How the Multi-Family Housing Industry is Using Technology to Support Sustainability

Demand for more sustainable housing is rising, with the green construction market expected to reach $774 billion globally by 2030. The push for environmentally responsible accommodations extends beyond single-family housing and into the multi-family rental sector, where efficiency retrofits are increasing property values while meeting tenant expectations.

Smart technologies—ranging from solar panels and LED lighting to energy-efficient appliances—are being both prioritized for new builds and incorporated into upgrades for existing properties. The eco-rental movement is proving both lucrative (some properties charge premiums for “green” rentals) and popular among property owners seeking to do environmental good.

In this blog, we’ll share some ways rental property owners and managers are facilitating more sustainable rental units and common areas.

Common (area) improvements

Apartments with five or more units are already consuming less energy than single-family homes, a phenomenon attributed to smaller spaces and fewer windows. Yet there’s room for improvement in common spaces such as hallways, laundry areas and community activity rooms.

Property managers can further reduce energy consumption in such areas by:

  • Switching out incandescent light bulbs for LED lights
  • Installing motion-triggered lights in common areas
  • Replacing old communal washers and dryers with eco-friendly appliances that consume less power and water

Numerous studies have shown that tenants are willing to pay more money for eco-friendly units. One report indicated that renters would pay up to $100 extra per month for a green apartment, a premium that can add up quickly for those managing multiple units.

Unit upgrades

Individual units present more opportunities for green improvements; bathroom upgrades alone can go a long way in reducing your building’s footprint. Replacing an old six-gallon toilet with an efficient WaterSense model could save nearly 13,000 gallons of water per family unit each year. Another 3,700 gallons can be saved by switching out showerheads for water efficient models.

Other easy wins for the environment include:

  • Installing energy-efficient appliances
  • Equipping units with smart thermostats such as Nest, which boasts self-learning technology that optimizes heating and cooling based on tenant behavior patterns
  • Providing tenants with smart power strips that automatically turn off appliances that aren’t in use
  • Adding smart blinds to windows so that tenants can control window coverings from their phone
  • Preserving water by installing faucets that automatically shut off when not in use

Non-technology related tips include:

  • Adding window treatments to keep units cool
  • Switching out carpet for longer-lasting hardwood surfaces
  • Upgrading single-pane windows to double pane

Reimagining the exterior

Research shows that eco-friendly rentals have higher occupancy rates and fewer rent concessions than their less environmentally savvy competitors. For renters touring facilities, the experience begins with the exterior space.

Community gardens, trees for natural shade and outdoor picnic areas are good environmental starts, but technology can help you take your green building plans to the next level. You can do so by:

  • Installing electric charging stations
  • Adding solar panels on rooftops to power communal areas
  • Integrating efficient water irrigation systems

Outdoor lighting provides another opportunity to create efficiencies. According to the International Dark Sky Association, at least 30 percent of outdoor lighting is wasted—producing 21 million tons of carbon dioxide in the process. To minimize your complex’s impact, consider solar lighting, motion sensor lights or natural light sources such as candles or torches.

Paperless processes

If you haven’t done so already, doing away with paper-based leasing contracts and agreements is another environmental must. Rather than printing out and faxing lease agreements back and forth for signing—wasting both paper and time—you can utilize Docusign eSignature to send out tenant paperwork and forms.

To learn more about how Docusign templates can save time for lease agreements.