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Renters in America

Apartment Living Leads the Way to a Greener Future

Rick Haughey

Vice President of Industry Technology Initiatives, National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC)

Apartment residents should know that their housing choice is one of the most environmentally responsible decisions they can make. Compared with single family homes, higher density housing takes up less land, uses less energy, displaces less stormwater, creates fewer car trips, and in general should be part of any climate change solution planning. 

Apartment owners and managers have been building and operating more energy efficient buildings, and they’re acquiring certifications through LEED, the NGBS, and EnergyStar, just to name a few. Additionally, investors are increasingly requiring green buildings as part of their investment strategy. Spurred on by consumer and investor preferences, the apartment industry is building and retrofitting housing to be even greener and healthier. New certification programs and technology are two trends enabling these monumental changes.

Health and wellness certification

While there had been growing interest and focus on the health and wellness of residents in response to changing demographics and lifestyles, the global pandemic accelerated the push and significantly increased interest in healthy building certifications. The two major certification programs, Well and Fitwel, include a focus on development components like assuring air and water quality in new buildings as well as operational requirements for cleanliness and sanitation.

Eco-friendly technological advancements

The second significant development has been taking place over the last few years. Massive investments have been made in real estate technology, also known as PropTech. Much of that investment has been in technology that is making apartment buildings even more energy efficient and healthier for residents. 

Consumer-facing technology like smart home automation allows residents to save money and energy by controlling their thermostats, lighting, and even window coverings through their phone. Breakthroughs in material manufacturing allow for the installation of dynamic glass that automatically blocks or lets in sunlight depending upon whether the resident wants to warm or cool the room. Innovative new UV light systems in HVAC kill bacteria, viruses, and fungi, stopping the airborne spread of pathogens.

On the operational front, a variety of new PropTech improves access to data and analytics for building management, allowing the managers to quickly assess and address inefficiencies, supporting optimal building efficiency. Sensor technology that once seemed a distant dream has become an affordable reality. For example, sensors can detect a water leak immediately and thereby prevent property damage and displacement of residents. 

It truly is a new era for the apartment industry. Greener and more health-oriented solutions will help offset climate change while providing safer places for people to live. 

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