Coastal Cities Experience Large Rent Swell


By Kathryn Vasel @KathrynVasel

Rent prices in Cape Coral, Florida, are up nearly 24%, according to RentRange.
Families are facing much bigger rent checks this year — especially those living in cities in the South and West.
Rent prices have been rising across the country, but rents for single-family homes in these two parts of the country increased the most in the last year, according to a report from RentRange.

“The biggest increases were in the areas where the [housing] market was most depressed,” said CEO Wally Charnoff.
The steepest rent hikes were in Cape Coral/Fort Myers, Florida, with the average rent increasing nearly 24% in the third quarter, compared to the same time last year. In Sacramento, rents went up almost 18%.
Seven of the top 10 cities with the largest rent increases were in Florida and California.
Related: Why your rent check just keeps going up
Strong job growth, increased foreign buyer activity and a growing Millennial population has helped push rents up in California, Charnoff explained.
“Millennials want to remain mobile and don’t know if they have economic stability yet. They may have to move relatively quickly and they’ve learned from the recent past that you can’t necessarily sell your home as easily as you used to.”
While sharp rent increases can be tough on budgets, Charnoff said markets are just catching up from the Great Recession.
“Rents were artificially depressed in those markets and are normalizing.”
He said homes undergoing a foreclosure were harder to rent out and often charged lower rates. Now, as more properties move through the system, investors can charge higher rents.
Related: This is how hard it is to rent a Manhattan apartment
People living in bedroom communities are also likely writing bigger monthly checks. “As cities start to expand further and workers move their families farther from cities, that is driving prices up.”
Here are the 25 cities with the largest rental increases, according to RentRange:
1. Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL (23.6%)
2. Sacramento-Arden-Arcade-Roseville, CA (17.6%)
3. North Port-Bradenton-Sarasota, FL (17.2%)
4. San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA (17.0%)
5. Charleston-North Charleston, SC (16.5%)
6. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA (16.3%)
7. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA (16.1%)
8. Denver-Aurora, CO (14.6%)
9. Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX (14.0%)
10. San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA (13.6%)
11. Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, TN (13.2%)
12. Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA (12.6%)
13. Augusta-Richmond County, GA-SC (12.3%)
14. Stockton, CA (12.1%)
15. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA (11.9%)
16. Columbus, OH (11.5%)
17. Tulsa, OK (11.3%)
18. Kansas City, MO-KS (10.6%)
19. Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, AR (10.4%)
20. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL (10.3%)
21. Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL (10.0%)
22. Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA (10.0%)
23. Birmingham-Hoover, AL (9.8%)
24. Bakersfield-Delano, CA (9.7%)
25. Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX (9.6%)

Elevators become a thing in the Internet of Things

Lloyd Alter (@lloydalter)

max elevator

© ThyssenKrupp

Everybody devotes a lot of ink and pixels to horizontal transportation, to planes, cars, transit and bikes, and surprisingly little to vertical. Yet the numbers of people moved that way is astonishing; There are 12 million semi- automated vertical transportation systems in the world carrying a billion passengers per day. These vertical pods don’t always work either; 190 million hours are lost every year to downtime for maintenance and repairs, and in New York City, a cumulative 16.6 million years is spent waiting for them.

These are of course elevators, which have been carrying people with a surprising degree of safety since the 1870s. And since the 1870s they really haven’t changed much: mechanical and electrical systems with cabs pulled by cables or pushed by hydraulics. They are safe because of Mr Otis’s invention that stops them from falling, and by regular maintenance mandated by government regulation. But that doesn’t stop them from breaking down and stranding people. That’s why there is a little red button and often a phone to call the elevator repair guy to come pry open the doors.

ThyssenKrupp wants to change that; they are working with Microsoft to connect your lonely little elevator to the cloud. In a vertical version of Minority Report, they will take the data and do predictive analysis, learning from its past to predict its future, to replace components before they fail. They call it MAX.

What not to miss at Greenbuild: Affordable housing

Administrators, specialized staff and policy stakeholders face myriad challenges in the complex realms of affordable housing, community development, water, energy efficiency, sustainability and resiliency on a daily basis. However, with these challenges come untold opportunities to effect lasting change in the lives of constituents and their built environments.

At Greenbuild 2015, taking place Nov. 18-20 at the Washington Convention Center in DC, you’ll find the best in green building education, renowned speakers, exciting networking opportunities, tours to attend and more.

