Do Green Property Managers Attract More Considerate Residents?

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Just because it may not be as “cool” today to take your property management business in a “green” direction doesn’t mean it’s not rewarding. Besides the personal satisfaction there are advantages.

As part of its Healthy Homes Program, the federal government’s Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) launched in 1999 its Healthy Homes Initiative (HHI) to protect families from housing-related health and safety hazards.

Then in July of 2007 HUD introduced its Green Initiative, a nationwide pilot initiative to encourage owners and purchasers of affordable, multifamily properties to rehabilitate their properties using sustainable Green Building principles.

If you or your clients comply with the standards of the Green Initiative you may be eligible for a government sponsored program that “…restructures property debt to account for market rent levels, to pay for rehabilitation and 20 years’ of estimated repairs and replacements, and to establish a financially viable project for the long term.”

There’s also a Credential for Green Property Management (CPGM) you can qualify for. It offers management companies and owners a mechanism for meeting the training commitments to the HUD Office of Affordable Preservation (OAHP) if they’ve qualified for a “green restructuring”.

The CPGM credential isn’t restricted to management companies who have opted for an OAHP green restructuring. It also benefits onsite managers, maintenance staff and supervisors of front-line staff at other affordable and conventional apartment communities employing Green Operations and Maintenance Practices.

Credential holders will learn the latest techniques and technologies for making cost-saving green improvements at properties. The credential is earned by completing a total of 16 hours of training in a variety of green building topics.

My research suggests that as a credentialed (CGPM) property manager you’ll have an advantage over the competition. You’re likely to attract property owners who are progressive-minded proponents of environmentally sensitive practices.

Many people today, especially those concerned with climate change, care about the advantages of sustainability and conservation. These include residents who directly benefit.

If you’re able to tell prospects that your rental units meet energy-saving criteria or the federal standards of the Healthy Homes Initiative you’re likely to find this an important attraction to a more caring group.

It isn’t rocket science to imagine that the kind of people who make excellent renters are also impressed with buildings updated to be both environmentally sensitive as well as healthier to live in.

Each of the following topics is covered in the credential training, with a cumulative total of at least 8 hours in these areas:

  • Green Building Principles and Practices Overview
  • Energy Efficiency
  • Water Efficiency
  • Integrated Pest Management
  • Indoor Air Quality
  • Green Operations and Maintenance

Other topics that may be included in the 16-hour requirement include:

  • Green Site Landscaping, Xeriscape, Composting, etc.
  • Green Building Systems
  • Alternative Energy Sources (Solar, Wind, Geothermal, Combined Heat and Power, Co-generation)
  • Energy Star (including indoor and outdoor lighting) and WaterSense Programs
  • Recycling and Waste Reduction
  • Resident Green Education

To learn more about the CGPM opportunity visit this page. Consider the advantages that becoming credentialed will contribute to your property management business.

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WHEN TRAGEDY STRIKES IN A COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION

Very recently, a manager I know and worked with was viciously attacked while on duty in his community. A former employee walked into the management office and shot this unsuspecting young man in the head.
People I know asked me what could have been done to prevent this tragedy from occurring. It is always easy to be a Monday-morning Quarterback, but the fact remains that if someone is intent on doing you harm, he or she can usually find a way.
That being said, this attack does necessitate an important discussion about how to protect an association’s employees, directors and residents. Whenever you are dealing with volatile personality types, it is important to plan thoughtfully. We have previously seen violence in community associations where a resident attacked a director and vice versa. We have also seen resident vs. resident crime. director vs. director crime and resident vs. manager and director vs. manager attacks. Sadly, no group is immune from being attacked or being the attacker.
What if you don’t know someone has such a personality? Well, hiring decisions should not be taken lightly. In this case, a thorough personality screening of this employee may or may not have revealed a history of mental illness or highlighted other troubling personality issues. Given how some people react to bad news, terminating an employee might also require speaking with a professional ahead of time to frame the news in the best possible light and to take all necessary precautions should the employee present a problem immediately upon learning of the termination.
If you have any inkling that a resident, employee or director may have violent tendencies, you must take immediate steps to defuse the situation, reach out to all appropriate professionals and service agencies and do not go it alone. Can the management office be equipped with a metal detector? Of course, but how many communities want to go to this extreme?
Fortunately, Jeremy Holland, the manager who inspired this blog, is recovering with the help and overwhelming support of his family, friends and the community he served.

