Editor’s Note: Can Social Responsibility Increase NOI?

By Diana Mosher, Editor-in-ChiefThe debate continues about whether apartment residents will pay more for green living, but clearly demand is growing within certain demographics and interest is quickly spreading to others. And it’s on all of our minds. Recently NMHC’s Kim Duty shared an interesting article “Green Renting: Tenants Desire Eco-Friendly Digs” with members of our newly launched MHN Forum at LinkedIn.In the meantime, the number of properties offering a nod to green living keeps growing. So much so that the National Apartment Association hosted a new niche conference devoted to this topic last week. One attendee, a small property owner who wished to remain unidentified, lamented that green is still so subject to interpretation. “I was hoping there might be a magic template but we’re still not there yet,” he told me. “The industry is still evolving. [Green] hasn’t translated in increases on the revenue side yet; but, if we manage expenses better, we can derive a benefit.”He also thinks that once the multifamily projects now in the construction pipeline are finished, we’ll see a two-year drought. This will be a time when owners of existing buildings will ramp up their green initiatives. “This will one day result in an industry baseline for existing multifamily buildings,” he said.As the methods for measuring green continue to unfold, it will become obvious that putting your most environmentally conscious foot forward may already be a part of doing business these days. Especially when the apartment community across the street is already doing so—or plans to in the near future. Do a Google for “green apartments” and see what comes up. Websites like Low Impact Living are catering to green apartment consumers.The good news is that there are easy and inexpensive ways for apartment owners and their teams to reduce their carbon footprints and offer a healthier living experience. At the green conference in Phoenix, Heather Kreitz, Vice President, Energy Advisory Service, presented a slew of creative ideas (as well as their marketing value) at “Going Green and Increasing NOI.” For example:• Close the deal by providing incoming residents with moving boxes; recycle these and re-use for the next move• Use environmentally friendly cleaning products• On a larger scale, choose renewable energy sources.Click here for my VIDEO interview with Heather as well as a conversation with James Brew, Rocky Mountain Institute.But keep in mind that all the green measures in the world will do little to attract new business if you don’t get the word out to prospects. Make sure they know that you’ve switched to low-VOC paint, that your plumbing fixtures use less water and that you’ve installed Energy Star appliances. Create a “Green Strategy” document and give it the visibility it deserves. From a marketing standpoint, Kreitz compares today’s apartment community’s green attributes to yesterday’s community pool or fitness center. It’s a great closing tool and your leasing agents will thank you.(You can email Diana Mosher at Diana.Mosher@nielsen.com)