Residents’ environmental concerns are prompting property managers to adopt eco-friendly practices.
Pressure to adopt greener, or more sustainable business practices, has finally reached managed communities and their property managers.
While many sustainability initiatives remain voluntary, consumers and residents are increasingly expressing preferences for companies that can demonstrate sustainable attributes. In the commercial real estate sector, green-certified projects are in hot demand. Environmental activists, meanwhile, continue to lobby lawmakers at all levels of government to implement green building, landscaping, recycling, and other regulations, particularly in urban areas where environmental stresses are most pronounced.
As of 2012, 29 states had enacted recycling legislation and several large cities had banned the dumping of organic waste in landfills. In 2015, many HOAs in California were ill-prepared to comply with a state mandate to cut water usage 25 percent to mitigate severe drought. The state had to actually pass a law prohibiting HOAs from fining or otherwise punishing residents who let their lawns turn brown in an effort to comply with the restrictions.
Fortunately, environmentally friendly property management doesn’t have to mean drastic or expensive changes. In fact, there are many simple ways to be eco-friendly that are easy to implement, cost effective and can be implemented gradually.
Reduce, reuse, recycle
Green property management starts with the simple principles that underlie all eco-friendly practices: reduce, reuse, recycle. These core ideas drive the creative thinking and innovation needed to implement environmentally-friendly property management practices.
There are many ways to tweak practices to reduce a properties negative impacts on the environment, but today we’ll focus on five core areas that can have the biggest impact: energy, water, waste, maintenance and vendors.
Energy spans virtually all areas of property management from HVAC, pool systems, windows, and insulation to roofing and irrigation. Simply put, there are 3 ways to approach energy efficiency from a maintenance perspective: reactive, preventative, and predictive.
Reactive property management responds to problems as they arise, as opposed to getting in front of them. Managers who take this approach simply fail to keep systems upgraded or even up to date and functional, and fall victim to wasteful structures that cost both money and energy.
The 11-unit Promenade House Condo Association in Portland, Maine reduced its water bill by 75 percent and its electric bill by 25 percent over a two-year period primarily by committing to routine maintenance and identifying several systems that were broken and getting them fixed, Association President David Loughran wrote in an article published by HOALeader.com.
Preventative maintenance is a less costly approach. In this scenario associations will allocate funds for regular maintenance checks and run inspections for HVAC and pool systems to make sure they are set correctly and functioning.
Although preventative maintenance is good, the best solution is predictive maintenance. That is, consistent inspection and monitoring of the facilities and systems that allows for early detection of energy waste. Money is budgeted in advance for repairs and replacements, and a log of all product warranties is kept.
Predictive maintenance doesn’t have to be time-consuming and complicated. In fact, many HVAC contractors can now monitor, diagnose and tune heating and air conditioning systems remotely via the internet.
When it’s time to replace assets, look for products that are eco-friendly and energy-efficient. Consider asking your vendor for a list of things they do to ensure equipment is operating at peak efficiency.
Water & Sewer
Water prices are on the rise across the country. Monitoring your property’s water consumption can make a big impact on your carbon footprint and your wallet.
Do a thorough audit of your irrigation, landscaping, meters, and sewer systems. Avoid waste and unnecessary cost by planting native landscaping that doesn’t require irrigation, or
Property managers can think creatively to identify ways to improve water consumption.
Solid waste (recycling)
Community associations and property managers can do their part to encourage resident compliance for community-wide recycling programs. Often, non-compliance can simply be a result of ignorance about your recycling initiative. Communicate with your residents through articles, flyers, or common area notices. Let residents know how important recycling is for your community and how easy it is for them to get started.
If you have a virtual notification system, such as an emergency resident alert system, send out electronic messages to residents informing them of the recycling program and how they can participate. Make the program visible with good signage for dumpsters and pickup locations.
A handful of HOAs has pursued green certifications for existing buildings. Notable Las Vegas-based luxury high rise Four Turnberry Place earned 4 Green Globes Certification, which is awarded to facilities that meet 85 percent of the criteria set forth by the Green Globes Building Initiative.
FTPCA President Robert Tyre stated in a press release, “Thanks to our engineering and management staff, our residents benefit from green building best practices that reduce water and energy waste in common areas, save resources, and provide a more enjoyable living environment.”
Property managers can also obtain the Credential for Green Property Management (CGPM), which is offered by the National Apartment Association Education Institute and more than a dozen other trade associations and non-profits nationwide. While designed primarily for managers of federally subsidized housing, the CGPM will also benefit on-site managers, maintenance staff and supervisors of front-line staff at other affordable and conventional apartment communities employing Green Operations and Maintenance Practices.
Lastly, associations and property managers can ask vendors what green certifications they hold. Popular certifications include the NAHMA’s Credential for Green Management or the NAR’s Green Designation Property Management Track. You can find guidance on green purchasing at the NASPO Green Purchasing Guide and the Sustainable Purchasing Resources Council at Cornell University.
The impact of going green
Sustainable and eco-friendly property management is good business. Cost savings that come from lower utility bills can help keep down HOA fees, which can make the community more alluring to buyers and potentially even raise property values.
“All of our residents benefit because it makes our operations more efficient,” said FTPCA Treasurer Stephen Pierce. “At the same time, we are providing additional financial advantages for the property and its’ homeowners. Thanks to Nevada’s leadership, environmental responsibility will also provide an economic bonus. Four Turnberry Place was able to successfully participate in a Property Tax abatement program, which is tied to reductions in energy consumption and achievement of Green Globes certification.”
There is also the good feeling that comes from knowing your community is doing what it can to minimize its negative impact on the environment. The VendorSmart℠ directory includes detailed company description and history, contact information and genuine reviews left by Community Managers. To learn more schedule a Vendorsmart demo today.