What Is LEED? – Innovation and Regional Priority Credits

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This is the eighth and final post in a series on the LEED green building rating system. The first post provided an Introduction to LEED, and the remaining posts looked at each of the six credit categories: Sustainable Sites, Location and Transportation, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, and Indoor Environmental Quality.  We hope you have enjoyed the series!

 

Innovation Credits


This credit is worth 1-5 points.  Projects can earn additional credits for innovations in green building.  There are three ways to earn credits in this section: (1) Achieve significant, measurable environmental performance using a strategy not included in the LEED rating system; (2) Achieve a pilot credit not currently included in an existing rating system from USGBC’s Pilot Credit Library; or (3) Achieve exemplary performance of an existing LEED prerequisite or credit as per the Reference Guide (usually defined as double the existing threshold or at the next incremental percentage threshold).

 

LEED Accredited Professional (LEED AP)


This credit is worth 1 point.  At least one principal member of the project team must be a LEED Accredited Professional with a specialty appropriate for the type of project.

 

Regional Priority Credits


This credit is worth 1-4 points.  Regional Priority credits are existing prerequisites or credits in the rating system that have been selected by USGBC Chapters and Regions as especially important in their area.  The USGBC web site has a listing of the priority credits for each region of the United States.  Projects can earn additional points for achieving these credits on their project.  Up to four additional points can be awarded.

For example, one of the RP credits for the Northwest is Rainwater Management.  A project that achieves three points on this credit will get an additional point in the Regional Priority category.  So, a project in the Northwest could earn 4 points for meeting the requirements for 3 points, with no additional work or documentation required.  If the project only earned 2 points under Rainwater Management, however, it would not receive the additional RP point, as 3 points are required per the priority credit database.

 

Source | Images: LEED v4 for Building Design and Construction (updated July 1, 2014).

 

Meet the first apartment and condo buildings to earn ENERGY STAR certification

by Michael Zatz

Energy costs in multifamily properties have risen by 20 percent over the past decade. These rising costs are squeezing operating income for building owners and managers, and they’re making apartments and condos less affordable for residents.

Here’s another staggering statistic: Current industry estimates show that multifamily properties can become 30 percent more efficient by 2020—and cost-effectively at that. Those reductions will not only save a lot of money (how’s $9 billion sound?), but it will also help the environment. Less energy used means fewer greenhouse gases emitted, and that’s good for everyone.

None of this is probably news to you. The problem is that, up until now, we haven’t had any way to figure out how much energy our multifamily buildings were wasting. But that’s no longer the case.

EPA, with help from Fannie Mae, recently released a 1 – 100 ENERGY STAR score for multifamily housing, which tells multifamily property owners how they rate compared to similar buildings nationwide. It accounts for variables such as weather, number of bedrooms, and type of property (low, mid-, or high rise). A 50 is an average score. A 75 means that your building is more energy efficient than 75 percent of your peers. A score of 10? Well, you’ve got some work to do.

The ENERGY STAR score will be integrated into LEED, providing LEED with the same national energy efficiency verification that’s available to other building types. In LEED, existing multifamily projects can use the existing buildings rating system to achieve certification (LEED 2009/LEED v4). With the expansion of ENERGY STAR to multifamily, projects have a powerful tool at their disposal to help them achieve various Energy and Atmosphere credits.

What’s the catch? Whole-property energy consumption data is required to receive a 1-100 ENERGY STAR score, which can be a challenge for multifamily properties that are not master-metered. While whole-property consumption data will continue to be required to earn ENERGY STAR certification, USGBC has established a Residential Utility Sampling Protocol that allows properties to collect a statistically significant sampling of utility data from the residential unit space for those properties that would like to receive an estimated ENERGY STAR score.

So far, 17 apartment and condo buildings have measured out at a 75 or higher, and gone on to earn the ENERGY STAR. See the full list via the GBIG collection.

Now, we’re challenging everyone in the multifamily housing industry to step on the ENERGY STAR 1 – 100 scale to see how you’re doing. EPA has tools and resources to help you improve atenergystar.gov/multifamilyhousing. And once you reach a score of 75, you can earn EPA’s ENERGY STAR certification. Are you up for the challenge?

Cross Laminated Timber Ideal For Urban Buildings

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by Stephen Hanley

Architect Michael Green of Vancouver is a strong advocate for using engineered wood products like cross laminated timber (CLT) to construct medium to high rise buildings.  His mantra is “The Earth grows our food. The earth can grow our homes. It’s an ethical change that we have to go through.” He says wood sequesters carbon dioxide from the atmosphere – about 1 ton of CO2 per cubic meter – and holds it captive during its entire lifetime, even when used as a building material.

