Retrofitting Urban Apartment Buildings: Promoting Sustainable Living


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When you hear the word, retrofitting, many images come to mind. One in particular is the idea of rummaging around your parent’s closet in search of 70s or 80s disco duds and then trying them on... Instead, this is my working definition, if you will.

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  • -Urban apartment buildings house a larger population of people in a given area than a solitary residential home and the ability to educate and empower this concentrated population of co-housing individuals about sustainable living practices is ideally more successful. -This foundation comes from my personal experience living in an apartment building as well as the cohousing movement that originated in Denmark in the late 70s which put emphasis on community living and active participation of redefining the traditional home. -Ultimately, this is a work in progress, or a living experiment, if you will and it just so happens to have started at my apartment building.
  • -Bridging the gap between rental management companies and tenant residents; lessen negative connotations of renter vs. manager & emphasize the importance of roles and community: renters pay for a service, therefore, they are technically customers (and we all want our customers to be happy). -Increase awareness for cost/savings/environmental impact in regards to products & services and possible grants & funding through Greenprint Denver & the Governor’s Energy Office -Also, allows for pilot projects for local businesses to install products or “rent” out services to receive baseline data for future customers -The overall sustainability report provides a compilation of all projects and a cost benefit analysis of each objective -Ultimately, sustainability report can be used for other apartment buildings and neighborhoods
  • Definition of Sustainability: “Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (Riley and Gadonniex 2009). -Ultimately, cost savings are huge in a multi-unit building where toilet flushes as we will see later are 1/3 of water usage -If you can calculate and demonstrate the possibilities of cutting water bills by 1/3, especially in an apartment building where water is included with a rental contract--who wouldn’t want to save a good chunk of money?
  • -These are my great neighbors that I see nearly everyday… the 20 yard walk from the front of the building to my front door usually takes 45 minutes since I run into one of them and we chat up weekend or that night’s dinner plans. -Nothing says peer pressure like “aren’t you going to recycle that?” or community, like “how does composting work?”
  • Ultimately, “as a renter, you are the landlord’s customer, so it is in the landlord’s best interest to work with you to make your environment as pleasant & productive as possible” (Riley and Gadonniex, 2009)
  • Community garden: In its 2nd year, $10 contributions from residents, seed & supply donations, designated watering days, community participation CFL Light Bulbs, Dual Flush Toilet Converters, composting, vermicomposting, Social Events, Overall Sustainabilty Report
  • -Total upfront cost $520-$600, which with a $120/month payback rate would allow for mechanical retrofits to be repaid more or less after the first year -Most solar projects take up to 10 years to be repaid
  • Sustainability Reporting helps companies/organizations communicate their sustainability vision and values and demonstrate what they have committed to do and what actions they are taking to achieve this vision. Environmental: energy usage, waste produced, greenhouse gas emissions, land use Social: Community impacts, social responsibility, diversity Economic: community development, management/owner dynamics, customer satisfaction
  • Retrofitting Urban Apartment Buildings: Promoting Sustainable Living

