As property managers, we are responsible for trillions of dollars in real estate assets. Each day, we manage—through our teams, services and individual efforts—to provide the best return for our owners and investors. We assume fiduciary responsibility for their assets, and it is our duty to explore all possible avenues for providing those returns.
In fulfilling that duty, we continually look at ways to improve our properties and fix what might be broken. We spend significant amounts of time scoping, bidding and budgeting for improvements, and hours researching the best product, installation or service to ensure we are getting maximum value for the property, tenants and owners.
Now let’s consider how much time property managers typically spend doing the same for energy, water and waste at our buildings. Unfortunately, many managers see utility expenses as “well, they are what they are.” Unless an expense doubles, they process the bill and move on.
I challenge you to consider how much waste reduction could be achieved if we all applied to energy, water and waste the same professional property management principles we do to every other aspect of property operations.
The saying goes, “You cannot manage what you do not measure.” So begin the process of measuring your utilities, including energy, water and waste. ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager® is the best platform to do this because it is free and user-friendly, and it provides industry-standard metrics for evaluating resource consumption. Once you have an account, some energy utilities can auto-populate your data. I can vouch firsthand that benchmarking is not nearly as hard as scoping and bidding a roof replacement.
Second, track your usage, and you may begin to see patterns and anomalies. Spotting these opportunities pales in comparison to doing budget variance notes. Simply tracking resource consumption allows you to tie usage to trends or specific occurrences, such as occupancy patterns and weather events.
Third, begin to find ways to reduce the consumption of the building. I am confident you will find this process much more appealing than reducing expenses in other areas. This is an opportunity to challenge your team to find the best opportunities to reduce consumption. The IREM Certified Sustainable Property (CSP) program provides a framework and tools to help you and your team do this. You can get all the IREM CSP resources straight from the IREM website.
Many of us prioritize providing a comfortable environment for our tenants—and in fact, providing a safe, enjoyable workplace, home or shopping experience is ultimately what we aim for every day. However, I again challenge you to investigate whether your building systems are wasting resources just to do so.
I was recently walking a floor with a consultant and noticed that the baseboard heat was on in a tenant space. Upon investigation of the building automation system, we discovered that the space temperature had cooled to 69 degrees while the set point was 72. The system, in aiming for tenant comfort, was overcooling, adding heat from the baseboard system to compensate, and then cooling again when the baseboard heat ran. This is an excellent example of the waste that can be eliminated by simply paying attention—no Ph.D. in engineering or extensive energy management experience required.
It’s also important to involve your entire staff and service provider team. At one of our buildings, the Olympian Office Center, located in a Chicago suburb, my team and I have been working to reduce the extraordinary cost of electricity. We have replaced motors, compressors, pumps and controls, and implemented occupancy schedules. After setting the schedules, we found and diagnosed more issues, and replaced or repaired more building system components. None of this was completed with just one or two people. You must engage your entire team, which includes your vendors, suppliers and in-house staff.
IREM Members manage to make a difference by offering the very best professional property management services on the market. I challenge you to begin seeing resource efficiency as a way to fulfill your fiduciary duty, and I encourage you to apply the principles and best practices of professional property management that you have honed in your experience and IREM education to reducing waste at your properties. You will see that your skills and knowledge as a property manager will help you rise to the occasion and make your portfolio more efficient and profitable.