By Barry Manuel, CIO, MEB Management Services
Did you know that 39 percent of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions are generated through manufactured buildings? We spend the majority of our lives using indoor spaces to gather, work, socialize and live, which means multifamily developers and managers need to consider environmentally friendly options that don’t contribute to the global climate crisis. It’s the right thing to do, and we’re not the only ones who know that. Residents are getting wise to the impact their buildings play in the climate crisis.
Creating A Solution
With this in mind, we recently created the MEB Sustainability Committee to address environmental issues and adapt sustainability practices for our multifamily properties throughout Arizona and New Mexico. Our goal is to have at least 75 percent of all MEB properties engaged in energy-saving initiatives.
MEB is taking a two-pronged approach. We’re using ESG ratings to measure long-term environmental, social and governance risks while educating and sharing sustainable practices with our residents and management teams.
Through a collaborative effort, we’re reducing emissions by making changes to both new and existing apartment buildings. Part of our strategy and collaboration involves partnering with one of the most sustainably conscious builders in Arizona on two new multifamily developments. After all, it’s hard to enact any real change as property managers if developers aren’t on board.
Not only do older buildings produce some of the worst emissions, but they aren’t privy to the efficiencies or scale economies of new construction. MEB has researched and implemented a variety of practical, sustainable changes to help reduce the ecological impact of mature buildings.
Tools That Work
One example that combats emissions is solar energy. While this can sometimes be a large, expensive project for existing buildings, it is beneficial to the environment, as well as the residents’ energy bills.
The APS Multifamily Energy Efficiency Program (MEEP) also leads to a change in outdated lightbulbs in favor of more energy-efficient LED lightbulbs. Through the MEEP program, if 80 percent of buildings agree to use LED lightbulbs, APS will install them for free. This modification has been quite beneficial for many apartments. It is a slight change that makes a big difference in environmental efficiency.
ECO PHX is one of the MEB properties that has adapted to using almost entirely eco-friendly features, including solar panels and LED lighting. Other features of this complex include a water catchment system to irrigate the landscape (as opposed to using potable water), charging stations for electric vehicles and resident car share programs. ECO PHX even sourced sustainable materials during the community’s construction.
All MEB residents in Arizona and New Mexico are also encouraged to recycle common items through the cities’ recycle programs, and to even compost when it makes sense. Unplugging items not in use and lowering the thermostat in winter months or raising it during the summer hours while not at home are also effortless ways for tenants to save energy. Though this may be common sense, it always helps to remind residents — and to tout the potential cost savings to them.
MEB further provides its Arizona and New Mexico properties an opportunity to gain sustainability certification through the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and others like it. The CSP provides sustainability best practices and evaluation. After the building makes all the energy-saving modifications, it’s awarded the certification. When in the market for a new home, these accreditations can help new tenants decipher whether the building is energy-conscious.
MEB has partnered with utility management companies to monitor and report on energy and water consumption. Through these partnerships, residents can reduce their personal emissions and minimize costly bills. This also equips asset managers and owners with ESG reporting capabilities to share with institutional investors and other financial stakeholders.
With the recent boom in multifamily housing developments, it makes sense to incorporate sustainable practices to help attract new tenants. MEB hopes to attract environmentally conscious tenants who share the same passion for making a real difference in the world.
— Barry Manuel, CIO, MEB Management Services and founder of the MEB Sustainability Committee in Phoenix. This article originally appeared in the August 2022 issue of Western Real Estate Business.