Here’s a list of the up-to-the-moment learning opportunities and events for elected officials, staff and key stakeholders at this year’s conference:

  • Community and Affordable Homes Summit (Tuesday, Nov. 17, 9:00 a.m.– 5:30 p.m.): This summit will focus on the development of vibrant, sustainable communities through the lenses of resilience, social equity, health and economic opportunity. Courtney Martin and John Cary will provide the opening plenary, and Deepak Chopra will speak for the closing plenary.
  • Watts Reimagined (Wednesday, November 18 from 1:30-2:30 p.m.): By exploring the ReImagine Watts project, learn about approaches to the new development of affordable housing, tactical urbanism upgrades to public spaces, resident engagement and local advocacy for increased public services and neighborhood amenities.
  • Buildings & Beyond: Federal Role in Prevention and Resilience (Thursday, Nov. 19, 8:00–10:00 a.m.): This session will review common vulnerabilities in regional climate preparedness planning efforts and how federal agencies assist communities in rebuilding and addressing future climate impacts.
  • Dollars and Sense: The Impact of Greening Affordable Housing (Thursday, Nov. 19, 3:00–4:00 p.m.): Cost containment is often used as an argument to undermine policies supportive of green building. Learn about how The Impact of Green Affordable Housing research project collects and analyzes data to evaluate if green building is a worthwhile investment.
  • Government Connect and Learn (Thursday, Nov. 19, 4:00–5:00 p.m.): Join leaders from federal, state and local governments to share lessons learned and ideas for implementation of green building and sustainability measures.

Check out more of the great sessions at Greenbuild.


Smart Sensors to Monitor Building Envelope Facade system designed to cut energy usage

Building facade

Sensors embedded in insulation can optimize building facades in response to environmental factors such as sun orientation. The new monitoring technology minimizes the need for human intervention.

A new monitoring technology can be integrated with building insulation and helps to optimize energysavings by activating specific components of the building facade.

The system, developed as part of the European project Multifunctional Energy Efficient Facade System (MeeFS), continuously monitors and optimizes relevant factors, such as sun orientation for photovoltaic panels and water feeding for vegetated roofs.

A major advantage of the researchers’ new method is that monitoring is continuous and automatic, meaning human intervention is only necessary when the system encounters a problem. Additionally, all active units in the systems are in constant communication to report on the status of their area, meaning that building operators would only have to check the data periodically to ensure that facility components are operating correctly.

The scalable technology uses an algorithm to calculate specific conditions and needs inherent to each building site. This information is compared to baseline performance data to help FMs better understand the factors that contribute to excess energy consumption, as well as providing a benchmark to understand the system’s capabilities and limitations.

“The point of modular design is that the layout of the facade can be customized to better fit a particular building,” says Marcin Bukat, a specialist in the development of control system activities at research and development firm Ska Polska.

San Jose another step closer to landing Google Fiber: Report

Google Fiber


The tech giant is seeking permits to build two “Fiber Huts” in the city, considered a necessary first step to eventually providing service, according to a report by the San Jose Mercury News.

San Jose is one step closer to becoming the first city in California to carry Google Fiber, a high-speed service that can deliver Internet and video content to homes and businesses at up to 1,000 megabits per second.

According to a report by the San Jose Mercury News, the tech giant is seeking permits to build two “Fiber Huts” in the city, with plans to eventually build another eight of the shelters. The buildings are considered a necessary first step to eventually providing service.


Google Fiber is now available in Kansas City, Missouri; Austin, Texas; and Provo, Utah. In Kansas City, Google charges$130 per month for 1 gigabit Internet service and 150 TV channels. Internet service alone is $70, but the company also offers a free basic Internet service with 5 mbps download and 1 mbps upload speeds.

The arrival of Google Fiber will pose competition for AT&T and Comcast, which offer Internet speeds that top out at 18 mbps and 250 mbps, respectfully. However, Comcast has plans to launch a 2,000 mbps service in the region next year, the Merc reported.

Strongest Apartment Market in 9 Years

img_housingGrowth_540x360Rent growth hits 2006 levels, while occupancy reaches 2001 milestones.

