatives are safer and greener.
- Consider zero-energy. The most exciting building trend is the negation of construction energy footprints using solar, wind, and other renewable energy sources.
- Rethink water usage. Rainwater collection, greywater recycling, and conservation technology (like dual-flush toilets and low-flow faucets), can help a building’s water use reach net-zero, as well.
Not only do these methods and materials lower the cost of construction, when green structures are properly built, lifetime maintenance expenses are also drastically reduced. Thus, with a few tweaks to building design, a developer can spend less while earning more in the long run.
What Tenants Can Do
Though many tenants feel hamstrung in their ability to improve their leased space, the truth is renters can do quite a bit to ensure their apartments are thoroughly green. Here are just a few examples:
- Plug into power strips. Appliances plugged directly into the wall tend to suck out more vampire energy, raising utility bills.
- Opt for CFL or LED bulbs. Old halogen bulbs not only wash out the room, they put most of their energy into heat rather than light.
- Install low-flow faucets. Temporary fixtures that screw into sinks and showers, low-flow faucets provide pressure without wasting water.
- Seal the apartment. Doors, windows, and walls can leak air, so using eco-friendly caulk, paint, or sealant to trap in cold or hot air will reduce wasted energy.
- Install a ceiling fan. Increased air circulation is often all a renter needs to feel more comfortable indoors throughout the seasons.
Before a renter makes any major changes, to include painting and installing appliances, he or she should consult the landlord or property manager for permission. Fortunately, the most impactful sustainable apartment modifications are completely reversible, so no lasting harm can come to owners’ property due to tenants’ eco-friendly fervor.