Green Building Grows In California—And The Multifamily Market

Last week, California became the first U.S. state to issue a mandatory green building code that will require energy efficiency and less water consumption. Regulations for single-family, multifamily and commercial structures are also part of the new code.

It was a big move for the golden state, and a popular one–the California Building Standards Commission voted unanimously for the green building code, which was designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

As MHN reported Monday, the new code will improve water usage in both commercial and residential plumbing fixtures and aim for a 50 percent landscape water conservation reduction.

  • Builders will also be encouraged to reduce energy use by 15 percent more than today’s current standards.
  • The code also emphasizes using recycled content in building materials and carpets and suggests site improvements like hybrid vehicle parking and stronger storm water plans.
  • Until 2010, the code regulations are optional; after 2010, they’re mandatory.

(Other areas are embracing green building, too. In Seattle, the mayor recently suggested changes to the multifamily building code that included adding green roofs and less–or no–parking in developments that are close to mass-transit, according to the Seattle Times.)   

California Building Standards Commission Chair Rosario Marin praised the commission for uniting construction and building industry representatives, environmental groups and labor organizations. 

It’s certainly something to be proud of—by taking a decidedly sustainable stand, California is working to reduce the environmental impact of new construction.

And it’s a decision that the multifamily market can feel good about.

  • It’s a strong marketing technique. It’s true, green building can produce some higher upfront costs–but it also offers long-term savings for owner/investors, and provides leasing agents with an added-value for renters.   

And–according to news on the single-home front–in a recent article about builders attempting to move unsold homes, the San Jose Mercury News pointed out that one major technique builders were using included "trying to woo customers with green building techniques and energy-saving features."

  • Green urban areas—designed to negate car usage—are more popular. Energy costs are also persuading buyers to look in urban rather than suburban areas.

As gas stubbornly remains above the $4 mark—with little sign of dropping–they’re eager to avoid long commutes and trips to stores, restaurants and other locations.

"People are now saying affirmatively they want to live closer to town centers and have a shorter commute," Lawrence Yun, National Realtors Association economist, told U.S. News & World Report. "And smaller homes mean less energy consumption."

That’s more good news for the multifamily market.

It’s good news, too, for urban planners who have been trying for decades to get Americans to embrace a more compact geographical pattern, according to U.S. News & World Report.

"To be honest, I feel that rising gas prices…are going to do more for good, sustainable urban planning than the entire urban planning profession," says Thomas Campanella, an associate professor of city and regional planning at the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill.

Space constraints in urban areas have typically meant multifamily buildings were the best, or only choice for development.

If more buyers are looking in downtown areas because high gas prices are making them reconsider long commutes and car-intensive lifestyles, it could be a huge boon for multifamily building.

(Sort of makes the hefty cost of filling your car up seem a little less painful, doesn’t it?)

Cost remains a concern, but the evidence is overwhelming: Green fever is spreading, and going green is becoming increasingly popular in the multifamily market.

And one day, apartment renters and buyers will simply expect it.