You may have thought about incorporating green components into renovation or new construction projects, as green building is a growing trend. Many property owners are joining the green movement as a way to lower energy costs and make their buildings more attractive to potential tenants. In addition, green building is becoming increasingly more difficult to avoid because federal, state and municipal governments are starting to mandate it for new residential construction.

Beyond green construction initiatives, there are several smaller but meaningful ways that you can incorporate efficiency and sustainability into the properties you manage.

Green Construction Standards

If you are thinking of updating your buildings or beginning new construction with green techniques, it is important that you are aware of federal green building standards.

In the United States, the dominant standard is the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating, which is administered by the U.S. Green Building Council. Commercial buildings that are LEED certified not only have lower operating costs and provide a healthier, safer environment for occupants, they also allow the owner to qualify for tax rebates, zoning allowances and other incentives. In addition, owners of LEED-certified green buildings receive a reputational boost, as they are publically demonstrating their commitment to the environment and their social responsibility.

The interesting thing to note about LEED ratings is that contractors and builders have a large amount of latitude on how they reach the certification. LEED does not specify what kinds of technologies or green components must be used to reach each level, and aside from the established prerequisites, points need not be attained in certain combinations. That means two buildings with identical point totals and LEED status may use completely different strategies, techniques and technologies to attain unique green results. One may excel in innovation and the other may focus on sustainability, but they both could ultimately achieve the same status.

 Hiring a Builder

LEED ratings are important to understand so that you ensure you are getting what you expect when engaging in a green building project. The contracting company you hire should have experience designing and building up to LEED standards. Ask for references and examples of past work that is similar to what you are requesting.

Be wary of a contractor who promises something that seems impossible to deliver on given your budget and time restraints. A common problem in the green building arena is that the end result may not actually meet LEED standards or provide the energy efficiency and savings that was expected. This is due to the newer nature of the green construction field, and contractors who think they can deliver something that turns out to be unreasonable or impossible. Do plenty of research before choosing a contractor.

 Protect Yourself

This may seem obvious, but it is essential that everything is put in contractual form when working with a contractor. That way, if the job is not completed according to your specifications or up to the standards promised by the contractor, you can hold that contractor liable. Green building is quite expensive, so you want to be sure you get the proper return on your investment. You may want to also make sure your contractor and sub-contractors are properly insured in case of a future problem.

Other Green Initiatives

If you are not ready to commit to a green construction project, or even if you are, there are also other ways that you can promote green strategies in the properties you manage: 

  • Make recycling the standard at your property. Simply providing recycling bins for residents isn’t enough—you need to educate and encourage their use. Educate your tenants about the different materials that can be recycled and provide bins for each separate material. You may also consider providing an area to recycle batteries and ink cartridges.
  • Education should go beyond what is and isn’t recyclable and focus on the importance of being environmentally friendly.
  • Consider offering areas for tenants to recycle other unwanted items, like clothing or shoes. You can then donate those items to a local charity.
  • Install energy-efficient light bulbs and appliances in your buildings, whenever feasible.
  • Use environmentally-friendly cleaning products.
  • If you control the heating and air conditioning in your buildings, keep it at a more moderate temperature and be sure to replace filters regularly.
  • Run lawn sprinklers for less time each day, and use automatic lighting systems for community areas.
  • Switch to a paperless billing system and offer online services for paying rent.