Add Axiometrics to the list of data firms heralding a record-setting third quarter for the apartment industry (though the feeling isn’t universal).
In a recent release, the Dallas-based research firm called the apartment industry’s fiscal third quarter the “strongest summer in nine years” as the industry’s torrid pace for 2015 continued.
Axiometrics pointed to the average national rent of $1,247 for the third quarter, which was a $59 increase from the average of $1,188 in 2014’s third quarter. To reach that level, apartment owners posted 5.2% annual rent growth, which represented a 20 basis point increase from the 5.0% reported in 2015’s second quarter and a 110 basis point rise from the 4.1% in 2014’s third quarter. “The rate is the highest since the third quarter of 2006, when rent growth was 5.3%,” Axio said in the report.
Like MPF last week, Axio said rent growth beat the 5.0% mark again in the third quarter. That makes 2015 three-for-three in plus-5% quarterly rent growth, a feat not seen since 2006, according to Axio.
“Quarter-over-quarter effective-rent growth of 2.0% was a 29-basis point increase over the 1.7% reported in the third quarter of 2014 and the first time a third-quarter figure was 2.0% or higher since 2005,” Axio noted.
While second quarters usually have the strongest quarterly effective-rent growth of the year, the 77-basis point quarterly rate decrease from the second quarter of 2015 to the third quarter was the smallest second-to-third-quarter decrease since 2011.
Like MPF, Axio also put occupancy above 95% for Q3 2015, at 95.3%. This is the highest level since occupancy hit 95.7% in the first quarter of 2001. That rate represented a 5 basis point increase from the second quarter.

“This has so far been the strongest year for the apartment market since the end of the Great Recession, and these quarterly figures are additional confirmation of that,” said Stephanie McCleskey, vice president of research for Axiometrics, in the press release. “This year has also shown more widespread strength nationwide. Metropolitan areas in the Northeast and Midwest that were down a year ago are resurgent, and the West, South, and most of Texas remain strong. Job growth is better in all regions, and single-family home prices keep rising.”



“If at first you don’t succeed, give up,” is the road less travelled for leaders who continue to spend money on an acquisition they made – even though the acquisition is clearly not working out. But why, as this author asks, don’t we actually strive to create an organizational climate that makes admitting and learning from mistakes as valued as persistence and perseverance? Below, he describes four steps that can make it easy for leaders to cut their losses and save face.

In a highly volatile world, leaders cannot keep marching in the same direction simply because they have invested heavily in a particular course of action. Instead, leaders must react to changing conditions and be willing to shift direction accordingly, perhaps even to pivot one hundred eighty degrees if the situation warrants it. In a turbulent environment, leaders must gather feedback from multiple voices and assess progress against their original goals and objectives on a regular basis. As negative feedback emerges, or external conditions change, successful leaders learn and adapt. Unfortunately, far too many leaders stick to outdated strategies for far too long. Why do they fail to adapt? In part, many leaders do not want to “waste” the time and money that they have already spent. Thus, they keep plowing ahead despite all the changes taking place in their environment. Economist Richard Lipsey and his colleagues have described how people often have a hard time “letting bygones be bygones”:

Individuals and companies should make decisions based on the marginal costs and benefits of their actions. If an activity yields positive net incremental benefits, then one should choose to pursue that course of action. The amount of any previous irreversible investment in that activity ought to not affect the decision that is being made. Prior investments, which cannot be recovered, represent sunk costs which should not be relevant.

Unfortunately, most people and organizations often do consider past investment decisions when choosing how to move forward. In particular, individuals tend to continue to engage in activities in which they have made prior investments. Often, they become overly committed to certain activities despite consistently poor results. As a result, individuals make additional investments in the hopes of achieving a successful turnaround. Rather than cutting their losses and changing course, they “throw good money after bad.” In the face of high sunk costs, people often escalate their commitment to failing courses of action.


Why do we fail to ignore sunk costs?

Psychologists do not know for certain why we have a hard time ignoring sunk costs, but they have proposed a few possible explanations. First, they have shown that the framing of a decision affects an individual’s attitudes towards risk. Individuals demonstrate risk aversion with regard to choices framed as potential gains. On the other hand, they exhibit risk-seeking behavior with respect to losses. If an individual makes a prior investment decision which yields poor results, they often view subsequent decisions as opportunities to turn around past failures. Meanwhile, individuals see the decision to invest no further as a sure loss. When individuals consider aborting a particular activity, they view past investments as wasted resources. This aversion to wasting money leads individuals to continue investing in a particular activity in hopes of utilizing, rather than wasting, their prior investments. Therefore, individuals may pursue risky investment opportunities, perhaps “throwing good money after bad.”

