By Chris Thorman
The next time you’re searching for a rental property, throw out this question to your potential landlord and gauge their reaction: ”What are your green credentials?”
The response you get probably will range from a quizzical look to a mumbled sentence about switching to new light bulbs. The reality is, sustainable practices haven’t caught on as quickly in property management as in other industries.
Fortunately, there is a growing trend towards certifying “green” property managers and it’s being led by organizations such as the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the National Affordable Housing Management Association (NAHMA) and National Apartment Association Education Institute (NAAEI). NAR offers a property management track within its Green Designation and NAHMA and NAAEI jointly offer the Credential for Green Property Management. Both programs are designed to increase knowledge of sustainable practices among property managers.
Let’s delve deeper into what these credentials entail; why green property management is important; and what the future of green property management looks like.
Green Designation and Credentials
Because green certifications are widely available and relatively easy to earn, there is no reason why a property manager shouldn’t pursue one of these programs.
Launched in 2008, NAR’s Green Designation is designed to provide property managers with the “knowledge and awareness of green building principles applied in residences, commercial properties, developments, and communities so that they can help consumers in purchasing, retrofitting, and operating green properties.” The designation is geared towards community education. Because of this, the green principles taught are more likely to survive beyond a manager’s tenure at the property. Tenants may also be more inclined to take these green principles with them when they move and encourage other property managers to do the same.
Through a two-day course, NAR’s Green Designation teaches property managers to:
- Form partnerships with local groups to foster sustainable communities and lifestyles;
- Recognize and respond to obstacles—regulatory, zoning, building codes, costs, perceptions, and lack of knowledge — that can impede green development;
- Recognize, validate, and respond to concerns and priorities of the green-generation tenants; and,
- Recognize the features that make a property green and resource-efficient in remodeling, use, and operation.
Of the over 4,300 people who have earned the Green Designation, approximately 60 of them are property managers. Even though NAR’s Green Designation is only a 18-hour course, it can lay an important foundation in sustainability for property managers.
Another green program for property managers, the Credential for Green Property Management offered by NAHMA and NAAEI, educates property managers on the “latest techniques and technologies for making cost-saving green improvements at properties.” It’s similar to NAR’s Green Designation in that its main goal is educating property managers about green practices.
Core topics covered by the Credential for Green Property Management include water efficiency, pest management, and regulating indoor air quality. Additional, optional courses cover xeriscaping, tenant green education, and recycling.
Green Real Estate Education’s Green Certification Courses as well as the certification offered by Ecobroker are other green program options for property managers. These programs are offered weekly by dozens of education partners around the nation. No matter where a property manager is located, there probably is an opportunity nearby to become green certified.
Why Green Property Management Is Important
One of the main reasons why green property management is becoming increasingly important is the fact that buildings account for 50-80% of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Many experts are pointing to reducing building greenhouse gas emissions as the most effective and least cost-prohibitive way to fight global warming.
In addition, there are approximately 300,000 property managers in the United States, managing over 90 million tenants. That’s nearly one-third of the U.S. population depending on another person to manage their building’s sustainability.
Instead of just one home owner responsible for greening one home, a property manager has the opportunity to engage many residents in the practices of sustainable living and reduce their carbon footprint through community-wide changes to properties.
By installing energy-efficient lighting, updating the community’s HVAC systems, and switching to energy-efficient washers and dryers for example, a manager’s influence can be far-reaching. Instead of one household increasing their sustainability, now there are 50, 100 or more in the community simultaneously reducing their carbon footprint. Tenants in these households may also implement these green ideas at new properties or encourage new property managers to do the same.
Green property management practices also are important for cost-reduction. A property management company that purchases energy-efficient dishwashers, for example, will have a higher upfront cost but will save more money in the long run. Managers can also reduce costs – and paper waste – by using property management software. Using software, documents can be stored electronically; monthly statements can be e-mailed; and advertising can easily be moved online.
Overall, property managers who engage their communities in green education and implement green practices can have a significant impact on their community’s carbon footprint.
Future of Green Property Management
An innovation that may be in the future of property management future is a comprehensive system for managing a property’s carbon footprint. We’ve talked about this before on the Software Advice blog.
This entails collecting and aggregating a variety of metrics related to energy use to create a real-time snapshot of a property’s energy use. Property managers would be able to monitor a property’s carbon footprint at any given time and adjust energy use as needed. For example, the system could note a significant use of energy at night by parking lot lights. Once alerted, a property manager could respond by installing motion sensors that reduce energy use.
One particular carbon monitoring system, offered by Knowledge Global, is directly in line with the community education aspect of the green certifications mentioned above. Knowledge Global’s carbon monitoring system works in conjunction with “wireless eggs” strategically placed throughout a building or property. These eggs glow red when energy use becomes inefficient in an area to remind tenants to curb their energy use.
Feed-in-tariffs also are gaining traction in many states in the U.S. and around the world. This government policy essentially rewards property owners who create more energy than they consume. For example, in Gainesville, FL, owners who produce energy through solar paneling on their buildings receive 32 cents per kilowatt-hour created from the city. In contrast, Gainesville residents pay approximately 12 cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity.
In the future, programs like the Green Designation and the Credential for Green Property Management may include tracks for carbon monitoring and feed-in-tariff education – worthwhile topics for any property manager to understand.
We’re gathering feedback from property managers around the country about specific things they’re doing to create sustainable living among their communities. We’d also like to hear from tenants and others about what they’re doing around their rental communities to increase sustainability.
Leave your green ideas in the comment section and we’ll update this post with the best ones.
- Green Renter’s Checklist (EPA.gov)
- NAR’s Green Designation (GreenREsourceCouncil.org)
- Credential for Green Property Management (NAAHQ.com)
- Certified Ecobroker (Ecobroker.com)
- Green Certification Courses (GreenRealEstateEducation.com)
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