Home Innovation Insights

Multi-benefits for multifamily construction certified to the National Green Building Standard.

Cindy Wasser, MBA
October 31, 2013

Multiple Units, Multiple Benefits: Multifamily Certification to the NGBS

I recently attended a meeting with a diverse group of multifamily builders, property managers, lenders, and green building consultants. The conversation focused on opportunities to expand green affordable housing options. To my dismay, there was a common sentiment expressed and repeated throughout the meeting that there isn't a green certification option for multifamily rehabs at this time. That's simply not the case — the National Green Building Standard (NGBS) is an excellent option for green multifamily rehab projects of any size.

The NGBS has broad applicability for structures of all sizes and designs, including single-family homes and multifamily buildings, and both new construction and rehab/remodel projects. Perhaps the “best kept secret” of the NGBS is the option for multifamily rehab projects, but it's never been a secret at all. For those who weren't aware of this option, let me give you the 4-1-1.

Why Green Rehab?

Rehab/remodel projects are a smart investment. During a down or recovering economy, rehab projects allow property owners to increase the value of their building portfolio without building/acquiring new facilities. During a hot market, rehabbing older buildings makes them better able to compete with newer properties. Last year, Multifamily Executive magazine profiled six properties to demonstrate how multifamily developers were able to increase rents and occupancy levels despite a tough economy. Most of the featured property owners said they were able to increase rents $200-700 after substantial rehab efforts that updated both interior and exterior features and added community amenities.

Green rehabs provide more than just new paint and siding. Residents are afforded more comfortable and healthier living quarters through practices like increased ventilation and improved air filtering. Energy efficiency improvements, such as HVAC upgrades and increased insulation, can extend financial savings to residents through lower energy bills.

When a company has made a corporate-level commitment to “go green,” updates across its existing portfolio of buildings provides a more comprehensive and meaningful way to improve energy efficiency than simply incorporating green building features in new buildings. In the Institute for Market Transformation blog, Jayson Antonoff, U.S. Director, Global Buildings Performance Network, underscores the idea that there is huge potential for energy efficiency improvements in U.S. buildings, but it is predominantly untapped. To address, Antonoff suggests that a portfolio-wide approach to energy efficiency is necessary.

NGBS Green Remodel

A green rehab/remodeled home or multifamily building can be awarded a Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Emerald  certification level, depending on the building's improvement in water and energy efficiency and the number of additional green practices incorporated into the project. For Bronze-level certification, a project must:

  1. Achieve a 15% improvement in energy efficiency and a 20% reduction in water usage compared to the pre-remodel condition.
  2. Meet applicable mandatory practices.
  3. Implement sufficient additional green practices. The NGBS allows builders and remodelers the flexibility to select the green features that provide the most value within their budget and conform to resident needs, geography, and scale of the proposed renovation.

For more information on the NGBS Green requirements for rehab/remodel certification and the steps to achieve it, be sure to check out our online resources.

Some Recent Examples

To date, through the remodel/renovation path, Home Innovation Labs has certified 15 multifamily communities, representing 494 units. These communities range from 4 to 126 units, and are located throughout the Northeast, Midwest, and Southwest.

The building types are really diverse, including garden-style apartments, townhouses, and rental/condo buildings with shared common space. A number of NGBS Green Certified buildings are conversion projects, where a commercial or retail space has been converted to residential.

The Roxton community (formerly Singing Oaks) in Denton, TX, is the largest multifamily community to be certified using the NGBS Green remodel path. The garden-style apartment community is a 1970-vintage multifamily building that achieved Emerald level energy (45%) and water (50%) improvements. Green features of this project include:

  • New HVAC systems and ductwork
  • Low-flow fixtures
  • Added insulation
  • Landscaping with native vegetation and zoned irrigation
  • Walking trails for residents constructed with permeable crushed granite

View photos of the Roxton, and other NGBS Green Certified homes and multifamily buildings, on the NGBS Green Gallery. Or you can find out more about NGBS Green certification by visiting www.HomeInnovation.com/Green.

Considering a multifamily remodel project of your own? Have you considered the benefits of incorporating green, resource-conserving features? Give me a call (301.430.6206) to discuss the possibilities and benefits available through the National Green Building Standard (NGBS).

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Wednesday, February 24, 2016 5:10 PM
"We own a +/- 30 year old condo in the Chicago suburbs. The board is currently discussing some general improvement expenses. Thanks for these tips, I'll bring up insulation and the landscaping ideas. We have already hired a pro contractor who deals with large, multi-family properties in north IL."