    1. 1. Retrofitting Urban Apartment Buildings: Promoting Sustainable Living Presented By: Julie North University of Denver Environmental Policy April 22nd, 2011
    2. 2. Retro…what? <ul><li>Retrofitting: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The processes, products, services, and general innovative ideas needed to create and sustain better efficiency </li></ul></ul>
    3. 3. Background Info <ul><li>“ The United States, in regards to building emissions, are responsible for over 65% of energy consumption, over 30% of greenhouse gas emissions, 136 million tons of demolition waste and 12% of potable water use” (Fosket and Mamo 2009). </li></ul><ul><li>The City of Denver estimates there are approx. 6,330 (5+units) apartment buildings and approx. 80,859 individual units (Valdez 2011). </li></ul>
    4. 4. Foundations <ul><li>Urban apartment buildings house a larger population of people in a given area than a solitary residential home </li></ul><ul><li>Therefore, the ability to educate and empower that concentrated population of co-housing individuals about sustainable living practices is considerably better (and ideally more successful). </li></ul>
    5. 5. Objectives: Sustainability & Urban Apartment Buildings <ul><li>“ Bridging the Gap” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Increase awareness for property mgmt to receive info & funding for weatherization, energy efficiency, resource management </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Promote community participation through education and empowerment of tenants </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Pilot projects for local businesses </li></ul><ul><li>Overall Sustainability Report </li></ul><ul><li>Develop & organize template for Denver area neighborhoods </li></ul>
    6. 6. Sustainability Revisited <ul><li>Education is key… </li></ul><ul><li>Definition of Sustainability: “Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (Riley and Gadonniex 2009). </li></ul><ul><li>Triple Bottom Line Approach to Sustainability: People, Planet, Profit </li></ul>
    7. 7. Fostering Sustainable Behavior <ul><li>“ Those initiatives to promote behavior change are often most effective when they are carried out at the community level and involve direct contact with people” (Mckenzie-Mohr 1999) </li></ul>
    8. 8. Cost Benefit Analysis Structure <ul><li>Upfront costs </li></ul><ul><ul><li>How much a project will cost & how it will be implemented </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Grants, funding, and “legwork” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Repayment periods, incentives, rebates </li></ul><ul><li>Benefits </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Measured and/or unexpected </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Renters, Management Companies, Community at large </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Overall Sustainability Report </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Feasibility of the project </li></ul></ul>
    9. 9. Benefits to Renters <ul><li>Updated and highly efficient products and services </li></ul><ul><li>Extensive education-based “how to” on products and services </li></ul><ul><li>Empowerment of tenants through “hands-on experience” </li></ul>
    10. 10. Benefits to Rental Management Agencies <ul><li>Direct cost savings </li></ul><ul><li>Increased desire to become more efficient </li></ul><ul><li>Positive business advertising </li></ul>
    11. 11. Benefits to Community <ul><li>Local neighborhood receives: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>More informed and efficient renters </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Investments into local economy </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Data on rental retrofits/attachments </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>REDUCED CARBON EMISSIONS </li></ul></ul>
    12. 12. Current Projects
    13. 13. Dual Flush Toilet Converters <ul><li>“ Enhancing water efficiency involves a focus on products (such as water-saving plumbing fixtures) and practices (such as repairing leaks)” (Riley and Gadonniex 2009). </li></ul><ul><li>Dual-flush toilets enable the user to select either a full-tank flush or a half-tank flush </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>
    14. 14. Reduction Estimates *
    15. 15. Sustainability Report <ul><li>Environmental </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Impacts on living and non-living natural systems </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Social </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Impacts on the social systems within operations </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Economic </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Impacts on the economic interests of stakeholders </li></ul></ul>
    16. 16. Future Recommendations <ul><li>161 S. Emerson </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Community Garden </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Pilot Projects with local businesses </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Waste Farmers: Composting & Recycling </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Partial Green Roof/Solar </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>EPA & Denver Water: water conservation efforts </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Cohousing expenses </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>% of monthly rent goes to projects/social events </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Utlimately, neighborhood organization </li></ul></ul>
    17. 17. Future Recommendations <ul><li>Denver County </li></ul><ul><ul><li>City of Denver estimates there are approx. 6,330 (5+ units) apartment buildings in Denver County and approx. 80,859 individual apartments. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Apt Mgmt Co. & Neighborhoods can compete in becoming more energy efficient </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Apply for rebates, incentives, and pilot projects </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Better informed communities to educate Denver residents </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Provide “how-to” guide to promote sustainable objectives </li></ul></ul>
    18. 18. References <ul><li>Aalto, C and Wooley, S. 2011. SCORE. CU Environmental Center. University of Colorado, Boulder. February 23rd, 2011 </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li>Fosket, J., and Laura Mamo. 2009. Living Green: Communities That Sustain. British Columbia, Canada: New Society Publishers. </li></ul><ul><li>McKenzie-Mohr, D. 2000. Fostering sustainable behavior through community- based social marketing. American Psychologist 55 (5) (05): 531. </li></ul><ul><li>——— . 2000. Promoting sustainable behavior: An introduction to community- based social marketing. Journal of Social Issues 56 (3) (09): 543-54. </li></ul><ul><li>McKenzie-Mohr, D., and William Smith. 1999. Fostering Sustainable Behavior: An Introduction to Community-Based Social Marketing . Washington, D.C: New Society Publishers. </li></ul><ul><li>Riley, T., and Heather Gadonniex. 2009. Greening Your Business . New York: Penquin Group Inc. </li></ul><ul><li>Valdez, A. 2011. Phone Interview. City & County of Denver, April 18th, 2011 </li></ul>
    19. 19. Thank you Julie North DU Environmental Policy Master’s Candidate [email_address]