His signature building is the Wood Innovation Design Centre (WIDC), shown in the video above, in Prince George, British Columbia which is 6 storeys high, but he has completed plans for a 30 storey office building made entirely of renewable wood, which he calls a “plyscraper.”

In New Zealand, CLT is touted as a “desirable and safe alternative” to concrete and steel in earthquake zones because it’s lighter and more flexible. Using a technique known as “post-tension technology”, steel tendons act like rubber bands to snap a wooden building back into place after any seismic event.

CLT is also as fireproof as steel or concrete. In a fire, the outside forms a non-flammable  layer of char that insulates the interior of the wood panel from heat.

Giant Australian contractor Lend Lease has built an 8 storey apartment building using CLT at Victoria Harbor in Melbourne. Its designer, architect Alex de Rijke, says “the 18th century was about brick, the 19th about steel, the 20th about concrete, and the 21st century is about wood.” According to Lend Lease, they were able to construct the building 30% faster than traditional construction, had less construction traffic, caused less disruption, and generated less waste. Check out the developer’s interactive website detailing all the green features of the building.

New ideas in building technology are slow to take hold. Changes in national and local building codes are needed before new techniques can be approved. Often, politics plays as big a role as any other factor. For instance, the concrete industry is outraged that the British Columbia government promotes wood construction and actually passed legislation that requires “the use of wood as the primary building material in all new provincially funded buildings”.

But now that the word is out about CLT and other timber products, look for a “plyscraper” in your neighborhood soon.

 

CDL’s Treehouse is World’s Largest Vertical Garden

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Earlier this year, CDL’s Treehouse condo project in Singapore set the official Guinness World Record for world’s largest vertical garden. The building’s green wall covers nearly 2300 sq. meters, and is expected to save the building’s residents more than $500,000 in heating and cooling bills each year.

CDL’s Treehouse was completed in 2013, but the company’s project website makes it seem as if several of the apartments- in a pretty wide variety of floorplans, actually– are still available. So, if you’re house-hunting in Singapore, I guess.

In addition to the massive green wall (think: “green roof“), the Treehouse condos feature a number of “green” components like heat-reducing windows and automatic lighting, but the vertical garden and light grey/off-white color of the 26-story complex’ exterior walls are the big heroes of this story. Combined they’ll cut residents’ total energy bills by between 15 and 30 percent.

You can learn more about the Treehouse project’s record-setting vertical garden- and see a lot more photos- by following the source links to Inhabitat and CDL’s sales site at the end of this article. Before you go, however, check out these concept drawings from 2009, and compare them with the finished condominiums in the photo at the top of this post. Enjoy!

 

Energy in Green Building

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Read tips and techniques about blower door tests, duct work blasts and appliance assessments.

Energy is the foundation for green building. Energy codes define the minimum acceptable standards for a climate zone. In today’s world of climate change and high energy prices, it is critical that buildings use as few fossil fuels (including coal generated electricity) as possible to “futureproof” the home against unpredictable and rapidly rising prices.

Energy Uncertainty

Our energy future is uncertain, and the public is overwhelmed with mixed messages about our oil and gas reserves: Are we headed for another oil crunch? How much are oil and natural gas prices expected to rise? Experts predict that world oil production will peak in 2020 at the latest, but the peak could occur as early as the year 2010.

After the peak, the amount of retrievable oil will be in decline, causing prices to rise. Fossil fuels currently provide 95 percent of the world’s commercial energy supply, whereas renewable energy sources supply less than three percent. If we are going to approach our future with foresight, it would be wise to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels and invest in renewable energy at home as soon as possible.

Amory Lovins, an international expert in energy efficiency, suggests, “Oil scarcity may be the weakest reason for making the transition away from oil. Profit, climate protection, security, and quality of life are all more relevant and defensible.” If we continue on our present course, the United States’ dependence upon other countries for oil could greatly increase. Yet, an alternate future where the U.S. decreases its oil consumption and increases its investment in renewable energy resources is not only desirable, but possible. Such an investment would free our nation from reliance upon other countries and would also boost the economy through innovative technology and employment. In fact it may be the best way out of our economic conundrum.

