Green living is important part of apartment life

Erin Hatcher

Erin Hatcher
Vice president of sustainability, AMLI Residential, Chicago

Colorado’s booming housing market is creating uniquely greener lifestyle options for residents and newcomers. Much of Colorado’s recent real estate growth has been focused on multifamily living, which offers many advantages for individuals and the greater community. This is especially true for those seeking a healthier and more responsible lifestyle. In an effort to capture that sentiment and further build upon it, we recently created the “Green Manifesto,” which maps out the advantages of apartment living and could be a guide for Colorado developers to adopt green initiatives that will produce healthier and more environmentally responsible buildings. The manifesto guides AMLI in its construction and facility management efforts from the moment the ink first lands on the blueprints.

Studies have shown that apartment life is an unequivocally greener lifestyle choice compared to single-family housing. Continuing to expand Colorado’s multifamily real estate developments based on the perspectives mapped out in the Green Manifesto could be a major step toward building a healthier environment for the community as a whole.

•Thinking small. Apartments are sensibly sized. They use fewer resources during construction and the lifecycle of the development. With more appropriately sized dwellings, apartment renters also use less energy and water, saving both the owner and resident money. Additionally, limited storage space discourages unnecessary consumption of goods and resources, which is a main component of living a greener lifestyle.

Studies also show that per capita, apartment dwellers drive fewer miles than those choosing single-family living, because the density of housing units supports greener transportation options, such as mass transit, carpooling, bicycling and walking. Shared outdoor space limits the amount of water needed for asthenic purposes such as lawn irrigation. Materially less energy and water usage can be attributed to more shared walls, roofs and community amenities. Collectively, this can easily help individuals lower their carbon footprint with little effort.

•Healthy living. Our recent Sustainability Index, which surveyed 380 residents in the Denver area, found that more than 85 percent of residents believed that living in communities with green amenities was beneficial to their health.

This is understandable given that many apartment homes are held to higher building and maintenance standards, making them more likely to utilize low- or no volatile-organic-compound emitting materials. Moreover, apartment communities often include healthy amenities like fitness centers and are located in dense, walkable communities that encourage a more active lifestyle.

By following the initiative set forth in the Green Manifesto, Colorado developers have the opportunity to not only embrace these requirements and concepts, but also take them even further by adding additional healthy features that are highly impactful without compromising the bottom line. Some of these features include:

• Advanced ventilation and filtration to improve indoor air quality;

• Green transportation amenities like electric car-charging stations, bike storage and repair shops; and

• Green cleaning products that can lower the level of harsh chemicals within shared spaces.

These simple additions and changes can vastly improve the experience and health of Colorado residents, making apartment living not only a more sustainable option, but also more appealing.

•A win-win for the Centennial State. From a public-policy perspective, apartment living is not just better for residents, but also for entire communities and the state. Apartment buildings typically are located near existing infrastructure, which greatly decreases the taxpayer cost of building and maintaining roads, sewers, utilities and schools to service new homes. The added population provided by apartments can help support local merchants and restaurants, which make neighborhoods and cities so unique. Apartment living is an environmental and economic win-win.

The state of Colorado is accelerating the green aspects of apartment living by implementing advanced energy and sustainability intensive building codes and action plans, which are applied to apartment communities. Denver, along with many other cities, is setting aggressive targets for sustainability. The city and county of Denver created the 2020 Sustainability and Climate Action Plan, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels and sets a long-term greenhouse gas reduction goal of reducing emissions 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050. Denver Water also is pushing for more water-efficiency measures by offering developers incentives and rebate programs focused on landscaping and plumbing fixtures – many of which are most impactful in dense apartment communities.

Colorado developers are adjusting to more stringent energy codes and enforcement. They are aided by a benchmarking ordinance that is in place to assist the improvement and engage building owners. Other priorities of Denver government groups include land use, transportation, and water and its consumption. Through smart, green design, apartment communities, more easily than single-family homes, can assist Colorado in achieving its goals. And this is what our Green Manifesto is all about. Its principles have helped our company invest in these beneficial changes to the Colorado landscape.

Featured in the November issue of Multifamily Properties Quarterly.

Edited by the Colorado Real Estate Journal staff.