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Landlords Need Sustainability Measures That Are Profitable

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Commercial multifamily buildings can propel investors to financial security. That is, if they generate consistent revenue. In the era of sustainability, energy saving measures can reduce costs and increase property value. Integrating common sense energy strategies into commercial buildings is a win-win scenario for landlords and tenants alike.

What are some of the best measures for landlords to combine sustainability and profitability? Let’s check some out.

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Eco-Friendly Building Materials: When it’s time to renovate, try to locate products that were manufactured with sustainability in mind. Some of the options now include recycled steel, bamboo flooring, and low impact paints. Also look into bio-based construction materials, which are sustainable, affect social wellbeing positively, and can be rapidly replenished by photosynthesis every day.

Smart Lighting: When landlords incorporate occupancy sensors to respond to real time patterns, they provide tenants with a more pleasant and reliable experience in common and private areas. Smart buildings manage the performance of all technical systems through IoT technology with the view of achieving energy efficiency. Such technical systems reduce the energy needs in a building, improve environmental conditions, and enhance energy performance.

Energy Efficient Appliances: Replacing outdated appliances with energy efficient models, landlords achieve more sustainability goals. From refrigerators to heating systems, contemporary, energy efficient appliances reduce utility bills and help the environment. They also give tenants hands on experiences with eco-oriented consumer appliance choices, so that their future purchases may more beyond altruism to knowledge of eco-labels as the preferred buying option.

Water Conservation: Water efficient fixtures and appliances minimize water consumption. Whenever possible, install low flow toilets, aerated faucets, and energy efficient washing machines. Some landlords are choosing to install apartment-level metering and billing that affects hot water consumption, to the point that awareness decreases tenant water consumption drastically by 26%.

Smart Thermostats: Investing in smart thermostats allows for better control over heating and cooling. Smart thermostats in both common areas and private units allow temperature settings to be pre-programmed, which is valuable when adjusting to occupancy patterns or high-traffic times of the day. Tenants, too, can program their thermostat to reduce energy consumption and save on individual energy bills, which improves tenant retention and supports occupancy goals. Environmental attitudes and technical abilities influence thermostat usage behaviors, so a bit of information and education can make a whole lot of difference toward the success of smart thermostats. Larger multifamily homes with a centralized HVAC system do require commercial-grade smart thermostats that are capable of managing multiple units as well as common areas.

Air Source Heat Pumps: It’s entirely possible to retrofit the HVAC systems for most multi-unit residential buildings with heat pumps, which reduce HVAC costs by transferring cold or warm air from outside a facility to the interior, limiting HVAC run times and energy consumption. Heat pumps also offer the added advantage that they can be used as energy efficient space heaters or coolers to help manage energy consumption in areas of a property that are thermodynamically problematic, such as common areas that are either more poorly insulated or particularly high-traffic.

Smart HVAC Energy Management: Smart HVAC systems help optimize energy consumption and minimize their respective energy costs. They can ensure that spaces are properly heated and cooled when tenants aren’t on site and can reduce HVAC runtime by up to 40%. New devices are often equipped with cloud-connected controllers that can adjust the quantity and timing of energy consumption. The ROI from smart HVAC technology is so significant that it tends to increase property resale values.

Demand Response Strategies: Demand response plays a crucial role ushering in sustainability across various domains. It’s an energy management program in which building owners adjust their energy use during peak periods. By shifting the operation of high energy appliances, adjusting temperatures in common areas, or turning off nonessential lighting, these programs help reduce energy consumption and stabilize the power grid. Demand response has significant sustainability results, too. It questions the need for additional power plants, prevents blackouts, and lowers electricity costs. Programs allow multifamily home operators to earn credits (or even outright cash incentives) against their energy bill whenever they choose to curb their consumption during peak demand times. During a forecasted peak usage event, various onsite appliances like HVAC systems or water heaters will adjust to draw less energy from the grid. This landlord’s efforts are applied against their energy bills, reducing their overhead energy costs.

Data-Driven Decision Making: Data can be used to reduce energy costs, uncovering otherwise hidden costs from either routine inefficiencies or more substantive failures. Predictive maintenance leverages sensor data from their various systems to track wasteful energy consumption and identify malfunctioning hardware. They provide alerts before issues escalate to a much more problematic and costly level. Maintenance staff can use system performance data to diagnose maintenance requirements, prevent system failures and downtime, reduce the costs of operating a faulty system, and prevent catastrophic failures from components deteriorating beyond repair.

Efficient Waste Management: Recycling facilities and composting options can illuminate tenants and staff to the benefits of sustainability. For example, piles of cardboard and paper littering US landfills represent $4 billion in lost economic value. Residents and maintenance crews do need tutorials and clear guidelines to encourage responsible disposal practices, and it’s imperative to invest in ample containers and composting equipment to turn effective waste management into a daily tenant routine.

Eco-Oriented Landscaping: Ecosystems need to function as an interactive whole in parks, preserves, and yards; people in the US have transformed 95% of the natural landscapes in the country. Fertilizers wash off lawns, into storm sewers, and flow into our waterways, inspiring algae blooms and contaminating the water we drink and the fish we eat. A landlord’s outdoor spaces will be healthier when the time is spent to engage in sustainability practices. That means choosing native plants that require less water, implementing rainwater harvesting systems, and using aged compost in place of fertilizers.

Switching to Renewable Energy Sources: Many landlords are making the transition to renewable and self-sufficient sources of energy. One option is solar panels, which reduce a property’s reliance on and consumption from mainstream power grids. Often they can also create new revenue streams or energy cost saving with solar by selling excess power back to the utility company. SunPower, for example, run offers a program in which building owners are able to sell electricity generated by the panels back to tenants for less than local utility rates, and they receive payments directly.

Final Thoughts about Sustainability

Brenden Millstein, director of Carbon Lighthouse, says in a CleanTechnica exclusive that he can describe the future of sustainability in one word: “profitable.” Millstein suggests that the discussion question, “Can we afford this or that sustainability policy?” is hopelessly outdated. Just look at the data, he requests.

  • The cost of utility-scale solar fell 5 times from 2010 to 2020. “This is easy to say, but wild in consequence,” Millstein explains. “It’s like buying an $100,000 Lamborghini for $20,000.
  • Wind power and batteries have seen similar declines, and renewable energy is now cheaper than fossil fuels without any subsidies.

Carbon Lighthouse is an example of a firm that attempts to make it profitable for landlords to invest in projects that reduce their energy consumption. “This benefits tenants, and then we rent data access to the landlords,” Millstein outlines, “which creates top line incentive for the landlord to invest in more projects.” Many of their customers are publicly traded real estate investment trusts, and “the rent we pay one of them was responsible for a full 20% of their net profit over the past two years. They are rolling us out across their entire portfolio. And it ain’t for the sustainability,” Millstein says. “It’s for the money. The sustainability comes along for free.”


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Carolyn Fortuna

Carolyn Fortuna, PhD, is a writer, researcher, and educator with a lifelong dedication to ecojustice. Carolyn has won awards from the Anti-Defamation League, The International Literacy Association, and The Leavey Foundation. Carolyn is a small-time investor in Tesla and an owner of a 2022 Tesla Model Y as well as a 2017 Chevy Bolt. Please follow Carolyn on Substack: https://carolynfortuna.substack.com/.

Carolyn Fortuna has 1307 posts and counting. See all posts by Carolyn Fortuna