5 sustainable housing trends that should be on property managers’ radars

Jillian Rodriguez
Jillian Rodriguez | 6 min. read

Published on April 19, 2018

More than ever, sustainability is a hot topic in the real estate industry. Sustainable housing is all about creating more eco-friendly, energy-efficient spaces—and for property management companies, that means finding cost-effective ways to go green. While that sounds great on paper, sustainable housing is new territory for most of us, and it’s not always clear where to start. Luckily, we can look to the biggest trends in sustainable housing for guidance on what matters most to residents—and to Planet Earth.

Thanks to the growing focus on sustainability, it’s getting easier and easier to develop housing that’s both eco-friendly and affordable. For property managers who want to go green (or at least greener), there’s plenty to learn about how technology, energy efficiency, and sustainability lead to happy residents and a healthy bottom line.

Here are 5 trends in sustainable housing that you should know about.

#1: Smart Homes

It’s Alexa’s world, and we’re all just living in it. Home automation, often referred to as ‘smart homes’ or the Internet of Things, is the process of networking home devices together to allow them to send and receive information. This allows residents to adjust their thermostat from their phone, automate lighting according to their schedule, and monitor home safety while they’re away.

Sustainable buildings and homes are increasingly adopting automation to make living more efficient and convenient. As a result, tenants are likely to prefer rentals that come with the convenience of smart technology built into their living space.

For property managers and owners, it’s time to start considering home automation when you’re upgrading your properties. Small improvements make a big impact—security systems that use WiFi and devices to automate heating and HVAC systems can help you to attract and retain great residents.

#2: Net-Zero Homes

Whether it’s the next fashion trend or the latest food craze (gourmet toast, anyone?), California often gives us a glimpse into the future. Sustainable housing is no exception—in California, net-zero homes are rapidly on the rise. In fact, the state is mandating that all new residential buildings be net-zero by 2020.

Net-zero homes create as much renewable energy as they consume, achieving zero-energy (net-zero) status. Net-zero homes combine energy efficiency, solar panels, and technology to bring sustainable housing to the masses.

Property managers and owners can expect that California’s commitment to net-zero homes will have a ripple effect across the industry. Developers in every state will learn from California’s innovation and adopt sustainable practices for their new builds. Net-zero homes are likely to become more affordable and easier to execute, so it’s just a matter of time before they start popping up in your markets.

Get ahead of the trend by finding ways to reduce the amount of energy that your properties consume, and look into renewable energy options. Tubular Daylighting Devices (TDDs) are a great option for impressing clients and residents alike—they light interiors by capturing and delivering daylight, like an eco-friendly skylight.

#3: Energy-Efficient Features

It may seem counterintuitive, but going green really can improve affordability. In fact, implementing cost-effective, energy-efficient features is now a key element in building housing developments for low-income residents. While high-performance features do come with initial upfront costs, the investment reduces operating costs in the long run. The idea is that energy-efficient buildings reduce the cost burden for residents, allowing them to save more of their own money and improve their quality of life.

There’s a lesson in this for all property managers: Your residents understand the value of energy-efficient buildings. The industry is trending toward buildings with energy-efficient features, and residents are likely to prefer those rentals. When residents are saving money on utilities, why wouldn’t they want to stay in their rentals and continue to save? It’s really that simple: Investing in energy-efficient features is a great way to increase retention.

#4: Retrofitting

Right now, much of the conversation around sustainable housing is about new builds. However, the trend is catching on quickly, and it’s only a matter of time before residents expect sustainable features in all properties, new and old. That’s where retrofitting comes in—how can you upgrade your existing properties to be more eco-friendly?

While the upfront costs of eco-friendly upgrades might scare some property owners away, consider the facts. Studies have proven that there is a positive correlation between sustainability practices, improved cash flow, and higher returns for real estate investors. As it turns out, being kind to the environment is good for business.

For those ready to take on a major retrofitting initiative, expect to tackle high-impact projects like optimizing your energy and water systems, converting lighting and HVAC systems to automated technology, and investing in renewable energy.

#5: Green Marketing

You can think about green marketing in two ways: You want your marketing practices to be sustainable, and you want to market your sustainable practices.

First, audit your internal operations to find opportunities to reduce waste and energy usage:

  • Does your office use water efficiently?
  • Could you convert resources to a digital platform, saving paper and energy?
  • Are you using energy and power efficiently as an organization?

Across all industries, organizations are making a concerted effort to achieve sustainable operations. Engage employees in developing eco-friendly habits with a fun, competition-based initiative like EcoChallenge, which incentivizes employees to find ways to go green.

Second, don’t be shy about sharing your sustainable practices. If you’re investing in electronic leases, eco-friendly maintenance, or LEED certification, let the world know it. Launch a multi-pronged marketing campaign that communicates your sustainable practices on your website for residents, clients, and your peers to see. In the long run, your investment in sustainable housing can lead to price premiums and increased revenue—so get out there and spread the word!

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Which sustainable housing trends are popular in your neck of the woods? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Jillian Rodriguez

Jillian Rodriguez is a freelance writer out of Detroit, Michigan. Jillian writes about everything from entrepreneurship to real estate to chocolate, and she loves every minute of it. Beyond writing, Jillian is an avid reader, a public radio junkie, and active in early childhood development. She earned her B.A. in Creative Writing & Sociology from the University of Michigan Ann Arbor.

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