Campus Apartments’ Green Gains

COO Miles Orth on why Campus Apartments prioritizes sustainability initiatives.
Exec Insight_Miles Orth

From dorms made from shipping containers to refurbished trains repurposed as student quarters, employing sustainable practices is the solution of the moment for student housing. In a sector where most, if not all, renters are looking for walkable areas with low price tags, considering the environmental impact is a way to both cut costs and attract sustainably minded students.

Campus Apartments, one of the nation’s largest developers, owners and managers of student housing properties for more than 70 colleges and universities, has been employing a green philosophy for some time now, and reaping the benefits. The company was awarded a ForeverGreen Award from the U.S. Green Building Council in 2014 and a LEED Silver certification in 2012, but they aren’t stopping there. COO Miles Orth brought MHN up to date on Campus Apartments’ latest sustainable initiatives, and how the company incorporates its green philosophy into each project.

How do Campus Apartments residences combat their environmental impact?
Combatting our residences’ environmental impact is an issue that our team studies regularly, both in existing housing and as we continue to develop new student housing. While there is no single, authoritative definition of what constitutes a “green” building, we believe our efforts should be focused on the efficient use of energy, water and other resources as well as raising awareness among our residents of their impact on the environment. Our team regularly inspects our buildings to eliminate inefficient lighting, HVAC systems, water conservation valves and systems, and building envelope technologies such as windows, roofing, doors and siding. By focusing on these areas, we are able to provide fairly substantial environmental gains for a relatively modest investment.

In our newest developments, our team continues to focus on planning, designing, constructing and operating our student housing real estate to ensure an improved environmental impact as well as meet the expectation of our student customers that our residences’ environmental impact is at the forefront of our planning for new construction.

campusapartments atlantaHow does the increased focus on sustainability affect student housing development?
Sustainable development is no longer a trend; it is standard across nearly all real estate sectors, including student housing. Lenders increasingly want to understand the improvements that a real estate owner will make to further a building’s environmental impact and operating costs. Colleges and universities replacing or adding on-campus housing strive to achieve LEED and other environmentally sustainable designations, and the same goes for developers focused on off-campus properties. Student housing, in particular, needs to appeal to environmentally conscious Millennials and Generation Z [renters] in order to fill beds. Today’s generation of students want to live in environmentally friendly facilities located within walking distance to campus, and will continue to desire amenities that support this type of lifestyle.

How will the sustainability trend affect the apartment industry when these students join the general renter pool?
Student housing is the precursor to multifamily real estate, and it’s designed to meet the needs and demands of the youngest population of renters. The multifamily industry regularly evaluates the latest amenities and services in student housing to prepare for when these residents graduate from college and seek housing. Many student housing trends that will be adapted by the multifamily industry center around sustainability, including an enhanced emphasis on walkability to work and retail destinations and green amenities.

Student housing has also helped drive the trend of automation. Residents want every step of the leasing process and their living experience from payments to maintenance requests to be easily accessible online via their smartphone or tablet, the mediums where they are most present, and that has quickly extended into the multifamily industry. In the future, we expect to see more student housing and multifamily properties utilize automation to control additional aspects of their living situation, such as climate, lighting and security.

Many city and government agencies are now requiring properties to meet a certain energy efficiency standard as well as undergo environmental impact reviews in order to force owners to reduce a property’s energy and resource use. Both regulatory agencies and real estate developers are leading the way, and by working together, we will achieve dramatic improvements in sustainability and reducing environmental impact within our generation.

campus apartments syracuseDo you see sustainability and “thinking green” eventually becoming a priority for renters of all demographics?
Sustainability is already on the minds of the majority of renters, and will only grow in importance, as the media and general population continues to focus on creating a healthy and environmentally sustainable world for future generations. We have worked for years to enhance our residents’ focus on conservation through energy conservation efforts as well as ensuring that our residents see and feel the impact of their energy and resource use. Currently, most developers aim to create buildings that achieve some form of sustainability recognition, as it’s another selling point for potential renters.

The mindset of renters has shifted over the last decade, from an emphasis on luxury amenities to a focus on walkability, access to public transportation, entertainment and shops. Renters want to live in areas where they have easy access to almost everything they need, from gyms to movie theaters. The emphasis placed on walkability is a green mindset in itself because it leads to less reliance on cars. As Generation Z enters the renter pool, this green-conscious generation will only further the need for environmentally friendly residences and amenities. This is a trend that is here to stay, and for the sake of our planet, we need to embrace it and carry the banner of conservation forward.