Sustainability at the National Apartment Association’s Conference

As you read a couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of presenting on the topic of green apartment units at the National Apartment Association’s (NAA) annual Education Conference in Boston at the end of June. We had a great turnout for our education session and the conference was pretty informative, so I thought I’d share my experience.

Our presentation covered various topics such as what a green unit is, energy reduction opportunities, upgrades that reduce utility bills, and, of course, the Green Renter Survey.

A special thanks go out to Gretchen Ponts from Strata Research, Curt Mann from Cortland Partners, and Scott Wilkerson from Gingko Residential for their excellent presentations and deep knowledge of the industry.

The Q&A session after our presentation was full of insightful discussions on the economic viability of in-unit sustainability measures, as well as an interesting in-depth conversation about how Gingko Residential has been able to make some of their properties smoke-free. The topic of smoke-free properties isn’t necessarily an issue in sustainability (though Scott might disagree with that statement, as one of his driving forces in implementing smoke-free housing is to try to lower the risk of fires due to “improper disposal of smoking materials”), but it is a public health topic and important to the multifamily industry. We will be posting more on the topic in the future.

Sustainability was a key topic in many of the tradeshow booths at the conference. Some booths were dedicated solely to sustainability and some, such as the HD Supply booth, had strong sustainability messaging worked into their overall value proposition. In our booth we highlighted four case studies where our products and services directly and quantifiably impacted our customers. One of those case studies involved ENERGY STAR®-qualified appliances and one involved WaterSense® certified toilets that we were able to provide to our customer at a price that made them free when they received a local water district rebate. I had conversations with dozens of attendees who were really interested in how sustainability can increase the value of their property, decrease their bills, improve resident satisfaction, and help them increase rents.

The nice thing about sustainability in the multifamily industry is that it can be a direct driver of revenue while lowering operating costs. I feel that this industry is now starting to take advantage of the low-hanging efficiency fruit. We know a couple things:

  • A few simple in-unit efficiency measures can help bring in higher rents.
  • Simple common-area upgrades can yield dramatic operating efficiencies.
  • Residents care about sustainability—especially when it affects their utility bills.

Finding high ROI and quick payback opportunities is easy. The multifamily industry appears ready to embrace these opportunities. But why stop there? Achieving the next level of efficiency after these current opportunities have been implemented can have a long term ROI. I hope we can help the industry make it through the first phase, and I look forward to finding creative, easy ways to continue to make sustainability an economic driver.

Visit NAA's website to see more highlights from their 2012 conference. You can even purchase videos of the education sessions to stay up to date if you were unable to attend.

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