Another explanation focuses on the cognitive dissonance that occurs when we observe negative results after making a decision that we thought would be highly beneficial for the organization. Psychologists have shown that people rationalize past actions when faced with evidence that contradicts prior choices. This rationalization, or self-justification, may lead people to commit further resources to a particular course of action despite poor results. The further commitment of funds provides an opportunity to resolve the individual’s dissonance. By investing additional dollars, individuals can sustain the belief that these funds may turn around the situation and validate their initial investment decision.

Cognitive dissonance also leads individuals to analyze information in a biased manner. Experimental studies demonstrate that individuals place heavier emphasis on data which supports their initial position, while discounting discordant information. This means that decision makers may continue to pursue an unprofitable course of action, because they systematically emphasize any positive results, while disregarding negative feedback.

Making highly visible, public commitments to a course of action has powerful psychological effects as well. Individuals infer a strong sense of responsibility from the consideration and observation of their past actions. As a result, they become reluctant to change their position. They hold fast even in the face of negative feedback or social opposition. This explanation appears to apply to investment behavior, particularly acquisitions, since these managerial activities attract significant public attention. This highly visible, public commitment that takes place when a merger is announced may bind executives to that course of action. Indeed, in a study of corporate divestitures, University of Illinois finance professor Michael Weisbach found that entrenched managers will hold onto business units which they acquired, while new CEOs are more likely to divest divisions that are struggling. The new CEOs, of course, are not weighed down by the burden of sunk costs.

Finally, organizational culture may encourage the sunk-cost effect. Individuals in certain cultures may value persistence and perseverance. We often hear corporate leaders exhort their people to demonstrate a “can-do, never give up” attitude. As a result, unfortunately, individuals may stick to unprofitable courses of action in adhering to these values. These cultures may also discourage people from readily admitting mistakes. People may not cut their losses out of fear of being blamed for the failure and perhaps being fired.

Fighting the urge to throw good money after bad

We have established that people have a hard time cutting their losses, yet most studies offer little prescriptive advice for how to avoid the sunk-cost trap. Over the past few years, many executives across a wide range of industries have shared their ideas with me as to how they steer clear of this trap, acknowledge their mistakes, and move ahead on a new path when changing conditions warrant it. Let’s review the four main strategies that they employ.

1. Launching the pre-emptive conversation

Leaders need to consider how they set the stage for the difficult conversation that will eventually take place if an organization must admit failure, cut its losses, and abandon a project. David Breashears, the highly accomplished climber and Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, has demonstrated the capacity to make the difficult decision to turn around high up on a mountain. Of course, the sunk-cost effect can be a powerful and dangerous influence on decision-making as one approaches the peak. Summit fever kicks in for many climbers. They have invested so much and come so far; they cannot turn back when the goal appears so close.

In May 1996, while many climbers continued on their way to the summit of Mount Everest, only to encounter a dangerous blizzard, Breashears and his team turned around and headed back to Base Camp. They survived, while a number of their fellow climbers on other expeditions died during the storm. Breashears acknowledges that one could feel a bit ashamed heading down the mountain while others courageously plowed forward. After all, we tend to admire those adventurers and explorers who show grit, determination, and perseverance rather than celebrate those who abandon a mission out of concern for personal safety. However, Breashears reminds us that a leader must remember that they are responsible for an entire team’s safety. One cannot let pride and emotion cloud personal judgment.

Breashears points out, however, that one must prepare carefully for that conversation about abandoning a mission and turning back. You cannot have the discussion with your team for the first time while staring at the summit. Instead, an effective leader brings the team together long before setting out on the expedition. Prior to meeting with the team, the leader envisions a multitude of scenarios in which things go dramatically wrong, and he or she thinks through how and why the initial plan might have to be abandoned in favor of a quite different course of action. Breashears argues that leaders must then have an in-depth conversation with team members about these scenarios. Teams must make decisions about the types of situations that would require them to cut their losses and reverse course. According to Breashears, teams ought to have these conversations before they have incurred sizeable sunk costs. In other words, think through the scenario when you can still think clearly, without sunk costs clouding your judgment (not to mention thin air in David’s case!).

