Certifiably Green: 5 Reasons to Become Green-Certified
By Trish Harris
Whether you manage one community or oversee a portfolio, chances are you already juggle plenty of priorities and have never given much thought to earning a “green” certification. Well, you might consider thinking again.
Becoming “green-certified” can be a rewarding and valuable undertaking for you, your property, and your residents — not to mention the environment.
You will increase your knowledge.
An investment in knowledge pays the best interest. — Benjamin Franklin
Inherent in any certification program is the educational process and the acquisition of new knowledge by those pursuing the certification. For example, The Florida Green Building Coalition (FGBC) certifications are based on standards developed with climate-specific criteria to address issues caused by Florida’s hot, humid environment and natural disasters. As a multifamily community owner or manager in Florida, it helps greatly to have an in-depth understanding of how our state’s climate, humidity, and vulnerability to storms and hurricanes might affect buildings. This includes such issues as energy efficiency, water conservation, site preservation, indoor air quality, materials, and durability. Putting this knowledge to work on behalf of your apartment community could even mitigate the effects of disasters like termites, hurricanes, floods, and lightning.
You will reduce the negative environmental impacts of your buildings.
Scientists may depict the problems that will affect the environment based on available evidence, but their solution is not the responsibility of scientists but of society as a whole. — Mario Molina
Green certification both documents and ensures that what you are doing is positive for the environment. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) lists green measures that will not only reduce negative impacts, but also enhance your building’s performance:
- Incorporate the most efficient heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, along with good operations and maintenance to ensure optimum performance.
- Secure locally produced building materials.
- Optimize daylight and install state-of-the-art lighting.
- Locate and use recycled materials for building and interiors.
- Reduce potable water usage.
- Use renewable energy.
- Implement proper construction waste management.
- Position buildings near public transportation.
According to the USGBC, residential and commercial buildings consume 70 percent of the electricity load in the United States. The most significant factor contributing to carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from buildings is their use of electricity. The council puts this into perspective with these statistics and predictions:
- Energy use in the building sector is projected to increase to 50 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) at a cost of $430 billion by 2025.
- Over the next 25 years, CO2 emissions from buildings are projected to grow faster than any other sector, with emissions from commercial buildings projected to grow the fastest — 1.8 percent a year through 2030.
- If half of new commercial buildings were built to use 50 percent less energy, it would save more than 6 million metric tons of CO2 annually for the life of the buildings — the equivalent of taking more than 1 million cars off the road every year.
- When other CO2 emissions attributable to buildings are considered — such as the emissions from the manufacture and transport of building construction and demolition materials and transportation associated with urban sprawl — the result is an even greater impact on the climate.
It introduces opportunities for incentives at the onset, support for improvements along the way, and ultimately, a potential reduction in operating costs.
A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. ― Winston S. Churchill
Freddie Mac looks kindly on building owners who have a think-green mindset. With a National Green Building Standard (NGBS) green certification, you will qualify for better loan pricing. You can increase the amount of your eligible Freddie Mac Multifamily loan by 50 to 75 percent of the projected energy and water savings. And Fannie Mae has three NGBS green incentives offering discounted preferential pricing for properties ready to make improvements and repairs after loan close, properties with NGBS certification awarded prior to loan lock, and older affordable properties that are ready to make improvements and repairs after loan close.
According to the Florida Green Building Coalition, “Green buildings have been shown to save building owners money through reduced energy and water use, as well as through lower long-term operations and maintenance costs.” However, going green requires significant ongoing commitment.
In regard to modifying older buildings, there are no shortcuts to going green. “To be certified, you’re going to have to bring everything into compliance with the green standard,” says FGBC Executive Director C. J. Davila. He explains that this includes replacing air conditioning, installing low-flow toilets, planting drought-tolerant vegetation, and implementing a high-efficiency irrigation system.
We’ve only just begun …
Although the building industry has come a long way over recent years in recognizing and addressing environmental needs, it clearly still has a long way to go. Experts point to the existence of what they refer to as “the performance gap.”
When revisiting green projects to evaluate how well they have performed in comparison to the promised and expected results, experts say results often have been disappointing. This gap appears to point to such issues as the experience (or lack thereof) of test subjects, self-assessment, reporting/communication, and the need to base statistics on real-use situations, as opposed to energy models. Perhaps a more holistic, individualized approach is warranted, as opposed to a one-size-fits-all energy model that fails to consider each environmental project’s unique challenges and opportunities.
Source: YaleEnvironment 360, “Why Don’t Green Buildings Live up to Hype on Energy Efficiency?” by Richard Conniff.
You will actually improve the health and well-being of your residents.
I believe your atmosphere and your surroundings create a mind state for you. ― Theophilus London
The U.S. EPA states that “Green buildings are designed in such a way to reduce overall impact on environment and human health by reducing trash, pollution, and degradation of environment; efficiently using energy, water, and other resources; protecting occupant health; and improving productivity.”
Trifecta Construction Solutions Founder and President Jennifer Languell, Ph.D., is a leader in and advocate for energy efficiency, resource conservation, and healthier building environments.
Influenced by her more than 20 years of experience as a sustainability champion, contractor, and consultant in the building industry, Languell refers to the term “green building” as both a noun and a verb.
“As a noun, green building represents a physical structure that exists as a result of environmentally friendly design and the construction process. As a verb, green building seeks to increase the efficiency of energy, water, and materials use in buildings (both residential and commercial) and to reduce their environmental and health impacts. Properly applied green standards can improve health, save energy and water, and reduce waste.”
You can improve your business image and corporate reputation by demonstrating environmental responsibility and serving as a good steward of the planet.
The way to gain good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear. ― Socrates
As is true in all aspects of multifamily housing management, your reputation can either draw or repel residents, and the long-term sustainability of your community hangs in the balance. When you and your business practices are viewed as caring, compassionate, responsive, and proactive, you reflect a positive and appealing image that draws others to you. And when your environmental efforts embody all of these traits, as well, you serve as a role model worthy of emulating.
Owning or managing a green-certified apartment community speaks volumes not only about who you are as a person, but also about the depth of concern you have for both the environment and your current and future residents alike.
Perhaps becoming green-certified is worth considering. After all, what do you have to lose?