Spokane Journal of Business

Millennials said to value sustainable apartment features

Developer contends most new buildings considered green without certification

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In an industry where trends come and go with the seasons, Spokane-area real estate experts say sustainable apartments are here stay.

A recent study by Chicago-based real estate developer AMLI Residential shows those who live in apartments now are more concerned with green amenities and building features, such as energy efficient lighting and energy conservation. 

Millennials, in particular, are more environmentally conscious, according to the study, and are more likely to choose an apartment with green features over one without when shopping for an apartment.

Kim Sample, president of Black Realty Management Inc., says she has noticed a similar trend here.

“I definitely see any green apartment feature … becoming more and more attractive to millennial renters in the Spokane area,” she says, though she adds that green features are less of a requirement by renters and more of a selling point when an agent is showing an apartment. 

Green features, such as paperless notices and leases, energy-efficient appliances, and green energy sources—geothermal heating and cooling, for example—are attractive features to a host of potential renters, she contends, adding she believes most people will opt for the environmentally conscious apartments when given the choice. 

“When we have a choice to do something that’s going to complement our community that’s good for the environment, it’s a win-win,” she says. 

Sample says that if an apartment has “smart home” features, such as mobile temperature control and LED lighting, or sustainable amenities, such as community gardens and comprehensive recycling plans, a client is more likely to choose that apartment over another, particularly if they are a millennial, which encompasses those born between 1981 and 1996. That said, she adds, most clients view green features as a bonus.

Beyond being more environmentally friendly, energy-efficient apartments likely are more cost effective, which likely has a role in the popularity of green apartments, she asserts.

Tenants would be willing to pay higher rent if it’s offset by the reduced costs of green energy sources for heating and cooling, she says. 

RentCafé, the online apartment listing company owned by California-based Yardi Systems Inc., found 69% of respondents expressed interest in living in an energy-efficient or green building, however, the majority (52%) stated they’re willing to pay no more than $100 a month extra for a green apartment.

 “At this point, I don’t have enough data or actual renter feedback to know for certain that millennials would actually pay more rent for communities with these features,” says Sample. “However, I do know that when comparing similar properties, with similar rents, millennials would be more likely to choose the property that had sustainable or green features.”

Spokane-based real estate developer Jim Frank, owner of Greenstone Homes, says energy saving measures, such as triple-pane windows and energy-saving appliances are becoming the standard in construction, regardless of whether the developer is aiming for sustainable certification. He adds that most new apartment construction could be considered green, it’s just an extra fee to get it officially certified as such.

“A lot of energy saving features and water saving features are incorporated now,” Frank says. 

According to the U.S. Green Building Council, which is responsible for LEED certification, registration of a building as LEED certified costs $1,200 for council members, or $1,500 for nonmembers. 

LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, certification is a rating system for the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of green buildings that aims to help owners be environmentally responsible.

“Most of those are just marketing things,” Frank says. “They don’t really result in projects that are any greener or any more sustainable.” 

Greenstone is the developer behind the Kendall Yards neighborhood.

Frank attests that the location of a development is a significant factor in sustainable developments, and a lot of green developments tend to sprout in dense urban environments, where cost-effective measures that go hand-in-hand with green amenities are more common.

A lot of green amenities, such as bike racks and pedestrian pathways, also make sense for population-dense areas, as they drive down traditional vehicle use because walkability is high, thereby cutting carbon emissions, he contends.

“The most sustainable thing you can do is build in locations that are walkable,” he says. “What we’ve found is that demand is definitely higher in those situations ... you definitely get a younger demographic.”

They often are located centrally with services nearby that are a draw as well, he asserts.

Older empty nesters seem to follow a similar trend as well, Frank says.

In 2018, there were 42,900 LEED-certified apartments nationwide, according to AMLI Residential. Seattle ranks second in the U.S. with 19,800 units, or 22% of Seattle’s apartment market. Spokane didn’t rank in the top 10 for green certified apartments in Washington.

According to the U.S. Green Building Council, there are currently 75 LEED certified commercial buildings in Spokane County. 

Natasha Nellis
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Reporter Natasha Nellis joined the Journal in May 2018 and covers real estate and construction. Natasha is an avid reader and loves taking photos, traveling, and learning new languages.

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