2. Creating constructive tension

In some organizations, leaders have chosen to institutionalize an element of constructive tension in the management structure of projects to protect against the sunk-cost effect. They have insured that a natural tension exists between people who occupy different positions within the firm. Consider, for example, how Electronic Arts, a market leader in the video game industry, managed the product development process for many years. Most of its rivals appointed one person with total responsibility for overseeing the design of a new game. Electronic Arts created two separate leadership roles. Each person maintained distinct areas of accountability. The producer focused on product quality, building a creative game that can be enjoyable for consumers to play. The development director tried to come in under budget and on schedule. One senior executive described the purpose of this unique structure to me several years ago:

We have created a system of checks and balances or creative conflict. The producer focuses on ensuring that the game design is the best… The development director focuses on project management, budget, schedule, on-time delivery, etc. And they clash. We force that conflict and that discussion so that the team will push the envelope.”

Why did Electronic Arts strive for such creative conflict? Developing a video game can be a very expensive proposition. As many video game executives point out, designing a good game costs just as much as creating a bad game. Once a game is complete and taken to market, a company needs to sell a very large number of copies just to break even. A few games become blockbuster hits and achieve high profitability; many products never recoup their high fixed investment. To succeed, video game companies need to assess projects at a variety of intermediate points and be willing to kill projects that have veered off track. They cannot let the sunk cost effect overwhelm them. CEO John Riccitiello described the firm’s philosophy: “The smiley-face approach to management doesn’t work in entertainment. Some people hope and dream and pray that spending more money and time will work. We double down on things that work. We tend to stop things that don’t work.”ii

Other companies employ a slightly different approach. For instance, one insurance company’s information technology executives reported that they assigned an unbiased outsider to help project teams evaluate their progress at a set of pre-determined milestones. The outsider might be an external consultant, but often times, he or she simply worked in another unit in the firm. Executives pointed out that this process worked most effectively when teams established a clear set of milestones and metrics at the outset of the project. Therefore, the unbiased outsider could employ relatively objective and mutually agreed-upon criteria for evaluating whether the team should continue forward. Executives also stressed that the unbiased outsider should be someone with substantial status within the organization. That status tended to insure that the outsider would be willing to speak candidly, and that the project team would be unlikely to dismiss their feedback and concerns.

3. Actualize assumptions, generate alternatives

Many firms report that the decision-making process must involve a concerted effort to make key assumptions explicit, and then to test those assumptions. As one executive at a large retailer informed me, organizational leaders must ask their teams: “What must be true for us to conclude that we can turn around this failing project? What are we assuming about our capabilities, our customers, etc.? Are these assumptions valid?” Often, making these assumptions explicit exposes the improbability of a successful turnaround. Allowing key presumptions to remain below the surface and untested makes it much easier to throw good money after bad.

To make more effective decisions in these circumstances, leaders will find it helpful to generate multiple alternatives. Too often, we frame choices as “go or no go decisions” rather than outline an array of options. “Go or no go” scenarios do not represent multiple alternatives; they are simply two sides of the same coin. Too often, we use language in our deliberations and discussions that exacerbates the sunk-cost effect. You hear people talking about a decision to “stay the course” versus “cut and run.” Who would choose the latter option? Cutting losses makes one feel like a coward when the decision is framed in this manner. Leaders must help their teams consider a variety of different paths for moving forward, and they must be aware of the language used to frame each alternative.

When comparing multiple options, the assumptions prove critical. We have to flush out the beliefs that people hold and be ready to question them. Harvard strategic management professor Jan Rivkin has described an important shift in mindset that must take place for an executive to actualize assumptions and evaluate multiple options effectively. He argues that we have to challenge people to define “what would have to be true” for one option to be chosen over another. As Rivkin writes, “The shift in mindset from ‘What do I believe?’ to ‘What would I have to believe?’ is a major, and often difficult, one.”iii

4. Defining opportunity costs

Finally, leaders must help their teams consider the opportunity costs of staying the course. Often, we only consider the tangible financial costs and benefits of continuing on a particular path. On top of that, we weigh the sunk costs inappropriately, yet we fail to evaluate our opportunity costs. By sticking to a previously chosen path, an organization naturally forsakes other possible uses for its physical, financial, and human resources. Teams can find it eye-opening to have an explicit discussion about the potential paths that must be forsaken if one plows ahead with a particular project.

