As noted on the website Buildinggreen.com, multifamily properties are by their very nature green, given the density of the community they support. The problem comes in, however, when inferior infrastructure is in place — whether because of age or the use of subpar building materials, appliances, systems or materials.
Developers, investors and property managers have come to understand the need for sustainable housing — how efficiency and profitability need not be mutually exclusive. Erin Hatcher, vice president for sustainability for AMLI Residential, a company featuring properties in nine American cities (including Chicago), put it this way in LEED in Motion: Residential, a report issued in July 2019 by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED):
Both personally and professionally, I believe residential developers and building managers have a great responsibility to our residents and the greater public. Our industry collectively has a huge impact on the greater environment and our individual buildings have a direct impact on the occupants calling this space home.
That same report noted that over 1.6 multifamily units are LEED-registered or LEED-certified around the globe. Other reports have noted that the number of LEED-certified apartments builts in the U.S. skyrocketed some 283 percent between 2008 and 2018, from 11,200 to 42,900, with Chicago boasting the most (20,600). In addition, Illinois had the most LEED-approved square footage (68.13 million), when non-residential buildings were taken into account.
The owners and managers of such properties place an accent not only on the health and well-being of residents but also on savings (these dwellings use, according to LEED, 20 to 30 percent less energy than their non-green counterparts), trust (they are verified by third parties) and value (there is a low initial cost and high resale return).
And really, the approach for a developer or property manager looking to go green has not changed all that much since 2011, when a post on Buildings.com encouraged the efforts of such parties to be focused on matters like water heating, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), waste diversion, appliances, common-area lighting, water fixtures, toilets, weatherization and small fixtures.
More generally, that post broke down the strategy into no-cost solutions (educating tenants about sustainable solutions), low-cost solutions (using things like compact fluorescent lightbulbs — a.k.a., CFLs) and higher-cost solutions (replacing inefficient boilers, water heaters and the like).
Ultimately, however, such steps can be profitable. And in his day and age, they are also necessary.