Why It’s Time to Adopt Apartment Sustainability

Posted by Shawna Ivy on May 11, 2021

In an IMD article, Knut Haanaes reveals 62 percent of executives say having a sustainability strategy is imperative while 22 percent think it will be in the future. This study is from 2016. The future is here now.

The time has come for multi-family housing to seriously consider incorporating apartment sustainability into the business. Already, sustainability is a business imperative for many companies. Haanaes also writes that companies view sustainability as a competitive advantage.

An MIT Sloan Management Review (SMR) and Boston Consulting Group (BCG) study reports 90 percent of the executives have rated sustainability as important. Yet, only 60 percent include it in their business strategy. In short, any company that doesn't make it a priority will fall behind and competitors will move ahead.

If that isn't enough, MIT SMR and BCG data shows 60 percent of the investors surveyed claim they will divest from companies that don't incorporate sustainability.

That's why it's not surprising industries related to sustainability such as solar and wind energy are one of the fastest-growing in the world. The global renewable energy market is expected to be worth trillions by 2025. That's a sign that many companies are investing in a sustainability strategy.

6 Recommendations for Apartment Sustainability

Like all strategies, there is no one right way to implement an apartment sustainability strategy. "The best solution depends on the ambitions and stakes at each company," Knut Haanaes writes. Here are six actions to integrate apartment sustainability practices into your business.

1. Gain buy-in from stakeholders and residents.

All change management programs require buy-in to be successful. For existing multi-family residential housing, it's essential to obtain buy-in from the residents. They're more likely to support the effort and do their part. To do this, you'll want to add sustainability into your apartment's strategy.

For new buildings, tenant buy-in will be much easier. You'll be able to promote your apartment sustainability as part of your marketing efforts. Many prospective residents believe in sustainability and it could be the difference in their choosing you over a competitor. Make it a part of your marketing efforts.

To succeed with apartment sustainability, the company needs to ensure the board has an active role in the company's sustainability efforts.

2. Align strategy and sustainability

Before you can create an apartment sustainability strategy, request buy-in from your stakeholders. It should be easy to convince them with a little research to find data to show its value for companies and customers.

For instance, designing an apartment building with sustainability in mind is going to save on spending as it'll be a more efficient building. An efficient building means it uses less energy, which begets smaller energy bills.

3. Provide data to support apartment sustainability

The MIT Sloan Research and BCG study identifies data availability as an "important driver of increased investor engagement with sustainability."

"Today's investors, armed with richer data and more sophisticated analytics, can take a more inclusive and nuanced perspective," the press release says. "Furthermore, in the wake of this improved data availability, 75 percent of investment community respondents feel that increased operational efficiency often accompanies sustainability progress."

4. Communicate apartment sustainability priorities

The data from MIT SMR and BCG spotlights a communication gap. Investors have not voiced the value of sustainability on a business. This in spite of the same investors who know the real value of sustainability to performance. That said, apartment property management needs to weave their sustainability efforts into their strategy, marketing, and business plan.

5. Involve residents and employees in apartment sustainability efforts

Apartment property owners can only do so much. They can design and construct a sustainable building. They can incorporate sustainability best practices into the business. But the actions of employees and tenants can also have a positive or negative impact on those efforts.

That's why regular communication and reinforcement of sustainability efforts are a necessity. Residents will need education on how to do their part to ensure apartment sustainability.

6. Find ways to improve apartment sustainability efforts

The simple act of conducting a walkthrough of the building can lead to finding new opportunities to improve efficiencies. Bring in an expert to inspect the entire building including the common areas, entries and exits, and parking lot. This person will provide suggestions on how to enhance efficiencies. Cost and energy savings could come from something as simple as changing out the lighting as it happened to one company.

Educate Residents on Apartment Sustainability

Apartment property managers can take steps to encourage residents to do their part in ensuring apartment sustainability. If the apartment has a newsletter or an online communication forum, post the tips there for everyone to view.

Some of these tips may be a no-brainer for you. But many people, especially apartment residents, aren't always aware of the things they can do to conserve energy and water. When you involve the village, it will have a dramatic impact on your apartment's sustainability endeavors.

1. Share water-saving tips

The little things can add up. Some people keep the water running while brushing their teeth. Most electric toothbrushes run for two minutes. That's a lot of wasted water if someone runs the water for the entire two minutes.

Typically, people brush their teeth twice a day. That's four minutes a day and 28 minutes every week of wasting water. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says turning off the water while brushing teeth can save an average of eight gallons of water per day!

Turning off the water while shaving can save 10 gallons per shave. One person who brushes teeth twice a day and shaves five times a week can potentially save almost 6,000 gallons of water per year. Another great tip is to run the dishwasher only when it's full. Don't run it when it is half empty. This leads to 320 gallons of water savings every year.

2. Turn off the lights

Any room that is not in use, turn off the lights. During daylight, let the natural light from the sun brighten up the rooms. This cuts back on lighting usage. Trade inefficient incandescent bulbs for LED or ENERGY STAR-approved lighting.

3. Recycle everything that's recyclable

Recycling can be confusing for people with the different types of recycling codes. Cities with recycling have different requirements of what's recyclable. Search for the city's recycling guidelines and share that with employees and residents. The U.S. EPA's how to recycle resources contains a lot of useful information on recycling.

4. Monitor the thermostat

Ask tenants to turn down the thermostat during the winter months and turn it up during the summer months. Every degree affects the energy bill by 3 percent.

5. Trade plastic bags for reusable bags

Plastic bags have a way of polluting the city as you'll find them blowing in the wind. If you have any plastic bags, reuse them as much as you can. Keep them in your vehicle to use on future shopping trips. Some retailers have a plastic bag recycling bin. Ask everyone to recycle plastic bags in those bins and switch to reusable bags that aren't plastic.

6. Show the savings

If your apartment provides residents with information on their water and energy use, this is an opportunity to show them the savings. Some utility companies send bills that display customers' usage amounts and the cost savings if they make changes. It can be a simple statement or graph. For example, "Turn off the water while brushing your teeth can save you $100 a month."

This puts the information in a format that makes sense to the customer. "Turning off the water while brushing your teeth can save 500 gallons per month" has little meaning to the renter. Is 500 a little? A lot? Convert the gallons to dollars and you'll make a better case for conservation.

To maximize apartment sustainability takes a village. Weave it into everything you do, communicate with stakeholders, and keep educating residents. Those efforts will pay off.

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