Green Training For All

The lack of sustainability programs for property managers is being addressed

Say a green roofing system featuring rainwater harnessing installed in an apartment building requires maintenance. Or, the choice needs to be made about what models to replace old toilets with. Or an apartment seeks to implement green practices, such as integrated pest management. Or, residents and prospects need to be educated about an apartment property’s green practices.

These are all scenarios in which the property manager needs to have knowledge about sustainable practices—and as more buildings become green, one would expect that the trend is for more property managers to have this know-how.

“The worst thing that can happen is for an apartment owner to initiate a green building system and have the property manager not understand those systems, or do things to prevent those systems from working,” says Maureen Lambe, executive vice president of the National Apartment Association Education Institute (NAAEI).

Yet it appears that while everyone knows there are established accreditation programs for developers, architects and home builders, the education of on-site property managers, as well as regional, asset or corporate managers, in the sustainable arena seems still relatively undeveloped.

Lori Reeves, vice president and chief information officer at Forest City Residential Group, says that her company, for which sustainability is one of the core values, provides in-house green training for on-site personnel. But she agrees that there has been a severe lack of external green education programs designed for property managers, or other executives at the corporate level.

The apartment industry is starting to address this gap. NAA’s Education Institute and the National Affordable Housing Management Association (NAHMA) may be the first to offer a certification program directed specifically at property managers. The Credential for Green Property Management (CGPM) was created by the NAAEI and NAHMA two years ago at HUD’s (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) request. The credential enables property owners opting for HUD’s green Mark-to-Market program to satisfy the HUD green training requirements for their on-site managers, maintenance staff and supervisors. NAAEI and NAHMA’s program is also intended for on-site managers, maintenance staff and supervisors at market-rate and conventional apartments. “[The CGPM was] developed at the request of HUD, but it is applicable to any property manager,” says Lambe.

The Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI), the educational arm of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), launched its LEED Green Associate designation in May 2009. The LEED Green Associate is a first-level, foundational program that is applicable to, though not specifically designed for, property managers, explains Beth Holst, vice president of credentialing at GBCI.

“Some of the top 10 professions represented in those taking the LEED Green Associate credential include property managers and real estate brokers,” says Holst. “Does everyone associated with a LEED building need to know how to design a green building? No. Do they need to understand a green building? Yes. The credential helps them sell the building and helps both owners and residents alike understand the green building systems.”

Holst says that GBCI had 10,000 new LEED Green Associates in the credential’s first year, and it is now the fastest growing credential for GBCI.

While these programs have begun to address the need for green certification for property managers, they are only accreditation programs—and not turnkey courses of study complete with instruction provided. The participants still need to cobble together their own instruction programs with classes, online courses and/or self-study.

The LEED Green Associate credential, notes Holst, is an examination program. “We do not endorse any course, line or method of study,” she adds. To help participants, the LEED Green Associate Candidate Handbook supplies links to reference materials, most of which are free, that are used to develop the exams. And it specifies the seven areas of study, such as the LEED Application Process, Project Site Factors, Water Management, and Project Systems and Energy Impacts.

NAAEI/NAHMA’s Credential for Green Property Management is also only a certification program which does not provide classes. It requires 16 hours of class time, in 12 areas of study such as Green Building Principles and Practices, Energy Efficiency, Water Efficiency, Green Operations and Management, and Green Building Systems. The instruction has to be received from accepted providers [see sidebar].

In some ways the need for a program of classes may precede that for official certifications. Seeing such a need, the Boston local chapter of NAA recently put together a 16-hour course of study covering the entire CGPM curriculum over two days. The program was sold out, says Lambe. Reeves surmises it may still be a bit early for green credentials for property managers (as opposed to maintenance personnel). Lambe adds that with the recent economic downturn, the need for green accreditation for on-site managers seems to have taken a backseat, but “it will be at the forefront again.”

To comment on this feature, email Keat Foong at [email protected].

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