Consider a company that must grapple with a decision to divest a struggling business unit, a choice that I observed one management team consider recently. Imagine the conversation if the team tried to assess the opportunity costs of continuing the turnaround effort. Consider the questions that could be asked: What could we do with the talented people that we are deploying to manage the integration and execute the turnaround? How might we redirect top management’s attention if we divested this unit, and what impact would that have on the business? What alternative uses might exist for the physical and financial assets that we plan to utilize to save this unit? Note that these questions help a team recognize that opportunity costs are not strictly financial in nature; they also involve time, talent, and attention.

Admiring persistence

Persistence can be a valuable leadership quality, perhaps even more so in a volatile environment. Sometimes, we want our leaders to push through obstacles; no one likes a quitter, as they say. However, we must be concerned if someone ignores all the advice and evidence to the contrary and continues to throw good money after bad. We certainly should be wary if an individual or a team appears to have a track record indicating a reluctance to cut their losses when projects go south. In sum, in a volatile world, perhaps we must question the extent to which our organizational cultures emphasize the value of perseverance. How much value do we destroy by making people feel as though reversing direction and cutting losses are things about which we should be ashamed? Should we not strive to create an organizational climate that makes admitting and learning from mistakes as valued as persistence and perseverance?

World’s largest Cross-Laminated Timber apartment complex

by Lloyd Alter (@lloydalter)

Arbora exterior

© Arbora

Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) is one of our favorite materials; it’s made from a renewable resource, it sequesters Carbon Dioxide, it’s lighter than concrete and it’s lovely to look at. What’s not to love? In most of the CLT projects so far its use has been downplayed, thanks to the effectiveness of the concrete and steel people who try and convince people that it is not as good as concrete. That’s why this new project in Montreal is so interesting: It accentuates the positive, the virtues of wood construction. Even its name, Arbora, alludes to wood.

courtyard © Arbora courtyard

It’s also big. The Arbora project in Montreal is claimed to be the largest residential CLT project in the world, made up of 434 condo, townhouse and rental units in three eight storey buildings, all made from sustainably harvested wood turned into panels by Nordic CLT. It’s designed by Lemay+CHA.

lobby© Arbora/ lobby with wood columns

But what I really like is the fact that they are really building on the strengths of wood instead of trying to hide it. The developers, in their marketing, discuss the renewable aspects of wood construction, the strength and weight advantages, the thermal and fire resistance, the accuracy:

Prefabricated panels cut to the required dimensions are delivered to the site, and the openings for doors and windows are cut to an accuracy of one tenth of a millimeter using computer numerical control (CNC) precision machinery. Everything is planned and organized so the building can be erected quickly.

Arobora interior© Arbora/ Interior rendering

But also, the health and aesthetics:

Did you know that the presence of wood indoors promotes better health for a building’s occupants? In addition to knowing that they live in a home built with a renewable material, urbanites can now comfortably enjoy wood’s pleasant surface temperature and its ability to temper sudden changes in temperature and humidity. Not to mention the character that the majestic wood posts and beams add to the interior of their condominiums.


Water conservation

By Megan Porter

California’s historic drought has put water usage at the forefront of the public mind, with Governor Jerry Brown declaring a state of emergency and calling for a 25% reduction in water usage. To implement the governor’s directives, the State Water Resources Control Board established emergency water conservation regulations that direct urban water suppliers, their customers and Californians to reduce water use and waste. In July 2015, California residents were able to exceed the 25% statewide target by slashing water usage by 31%.1

This is the fourth straight month that Californians were able to either meet or exceed the goal. Water conservation isn’t just a civic duty for California businesses. It also makes financial sense now and in the long term.

Instituting a concerted effort to conserve water can not only increase your business’s green profile, it can save significant money in operating costs over time. Below, you’ll find several strategies businesses can use to reduce water usage, increase employee involvement and ultimately save money.

Start by determining average usage
The first step toward reducing water use is to conduct a water usage audit to work as a benchmark. Conduct a water audit to collect data at the front and determine current water usage. Many local water agencies often offer a water audit – some free of charge. They will inspect your facility and provide recommendations for savings, including rebates for replacing inefficient appliances and equipment.

