Hurricanes, heatwaves, droughts and forest fires are more extreme and increasing in frequency across the country and globe. Air quality, water security and grid stability are all on a dangerous path. Building construction and operations account for nearly half of global carbon emissions.
Conservation efforts and reduction programs must ramp up to combat these forces, which ultimately paves the way for mass adoption of property technology. These comprehensive solutions can offset grid strain, mitigate blackouts and prevent utility system failure. They can clean indoor air, mitigate water loss, reduce fossil fuels and produce alternative energy. Hardware and software platforms are mature and widely available for real estate owners and operators who are seeking to reduce costs, all while achieving their environmental and sustainability objectives.
Renters are prioritizing sustainable living, which is increasing the value and marketability of properties with green building certifications. Benchmark reporting and scoring systems track ongoing property performance, building health and wellness. Certified, high scoring assets are attracting a greater pool of investors, earning favorable financial terms and commanding better rental rates.
Below are my top considerations for eco-friendly smart home technology and building automation systems that should be foundational in a rental housing world where green is great.
Optimizing Energy Use
Installing LED lighting and energy star appliances are table stakes today but is unfortunately where many sustainability efforts start and finish. Multifamily companies committed to meaningful change must take a deeper and more advanced approach.
Through mass deployment of connected thermostats and sensors, it’s never been easier for renters to control and contain their energy use. Programming eco-friendly schedules can reduce consumption and dramatically decrease utility costs during peak periods. Smart lights, blinds and power outlets can further conserve energy, all while optimizing comfort through automations.
Likewise, operators can create custom rules and configurations for amenity spaces, common areas and vacant units. Motion and contact sensors can trigger lighting and climate systems on or off. Heating, cooling and ventilation systems can automatically adjust based on seasons and real-time weather conditions. Furthermore, settings can be applied to a property, region or across an entire portfolio’s vacant units to ensure they are comfortable when being toured and optimized for energy efficiency when empty. These functions not only reduce energy consumption but lower operating expenses.
While all of these smart home devices and intelligent building infrastructure can greatly reduce consumption, the rise of electric vehicles is increasing on-site energy use and adding large scale strain to already fragile regional grids. Charging stations will eventually become the norm for both new and existing communities, amplifying the demands on the power grid.
Utility energy saving programs are now available nearly nationwide to help mitigate power and peaker plant use, prevent blackouts and system failure. During extreme weather conditions, properties and individual residents can participate in demand response events that reduce peak load and stabilize the grid. These initiatives require a highly coordinated effort between local utilities, technology suppliers and consumers. Strong partnerships, open integrations, clean UI/UX and meaningful incentives are key elements to success.
Reducing Water Consumption
While our energy infrastructure needs major investment alongside serious behavioral change, we shouldn’t overlook the future of our water supply. Efficient appliances as well as low-flow showerheads, toilets and faucets, all have a positive impact but only scratch the surface. Like energy, more advanced water technology is now widely available and increasingly gaining attraction from consumers, small businesses and enterprise organizations.
Connected appliances and smart fixtures have emerged to further conserve water where it’s used most. Additionally, leak detectors, humidity sensors, shut off valves, smart meters and flow monitors combine into an intelligent water management platform. Installed at common sources of water loss – sinks, toilets, washing machines, dishwashers and water heaters – leak detectors identify issues and immediately alert the property staff through an emergency work order. Shut-off valves, when connected to nearby leak detectors, can almost entirely prevent water loss and damage in many situations. Lastly, temperature and humidity sensors extend protections by identifying frozen pipes and abnormal moisture in the air.
For even more advanced insights and plumping protection, flow monitoring devices illustrate water consumption behavior at an incredibly detailed level. These devices not only conduct volumetric metering, but can disaggregate flow into individual appliance level signatures, showing end users when and where water is exactly used. Additional benefits from these powerful machines include ambient and pipe temperature sensors as well as a pressure monitoring. Detailed performance data, comprehensive reporting and anomaly detection make these compelling additions to an intelligent and sustainable community.
Performance and Benchmarking
Owners and operators need the ability to easily obtain all of the aforementioned detailed data across their entire portfolio. Aggregation of utility bills and meter data is a good start but isn’t sophisticated or granular enough to provide meaningful insights or the ability to identify gaps.
Connected devices, sensors and intelligent infrastructure components play a major role in filling these voids. They capture information on the edge, process rules locally and then transmit relevant data into the cloud. Technology suppliers need to have a scaled process to pull the correct events, readings and measurements into a data lake or warehouse. Then they need to make it available to their customers through dashboards, feeds and open integrations. Such reporting mechanisms provide greater transparency into property and portfolio performance, as well as the ability to assess against internal and industry benchmarks.
The Time is Now
When property managers and owners are empowered to measure their performance and enhance their sustainability efforts, operating expenses are reduced alongside environmental impact. When residents are given tools and solutions to become stewards of a green future, meaningful behavioral change becomes a reality.
The technology and human desire for change is here. Devices, sensors, appliances and equipment are already smart and becoming more sophisticated every year. Software, automations and algorithms are in constant iteration. Interoperability, integrations and partnerships are stronger and more open than ever. Conservation and reduction program availability is nearly ubiquitous. Organizations that are committed to change and improving environmental impact are leading the way in a more sustainable and healthy future for all.