Multifamily Units are Growing Up Green

Multifamily builders can include a variety of sustainable features to keep up with the green industry

By SCOTT HARRIS

We are currently in a very thought-provoking time in the construction and development industry regarding communal living. A large majority of the original, multifamily buildings in every urban city throughout the U.S. are coming of age to the point where they need replacement, or rehabilitation. And the cost to restore may not make sense, or even be granted, given the tightening of local building and safety codes, as well as the increasing statewide environmental and energy conservation requirements.

Forward thinking developers and builders are racing to keep pace with an ever-increasing demand for innovative, multifamily housing by creating small, city-like, multi-use developments that will incorporate the latest green-technology trends. These leaders in the industry have realized that not only is sustainability in housing an expected future component of multifamily buildings, but in fact, our future is dependent on it.

For those of us who may not be thinking “environmentally” yet, state and local governments are assisting by requiring builders and developers to incorporate the latest sustainable green-trends into their multifamily projects. So, “ready or not, here comes green” into your new multifamily construction projects. And, thanks to government intervention and incentives, the U.S. is helping us individually and collectively become a global leader in this environmental arena.

But what do you do if you already own a multifamily structure and you don’t want to be left behind? In a highly competitive market, the costs to pay forward the savings don’t always pencil out. One innovative and cost effective option is to consider offering a “green lease” program. By signing the lease, occupants agree to follow sustainable lifestyle routines, such as recycling, composting, and using nearby public transportation. It also creates an opportunity to agree to use the utilities more wisely and effectively, allowing property owners to redirect those savings to help their property to start “growing up green!”

Some of the “low hanging” fruit upgrades include options such as smart irrigation controllers and inwall hydration systems that dispense purified water, reducing the need to provide disposal options for plastic bottles. You can also motivate your occupants to “grow up green” and help alleviate your parking demands by promoting non-fossil fuel driven transportation. Try providing options like secured bike-racks and access to zipcars. To attract the Millennials, which comprise a large share of the market, you can add electric vehicle charging stations. You can also try adding a profitable, in-house e-scooter or bike rental station, such as those available from Bird Rides, Inc. or LimeBike.

Once you’ve started generating savings and increased occupancy, start planning to reach for the “higher hanging fruit” and turn your focus to energy- efficient mechanical systems and systems that monitor and meter the daily water usage. Given the rising cost of water, these devices have saved property owners as much as 40 percent on their utility bills by just keeping everyone aware. Those savings should go right back into the big green piggy bank for more green upgrades!

Or, if you’re impatient, and want to jump on the fast-paced green train, there are many local and state incentives that are worthy of exploration. One great option is offered by Fannie Mae. Just ask for the Multifamily Green Financing, which is designed to provide mortgage financing to existing multifamily buildings and cooperatives to finance energy and water efficiency property improvements.

Fannie Mae describes the benefits on their website in these words: “With our Green Financing, owners of multifamily properties can invest in smart, strategic, energy and water saving improvements. These improvements improve the property’s bottom line with lower utility costs, improve the quality and affordability of housing for tenants, and increase the property’s environmental sustainability.”

So there are lots of options, but if you are a regular overachiever in life, like me, and you want to take the advanced placement classes to fully “grow up green,” you can be globally recognized with a certification symbol from the USGBC (United States Green Building Council) through their LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification program, which offers several different tiers of certification for assessed buildings. Or, you can simply start off small, by offering a Green Lease program and access to e-bikes! Either way, turning your focus to “growing up green” will benefit both you and your building’s residents.

Scott Harris, co-founder and COO of Building Construction Group, has been seen on national platforms (i.e. HGTV, Hallmark Channel, FOX News, TMZ) teaching the nation how to build a better home. He can be reached at scott@buildingcgroup.com