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Energy benchmarking is rapidly gaining recognition as a useful way to pinpoint and decrease energy usage in multifamily and commercial properties. New initiatives spearheaded by the Environmental Protection Agency have led to energy benchmarking requirements in many cities across the nation.

Over 20,000 buildings in New York City began to document their energy usage on May 1st using the EPA’s Portfolio Manager online tool. This action falls under a mandate of the Greener, Greater Buildings Plan, which states that all NYC buildings larger than 50,000 square feet are required to benchmark their energy usage or face major fines.

Recently, San Francisco also passed an Existing Commercial Buildings Energy Performance Ordinance, requiring commercial properties to conduct energy audits and benchmark their usage utilizing the EPA Portfolio Manager. The ultimate goal for these energy benchmarking initiatives is to decrease each respective city’s energy usage in the future.

While energy benchmarking was initially utilized only in commercial buildings, it is becoming more widely accepted by multifamily properties as well. According the Multifamily Executive, over 1,500 multifamily buildings utilized the EPA Portfolio Manager software to report their energy usage as of last November, and the number of benchmarked properties only continues to grow. In fact, a Seattle, WA program launched in May requires that the EPA Portfolio Manager be used to benchmark energy usage of multifamily residential buildings exceeding 10,000 square feet by 2012.

Unfortunately, some property owners are finding that even with the EPA’s Portfolio Manager tool, recording and understanding energy usage proves to be a difficult task. If your city requires energy benchmarking, or if your organization is interested in documenting energy usage, consider contacting our partners at Utility Bill Manager, LLC . Find out more about how UBM can take care of reporting your property’s energy usage.

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Off-campus apartment complexes have become popular living options for college students that are looking to gain independence, while still enjoying some of the amenities that college dorms have to offer. In recent years, many successful complexes have begun implementing sustainable practices as a way to attract new student tenants.

 Sustainable off-campus communities often include Energy Star rated appliances, community gardens, and are located close to campus or public transportation to cut down on the need for driving. Some student apartment complexes submeter their utilities, giving students the chance to become directly responsible for their energy usage.  By additionally offering common area lounges, wireless internet access, and an accommodating staff, students can enjoy some of the perks that would be provided in campus housing, while still living in a sustainable building.

Aside from the increase in demand from the student population, energy efficient properties allow property owners to cut down on operational costs and increase property value. Complexes near the University of Michigan, Portland State University, and University of California in Los Angeles have been extremely successful in implementing these green practices. As they become more aware and involved with environmental issues, the number of students choosing housing options in line with their green intentions will only continue to increase in the future.

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“Water Neutral” is an up and coming term that many large corporations have begun to promote in their marketing campaigns. While it’s important to conserve water, some argue that that the term “water neutral” falls dangerously close to the spectrum of green washing.

According the Harvard Business Review, companies that claim to be “water neutral” are responsible for defining their water footprint and taking reasonable steps to decrease water usage. This is a valid definition that was created by a group of non-governmental organizations and large companies, such as Coca Cola; however, it can be confusing for consumers. An average consumer will likely expect “water neutral” to mean that the same amount of water used by these companies is being returned to its source, and this is not the case. The confusion surrounding the term has already led to a loss of credibility for some major corporations.

With the increase of green minded tenants existing today, it makes sense to integrate your property’s conservation endeavors into marketing material. To maintain credibility among these types of tenants, it’s also important to steer clear of potentially confusing buzzwords. Instead, work to increase transparency by educating potential and current residents on your organization’s conservation efforts through social media sites, group presentations, and in other marketing materials. Outline the specific steps your organization is taking, explain what residents can expect to happen at their property, and continue to update them on your results.

Strong customer service is a key factor affecting resident retention, so it’s essential that property staff and any third party energy management companies involved in your conservation efforts are extremely knowledgeable and able to answer any questions residents might have. Learn more about the WaterWatch Corporation philosophy on customer service.

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