Renewable Energy

Economically viable renewable energy sources are already available in today’s market. Wind farms are going up across the nation, providing electricity at the competitive wholesale rate of three to five cents per kilowatt-hour. Electricity from burning biomass (crops and crop waste) also sells at a similar rate. Shell Oil, the most successful company in the oil industry, estimates that “by 2010 commercial energy from biomass could provide five percent of the world’s power.” The value of that energy production could be over $20 billion. Another up and coming renewable energy source is photovoltaic (PV) cells, which convert sunlight into electricity. As technologies improve and as the US government and local utilities offer incentives, PV wattage costs are becoming increasingly competitive. Read more about Photovoltaic panels.

Energy Use in Buildings

This information has a direct impact on us as builders. Buildings comprise 35 percent of direct energy use in the United States. Of that 35 percent, 64 percent goes into heating, ventilation, and air conditioning; 24 percent heats hot water; 13 percent provides lighting; and electrical appliances are beginning to cut a significant wedge into the pie. In terms of carbon dioxide production, in total, buildings are responsible for 48% of all greenhouse gasses.

Energy and Building Systems Design

Energy efficiency requires a systems-based approach to designing and building a home. All elements of the building shell; foundation, framing, roof structure and windows play key roles in defining the potential energy savings for a house. Energy use inside the home is the second tier of consideration. Mechanical equipment sized to the actual loads of the house, natural day lighting and ventilation greatly impact how much energy will be used to provide comfort and convenience. Appliances and lighting also impact net energy efficiency. All need to be considered in the early design stages to maintain cost effectiveness.

The study, Greening the Building and the Bottom Line by Joseph Romm of the U.S. DOE and William Browning of the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), highlights case studies of several companies that invested in energy-efficient designs and thereby experienced significant savings. The companies highlighted in the RMI study saved enormous amounts of energy—up to a 90 percent decrease in previous consumption. Further justifying the investment in retrofitting is the compelling evidence that day lighting (a design feature which allows the use of natural light, rather than artificial light during daytime hours), improved HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning), and improved indoor air quality. This resulted in increased productivity, fewer worker errors, and less absenteeism in many cases studies. Because labor costs are such a large share of total costs (workforce accounts for approximately $130 per square foot, 72 times more than energy costs), a one percent increase in worker productivity can result in savings to a company that exceeds their total energy costs.

There are more and more cases similar to those documented by RMI, and as a result, companies are starting to invest in energy efficiency for the reasons suggested above: reduced energy expenditures and increased worker productivity.

Embodied Energy

The energy buildings require starts accumulating long before the building materials are on-site. The energy required to extract, manufacture, and transport building materials is tallied into the sum total known as embodied energy. Producing stone, glass, and clay–common building materials–makes up 6.9 percent of the industrial sector’s 37 percent of total energy use. Cement production worldwide accounts for 8% of all carbon released into the atmosphere. Additionally, minerals are found in a wide variety of building materials in the home from plumbing and wiring to insulation. There are even minerals in paint and wallpaper. Because minerals must be mined, they come to us at a high price—both in terms of energy costs and environmental impact.

Investing in Energy Improvements

Next to sitting and building orientation, insulation quantity and quality are the most important decisions you will make at the onset of construction. The code officials and many energy consultants used to optimize insulation thickness according to payback. Payback was based on the average rate in increases in energy costs over 30 years. This was approximately 6 1/2 % per year. In 2002 that changed. 9/11 shifted the world paradigm about energy security. Natural gas just stopped flowing in US gas wells and we became a natural gas importer. The resultant doubling of natural gas prices (and oil prices for those who heat with oil) have changed the entire economic equation for insulation payback. Today, looking into the energy crystal ball, the more insulation you can fit into the envelope the better. After all, how long will your homes last? What will be the price of fossil fuels used to heat your home in 5,10, 15 years? If your house will stand that long it needs to be insulated sufficiently to meet those economic demands for energy.

Green building reduces energy consumption in numerous ways. First, we can decrease the embodied energy of the building through efficient design, use of recycled and local materials, and recycling construction waste. Second, green building design reduces a building’s energy consumption over its lifetime. Strategically placing windows and skylights can eliminate the need for electrical lighting during the day. A whole house fan can cool the house over night, rather than relying on air conditioning. High quality insulation reduces temperature regulation costs in both summer and winter. Additionally, houses can maximize passive heating and cooling. South facing windows with overhangs can reduce heating costs by 20 to 30 percent, and prevailing breezes, shading, and natural plantings can keep houses cooler in the summer. This list only scratches the surface of the possibilities for reducing a building’s energy requirements.