Skip to content

Frameworks for Simplifying Sustainability

Easily incorporate green initiatives with a few helpful tips and resources.

By Todd Feist
IStock 1124645001

If you have never implemented a sustainability program before, the prospect of doing so can be intimidating. The range of technologies, assessment and certification programs, and potential improvements can leave site staff confused as to what is most important and impactful.

Property managers can simplify sustainability for their teams if they begin with the view that each building is a set of opportunities in performance improvements and cost-effective retrofits, waiting to be discovered. At some point, sustainability is about the efficiency of each light bulb, the optimization of each set point, the diversion of each empty Coke can from the landfill.

Property managers can encourage and develop a mindset in their site teams to  look for these opportunities by integrating some simple tools and resources, as well as teamwork, into the routine operation of the property.

ENERGY STAR® Treasure Hunts

During an ENERGY STAR Treasure Hunt, site teams walk around the property to look for quick ways to save energy. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), hundreds of organizations have used Treasure Hunts to reduce their facilities’ energy use by 7 to 15 percent.

To help you plan and execute a Treasure Hunt, the ENERGY STAR website includes a how-to guide, “Treasure Maps” for different property types, case studies and other resources.

IREM Certified Sustainable Property (CSP) Program

IREM’s certification program for existing office properties, multifamily communities, shopping centers, medical office buildings and senior housing communities includes templates, checklists, questionnaires and other tools to make sustainability practical for property managers and their teams.

Through the use of these tools, properties can identify and take concrete actions to improve sustainability performance. IREM regularly sees property teams catch water leaks, adjust waste management programs to optimize recycling rates, and identify lighting improvements, to name a few examples.

Staff Knowledge-Sharing

I recently heard an anecdote about the approach an engineering team takes to energy management for a portfolio of large office buildings. Every couple of months, the building engineers in the region meet to exchange ideas, solve issues and identify opportunities. They examine everything from chiller replacements and large-scale lighting retrofits to the optimization of individual pumps and fans.

In addition to leadership support and sufficient resources to implement efficiency measures, this collegial, teamwork approach has yielded results, as evidenced by an average ENERGY STAR score of 89 (out of 100) for the buildings in the portfolio.

Taking It to the Next Level

Consultants and service providers are often necessary to take a sustainability program to the next level and achieve high performance. For example, lighting contractors offer specialized knowledge and skills for identifying the best lighting solutions for different applications to optimize both quality and efficiency, and they can better navigate relationships with suppliers and utilities for incentives.

Property managers typically have to build a business case, though, to support investments in additional expertise and equipment. These frameworks provide a simple, practical approach to sustainability that helps to build that business case and, through integration into everyday operations, keep the property efficient and sustainable.

Issue: May/June 2019  

Journal of Property Management

Todd Feist ( is sustainability program manager at IREM Headquarters in Chicago.

Similar Posts

Sustainable shelter

Unlocking the potential of adaptive reuse in affordable housing

CSP surge

Greater demand for ESG leads companies to the IREM CSP...


Celebrating excellence

Jackson Control Sustainability Awards and panel discussion at IREM Global...