Factor in all the cost advantages
The most straightforward way to start reducing water use is to replace older equipment with newer, water efficient models. Toilets and urinals, shower heads, low-flow faucets, washing machines, dishwashers and pre-rinse spray valves are just a few examples where daily water use can be reduced.

Be sure not to overlook ways you can get financial assistance to help pay for these green business upgrades, too. Energy efficiency financing initiatives are available to reduce or even eliminate the up-front costs associated with upgrading equipment by factoring the expected energy savings over time. Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s (PG&E) On-Bill Financing program is one such example. This energy efficiency project funding option provides non-residential PG&E customers the means to implement money and energy saving technologies and equipment .The zero-percent interest rate makes energy efficiency an affordable reality.2

And, of course, water conservation doesn’t just save money on the water bill. Depending on where a business is located, lower water bills also mean lower sewer utility costs as well.

Involve employees in the plan
Water conservation is one of the easier concepts for employees to grasp and immediately start working to implement. That makes it a prime candidate for conservation programs.

One approach is to start a sustainability competition to engage employees in the ongoing process of water conservation. It’s a great way to make water conservation fun and for employees to get recognition for their efforts, an important motivating factor.

Replace, reuse and recycle fresh water sources where feasible
Recycled water or water from condensers is far more sustainable than using “fresh” municipal water. You can use non-potable water for cleaning, rinsing, spraying sidewalks, etc. When possible, replace water-cooled equipment with air-cooled equivalents.

Good for California, good for your business
Focusing on water conservation is vital for California’s future, and it can be a positive for your business’s future, too. Download PG&E’s“25 Money-Saving Tips for Businesses” for more ideas and strategies.



  1. San Francisco Chronicle
  2. Pacific Gas and Electric Company


What To Do If You’re Home During a Break In

by Kelley

home invasion

We have all seen movies with traumatic break ins that filled us with horror. The idea of someone coming into your home while you’re there is the worst nightmare of many. Fortunately, unlike movies, most burglars are looking to steal your belongings, not harm you. It’s still pretty terrifying, though, to wake up in the middle of the night and realize someone else is in your house—and one can’t exactly read a burglar’s mind or know his or her intentions. Here’s a pretty good overview if you find yourself home while someone is breaking into your house.

Before a Break In Occurs:

1. Make a plan. Have a plan before anything occurs—call a family meeting tonight! How many people live in your house? Can they all ambulate to a designated meetup space? If they can, great—pick a spot down the street where you’ll all meetup in case of any emergency that requires you to get away from the house (this is good for more than just break-ins, it’s a great plan to have in case of a fire). If you have children or others that require assistance, make sure it is very clear whose responsibility it is to help them and what exactly they are to do. Now for your meetup spot: Is it a neighbor down the way? Let that neighbor know they’re your safe zone. Your escape plan should take into account whether or not you can escape from each room in your house or apartment, and how to do so. If you have a room you can’t get out of (or you’re on the sixth floor and facing the back of the building), don’t worry—we’ll get to that in just a second. And be sure to check out all the ways to prevent a burglar from even targeting your home. In fact—

2. Your plan should also include preventative measures and measures to make your life just a little bit easier during a break in. For example, install a security system and make sure you know who’s responsible for setting it at night. What are the expectations for who will set it when they leave the house? Who will check all the windows and doors before bed? Do you have an under-bed-ladder that reaches the ground from your window? It’s a worthwhile investment (and again, not just for use during burglaries). Do everyone’s bedrooms lock from the inside? If no, this is also a great piece of work for your to-do list. Consider also putting a lock on the inside of a closet, such as a deadbolt. Charge your cell phone. Never go to bed with a dead cellphone. Charge it and make sure it’s either close to your bed or in the closet with the deadbolt on it. Charging your phone in a closet is also a great way to hide all those pesky cords—(think about charging your kindle, your iPad, your power drill in there too). Your room will look nicer without the cords, the light from the devices will not keep you up at night and you’ll have your phone in the case of an emergency,

alarm security

3. Keep your car keys handy. Oh don’t worry, we’ll get to the why. If you have a car, consider keeping the keys in the same place as your cellphone when you go to sleep.

