After climbing to a record 69.1% in 2005, the percentage of US households headed by homeowners has undergone the sharpest decline in more than 20 years, thanks mainly to the ongoing financial crisis and to the rise of the urban creative class. The number of renters has risen accordingly, and is expected to remain high for years, if not decades, to come.
The rise of the renting class offers a great green business opportunity for eco-minded entrepreneurs. As awareness of environmental issues continues to grow, a growing number of apartment dwellers are seeking out more eco-friendly alternatives to traditional apartments and condos. A growing number of households with one or more members with a serious chemical sensitivity is also driving the movement towards greener, healthier, and more sustainable housing options.
Planning Your Eco-Friendly Apartment Complex
Here are a few issues to think about when planning your eco-friendly apartment complex:
- Location, location, location. One of the most important factors to consider is the location of your complex. The greenest option is to locate your complex in an area where residents will be able to easily walk, bike, carpool, or take public transportation to work, shopping, dining, entertainment, and other destinations. In fact, many eco-friendly apartment complexes incorporate commercial spaces such as grocery stores, coffeehouses, cafes, and gyms directly into their communities.
- Green building materials. Using eco-friendly, sustainable, and non-toxic building materials is another important consideration that can dramatically reduce the environmental impact of your apartment complex. Green interior design, such as low VOC paint and formaldehyde-free flooring is especially important for residents with chemical sensitivities.
- Reducing waste. Offering energy-efficient appliances and fixtures such as dual-flush toilets, front load washers, and LED lightbulbs can save energy, water, and money. More innovative ways to reduce waste include complex-wide recycling and composting programs, installing a living machine or constructed wetland to reduce water consumption, and powering the complex with on-site solar panels or wind turbines.
- Eco-friendly landscaping. Landscaping for an eco-friendly apartment complex should be more than just beautiful. Hiring an organic lawn care company is one way to reduce the environmental impact of your landscaping. You can also get rid of lawn entirely and instead choose a beautiful, water-wise xeriscape, or a lush native plant garden to provide habitat for local birds and butterflies. An increasingly popular option for some apartment complexes is edible landscaping, which uses ornamental edible plants such as apple trees, blueberry bushes, and flowering herbs to create gardens as tasty as they are beautiful. Some apartment complexes also offer vegetable garden plots for residents to grow their own fresh, local produce.
Three Apartment Complexes For Greener Living
Boutique Apartments operates 14 apartment buildings in five of Denver’s most walkable downtown neighborhoods. All buildings have been renovated rather than built new, saving energy and resources, and include energy-efficient windows, appliances, lighting, and more. Many apartments feature bamboo flooring or reclaimed porcelain tile. Boutique Apartment buildings are powered by wind energy generated nearby along the Colorado-Wyoming border and have an extensive recycling program, including free computer and electronics recycling for residents.
Inception star and environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio made waves in 2008 when he purchased an apartment at New York City’s Riverhouse in Battery Park City, a 92 acre planned community on the Hudson River, including the 1.2 mile Battery Park Esplanade, 32 acres of gardens and green spaces, playgrounds, retail spaces, and many residential buildings. Riverhouse is LEED Gold Certified and partially powered by a rooftop solar panel installation. The lobby is heated and cooled with geothermal power. Other green features include sustainably harvested wood, low VOC paint, energy efficient windows, dual flush toilets, and programmable thermostats in every apartment.
Satori Apartments in Fort Lauderdale, FL makes taking public transportation easy with a bus stop right out the front door. Energy-efficient features such as high efficiency air conditioning, front loading washers and dryers, and programmable thermostats help residents reduce their energy consumption. The building also employs many green building materials, such as recycled concrete pavers and zero voc carpets. The car park includes plug-in stations for electric vehicles, and the zero chlorine swimming pool helps reduce chemical exposure for residents.