During a Break In:

1. Don’t make a sound. Oh man, it’s happened—maybe you’ve forgot to set the alarm, maybe the burglar’s found a way past it. Doesn’t matter. It’s important to know that when a break in is violent, it happens almost immediately, so how you react in the first 30 seconds is crucial. So many people want to yell to alert a burglar that they have made a mistake, that they’ve come into a house with people in it and that the police have been or are being called. Don’t do it! Remember, we don’t know what the burglar wants, and we don’t know how he or she will react. Yelling simply gives away your location and will allow the burglar to find you faster. Instead, get up and lock your door* as quietly as possible. Listen very closely to see if you can guess how many intruders there are. Do you hear speaking? Is there any auditory evidence of a weapon?

2. Call 911 immediately. Now that the door is locked*, grab the charged cell phone that you have in an accessible location. Call 911 and state for the operator as clearly (and quietly) as possible, your name and address. Say that someone is in your house. If you have gained information from listening, state that information—one person or more than one person? Make sure you address the possibility of a weapon even if you haven’t heard anything. A good example script to use is, “My name is [insert name] and my address is [insert address]. Someone is in my house and I require immediate assistance. I hear at least one person and I am unsure if they have a weapon. The sound as though they are located [insert room or floor]. I am located [insert room or floor].” Then stay on the phone with the operator so they can listen in and so you can openly communicate with them as you decide what to do. The sooner you call 911, the sooner help will be on the way. Plus the operator may have helpful advice in case something doesn’t go according to your plan.

burglary alarm

3. Unless you are a trained professional, don’t grab a weapon. This includes firearms, baseball bats and pepper spray. They all sound like a good idea, but again, we don’t know how the burglar will react to seeing an armed person. If they do have a weapon, they may be more likely to use it when they see you have one too. If you use pepper spray in an enclosed space, you and your family will also be affected by the pepper spray. If you use another weapon, such as a firearm and are not a trained professional, you run the risk of hurting yourself or a family member. And when a weapon is in your hand, you also run the risk of arriving police officers mistaking you for the intruder!

4. Escape is choice one. This is when you hark back to your emergency plan. Can you get out of the house from where you are without venturing from your locked room or into a place the burglar could potentially see you? Do it. Out a window, down a fire escape—all good choices. Just remember to alert the 911 operator of your position as you escape the house. Remember, police are on the way—they really do need to know if you, the homeowner, are climbing down a drain pipe. Remember to only escape if you can do so safely—hurting yourself in a panicked leap will put you in an extremely vulnerable position in these few moments before the police arrive. Make sure you have your cell phone and your car keys with you.

5. Hiding in a locked, safe place is choice two. If you can’t get out (you’re in that apartment we talked about earlier, facing the back of the building and on the sixth floor), gather your family and remain in a locked room or closet. If a lock is not possible, barricade the door as quietly as possible with heavy objects and furniture. Make sure to alert the 911 operator to your location and your actions. How many people are there in the room with you? Is there anyone else in another area of the house that they should be aware of? Make sure you have the cell phone and your car keys with you. Speaking of—

6. Remember those car keys? Now that you’re in the safest place you could get to, press the panic button on your car keys. Many burglars will flee at the sound of a car alarm as neighbors are likely to wake up and look out the window. Because you are in a safe place either out of the house or locked away, you won’t be putting your family at risk by making a noise. And that noise doesn’t give away your location in the house. Many alarm systems have a panic button that comes with the system, often on a keychain remote. If you keep this with your keys, you’ll be able to trigger the siren in your alarm system whenever you need to- even if you forgot to set the alarm.

7. Wait it out. Whether you got out of the house or remained in it, don’t move until the police clear the house. Confirm the existence of police in the house with the 911 operator, and confirm with the operator when the police knock on the door and tell you it’s safe to come out.

*Unless you are in the room that your family is supposed to come hide in, as per your emergency plan. Then please wait until your family is there.

Remember that everyone’s safety plan looks a little bit different—these are guidelines that assume you’re home during a break in because it’s the middle of the night. That might not be the case—maybe you’re in the garage and it’s four in the afternoon. Make your safety plan to fit your life, your house and your family. And remember—the best offense is a good defense, so make sure to take preventative measures like installing a security system (and remembering to set it).

Protect your home the smart way. Try SimpliSafe today! Find out why tech experts at CNET call it “better, smarter home security.

– See more at: