Category Archives: Upgrades and Amenities - Page 2

‘Green’ Bucks: Where to Find Them

By Keat Foong, Executive Editor, MultiHousingNews.com

Multifamily property owners who embark on energy efficiency retrofits before talking to their lender will be disappointed. Conventional lenders generally do not recognize projected, non-historical, boosts to NOI resulting from energy savings measures that have not yet been implemented. Down the road, however, that skepticism in the financing industry may begin to change, as more scientific data becomes available to prove the efficacy of green upgrades.

Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation (DB) took a step forward with respect to the evolution of green financing when it initiated a study “to encourage the financial industry to scale up financing of building energy-efficiency retrofits.” Commissioned by DB and the community development collaborative Living Cities (LC), Steven Winter Associates and HR&A Advisors prepared a report entitled “Recognizing the Benefits of Energy Efficiency in Multifamily Underwriting.”

The study has tried to address “a key bottleneck for private capital: the lack of confidence in energy savings for lenders to underwrite loans against,” states DB in a forward to the report. DB noted that New York City multifamily buildings have undergone green retrofits for decades but have relied on public subsidies, “a limited resource.” If successfully deployed, private capital could prove transformational.

“The purpose is to translate the world of energy efficiency into financing. Energy-efficient retrofits have been taking place for a time, but no one in the banking community has taken that into consideration when lending,” comments Jason Block, senior mechanical engineer at Steven Winter Assoc. Steven Winter focused on analyzing the building systems of the portfolio under study, while HR&A concentrated on the financing aspects of the report.

Sam Marks, vice president at DB, says that the company’s goal to “scale up” green retrofits creates an alignment between carbon reduction and DB’s long-time community development goals. “Retrofits reduce carbon emissions, and at the same time they can make multifamily/affordable housing better places to live for the residents. A more efficient building is also more comfortable, healthier, and more financially stable for the long run.”

The study compared projected versus actual savings as a result of energy-efficient retrofits in 231 mostly affordable projects representing over 21,000 units (91 percent of them affordable) in the five boroughs of New York City. The database was obtained from the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA) and the federal Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP). All the projects had participated in multifamily programs sponsored by either of these two programs, which provided a ready database of projects that had completed retrofit programs. “In New York, there is a good pool of projects that have undergone retrofits. Few had taken the time to go back to the buildings to see how well they did compared to their projections,” explains Block.

The study found that across the portfolio, buildings reduced their fuel consumption by 19 percent and electric consumption by 7 percent as a result of the upgrades. On average, buildings recorded $240 per unit in fuel savings and $50 per unit in common area electricity savings. Actual savings were 61 percent of projected savings for fuel-related upgrades, while the actual electrical savings were a statistically negligible percentage of projected electrical savings. Green retrofits included boiler replacements, boiler control improvements, windows weatherization, lighting retrofits and roof insulation installations.

Block suggested a few reasons for the greater fuel savings compared to electricity savings. Light bulbs may not be uniformly installed. And electricity use experience continually greater loads over time as more appliances are plugged in, thus reducing any apparent electricity savings from electrical-related green retrofits. In addition to greater savings on the fuel side, the study also concluded that fuel savings tend to be more reliable than electricity savings in terms of meeting projected savings. “We recommend that banks lend against fuel, not electricity, savings,” says Block.

Another conclusion was that the more energy that is used by a property initially, the greater the savings subsequent to the energy upgrades. “There is a strong correlation between how much energy is used before the work and how much the property will save,” says Block. The reason that savings are greater could be that there is more room to cut energy costs if the property is already overusing energy. (And it is generally believed that affordable housing tend to use more energy than market-rate housing.)

The DB/LC report recommends some steps for lenders to take in underwriting against fuel savings projections, including: benchmarking the building’s fuel usage with its peers’ to determine whether opportunities exist for fuel savings; developing procedures to ensure the quality of energy audits; lending to the anticipated savings recommended by the report based on a building’s pre-retrofit fuel use; and ensuring effective implementation and management.

According to Block, the study is applicable only to New York City buildings, which may have different building systems compared to other parts of the country, and cannot be extrapolated to other cities. However, “the methodology is transportable,” he says, and it is hoped that similar studies would be conducted for other markets.

As for the New York City market, Living Cities made a follow-on grant to the New York City Energy Efficiency Corp. (NYCEEC) to take the next step after the completion of the study. NYCEEC, whose mission is to support New York City’s green energy goals by developing “an energy efficiency retrofit financing market for private building owners,” is working with public sector entities to develop new energy-efficiency multifamily mortgage products in a pilot program that incorporates the lessons learned from the DB/LC study. Among its current offerings, NYCEEC provides direct loans to building owners to finance energy-efficiency retrofits.

Unfortunately, NYCEEC’s program also applies only to New York City buildings. And overall, the private lending market appears to be still uninvolved at this point. “There are some really compelling lessons learned from our study, although we haven’t seen the private market take up the charge to incorporate the lessons into their underwriting yet,” says DB’s Marks. The NYCEEC pilot program and DB/LC model might be important first steps in leading to the day when private lenders will feel comfortable taking into account future energy savings when sizing the loan.

The Lenders’ Perspective: Potential Benefits of a Greater Focus on Energy Efficiency 

■ Better energy performance creates stronger cash flow to pay debt service

■ The increased cash flow might allow for a larger loan or for subordinate debt

■ Energy performance improvements can benefit long-term asset value

Source: “Recognizing the Benefits of Energy Efficiency in Multifamily Underwriting”

Bring the Dry Cleaners Inside with DashLocker

Article found in MultiHousingNews.com

Sometimes a fantastic amenity is not a space, but a service. While the dry cleaner has always been a popular choice for ground floor retail as it is a service, I have always found it inconvenient to pick my clothes up during normal business hours. The exception of course is Saturday, when I would rather be off doing…well, just anything else really. But what if you brought that laundry service (not the actual plant) into your building, and it was open every minute year round?

You just might want to consider incorporating DashLocker, a 24/7 drop off/pick up locker-based dry cleaning and laundry service, in your next mid- or high-rise asset. The company, which offers revenue sharing agreements for building partnerships, will also make your apartment complex more competitive as the virtual concierge service is an amenity (albeit one that comes at no extra cost to the residents and management). Dashlocker even covers the installation costs and will maintain and support all lockers and handle all customer inquiries.

But just how does DashLocker work? Your renters drop off their dry cleaning, laundry or shoes into a secure locker any time, day or night. DashLocker picks up the items overnight and then services them with an eco-friendly dry cleaning partner. The clothes and/or shoes are returned next day for pickup at the resident’s convenience. Best yet, the registration is free and doesn’t require a monthly minimum.

The lockers themselves are easy to install and require little space. DashLocker typically supplies one locker for every 10 units. Each locker is 15” wide and 22” deep. Some quick math shows that a 100-unit asset would only require about 13 feet of wall space. It is hard to image an apartment building that doesn’t have 13 feet of underutilized wall space (sorry if I offended any architects). Furthermore, the system is tried and true as the concept already operates in several hundred buildings in San Francisco.

For more information be sure to check out DashLocker’s website. The video below explains a bit more on the details, though it is tailored more for a standalone  DashLocker location, two of which recently opened in Manhattan

Indoor Air Quality: Low VOCs, High Reward

By Barbra Murray, Contributing Writer – MultiHousingNews.com

Strictly defined, as per the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are pollutants that permeate the air as gases from certain solids or liquids. Substantial VOC content in products is, of course, a bad thing from both an environmental and health standpoint; but when it comes to indoor air quality, it is the VOC emission level that is most important in terms of monitoring impact. High levels can have short- and length-term health consequences ranging from the triggering of asthma and allergies to neurological disease.

“It’s incredibly important to make sure you’re limiting the chemical emissions in your apartments because they are such a small space and you spend a lot of time in them, so you are very susceptible to problems with indoor air quality,” says Mark Rossolo, director of public affairs for GreenGuard Environmental Institute, the certification body of UL Environment. According to the EPA, levels of several volatile organics average two to five times higher indoors than outdoors. And the list of potential sources of VOC emissions in multifamily buildings is a long one. This classification of toxins can rear its ugly head in products ranging from the paint on the ceiling to the carpet on the floor and any number of points in between.

For most, paint and lacquer are the offending products that come to mind as the most obvious potential source of unwelcome emissions indoors. As Rossolo points out, “Everybody understands that paint emits; you can smell it typically.” Yet today, in a growing number of cases, the “smell” can be deceiving. Paint manufacturer Benjamin Moore & Co. recently emerged from the lab with a new coloring method that, when integrated with coatings, adds nothing to the mix in terms of emissions. It’s a zero-VOC tinting method. “The gist of it is, we didn’t just make a low-VOC paint, we made a low-VOC system,” says Carl Minchew, director of Environmental Health & Safety at Benjamin Moore. “We had to take the time and make the investment in that technology, but now we have this platform of no-VOC colorants that are made for water-based coatings, and they actually enhance the performance of the coatings that they go into.”

Jim Carrillo, vice president of residential properties with commercial real estate company The Towbes Group Inc., eyes the potential long-term advantages of such a product for his company, whose 14 apartment properties became 100 percent smoke-free zones as of June 1—lobbies, fitness facilities, 2,000 residential units and all. “The turn cost—the cost that we incur to turn an apartment when a resident moves out—is a huge expense, and I believe that using low-VOC paint over a long period of time, combined with the fact that residents will not be smoking in the apartments, will help us reduce those costs,” Carrillo explains. “Also, we have a fair percentage of both seniors and children in our communities and just like going smoke free, it looks like all of the research is pointing to the fact that using low-VOC paint is also beneficial to the most vulnerable of the populations. I think we have to consider it.”

The walls are not the only culprits indoors; floors can also emit VOCs. Carpets can emanate 4-phenylcyclohexene and some vinyl floorings give off styrene. As is the case with paints, there are low-emitting alternatives, including modular carpet.  It’s not just the carpet itself that can be a problem—the glue utilized to attach the carpet is a potential source of high VOCs as well—but some modular products essentially kill those two birds with one stone. Environmentally friendly modular carpet and flooring manufacturer Interface Inc.’s carpet tiles all meet the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED low-emitting carpet criteria, and its TacTiles connectors allow for glue-free installation. “Its use in multifamily properties is a growing area for us,” says Mikhail Davis, manager of strategic sustainability with Interface. “There have been projects where we’ve done the common areas because of the heavy wear issues; we’ve gotten more traction there.” Still, the modular carpet concept in general has yet to really catch fire in the multifamily industry. “I think it’s mostly just the first-cost versus use-cost challenge,” he suggests. “Developers are looking at their capital budgets, which include buying the carpet. They are not necessarily looking at the lifetime cost of maintaining the carpet and having it look good longer.” The long-term savings come from the fact that modular flooring allows for spot treatment, so to speak, of stains as well as wear and tear. An individual tile can simply be disconnected from the group, removed, replaced and recycled. It’s the realization of the future costs savings in replacement that is slowly leading to an increase in the use of modular, low-VOC carpeting. “The green part of it hasn’t come that much into play,” Davis notes. “It’s not the primary buying criteria, but people are really excited when they find out about the low-VOC emissions after they’ve decided based on cost and performance and the other traditional carpet attributes.”

You can’t have it all; rather, you can’t get rid of it all. A property completely void of VOCs is akin to a picnic sans ants; they’re going to show up, so the real issue is keeping their presence to a minimum. The variety of low-VOC offerings provides numerous means of diminishing emissions. Even signage, like the “Management Office” plaque in the lobby, can be a contributor, as can cabinetry. GreenGuard has certified products in both categories. Low-VOC kitchen and bath countertop materials are readily available. The lovely couch in the lobby can also emit toxic chemicals. As reported in a 2010 issue of Japan’s Bulletin of National Institute of Health Sciences, a study of 10 residential furniture items and electrical appliances—including sofas, desks, refrigerators and desktop computers—concluded that sofas produced the highest emission rate of total VOCs.

“Energy efficiency is great but it really has dominated the green discussion and things like indoor air quality have kind of fallen by the wayside a little bit,” Rossolo says. But a low-VOC crusade, just like the green movement, could ride on the coattails of a much grander trend. “For owners of multi-housing units, if they can position their buildings as healthy or healthier, as opposed to green, we think they’re going to see a lot more traction because everybody can relate to a health message; not everybody buys the green message.”

Boynton Beach Multifamily Development Ready to Open $1M Green-Friendly Clubhouse

By Keith Loria, Contributing Writer – MultiHousingNews.com

Boynton Beach, Fla.—Seabourn Cove, a gated community of 456 townhomes and garden apartments in Boynton Beach, Fla., is opening a $1 million, 6,204 square-foot, green-designed clubhouse.

The development is on track to become the nation’s largest sustainable community of multifamily homes

“Seabourn Cove incorporates cutting-edge green designs, materials and processes,” Rick Lococo, Seabourn Cove’s managing partner, tells MHN. “In today’s economy, people want to know how much can they save in the community. I tell them an estimated 40 percent on electricity and 25 percent on their water bill.”

Seabourn Cove units range in size from 888 to 1,718 square feet and are comprised of one-, two- and three-bedroom residences with one to 2.5 baths. Units include single-story flats as well as two- and three-story townhomes.undefined

“In planning of the project, we looked to the National Green Building Standard gold rated design,” Lococo says. “We’ve used Energy Star appliances, reclaimed and recycled materials throughout, all low-flow water faucets (for a 20 percent reduction in water bills) and high quality windows with enhanced insulation.”

Seabourn Cove encompasses nearly 23 acres near the Intracoastal Waterway, and the clubhouse is situated inside the main entrance on Federal Highway, between U.S. 1 and Old Dixie Highway.

The clubhouse will act as a centerpiece of the community’s casual, active lifestyle, offering resort-style amenities including a racquetball/sports court, fully equipped gym, men’s and women’s saunas and a computer room. A clubroom includes a large flat-screen television, lounge seating and adjoining café with a bar for socializing and private gatherings.

“In the clubhouse we have hot spots so there’s free wi-fi for all the residents, a conference room, and a 1,100-square-foot professional grade business center with state of the art equipment,” Lococo says. “We have a resort-style pool with a 15,000 square foot shell deck with a gazebo in the back. You feel like you are in the islands back there.”

The clubhouse’s Mediterranean design is crowned by a barrel-tile roof, and accented with ironwork, tile floors and 14-foot-high ceilings.

A second clubhouse is being planned for the community and will boast similar sustainability features, which are the same aesthetic, techniques and materials found in its rental homes

Accented by hundreds of indigenous trees and plants, this community was created by developers Charles Funk, Jeff Meehan and Lococo in cooperation with the City of Boynton Beach as part of its drive to be the epicenter of sustainable living in Florida.

“On the outside, we touched on every energy-savings component that we actually could, as well as adding solar power roof heads,” Lococo says. “We have a dog walk, a kid’s playground and also the first eco-walk in the city of Boynton Beach.”

ENERGY STAR in the Apartment Industry is Good Business

by  – PropertyManagementInsider.com

Energy Star Partner Logo

In today’s environmentally conscious world, making a statement about energy management or, better yet, having an ENERGY STAR® label can elevate an apartment community to a better light when potential residents are seeking a new place to live or at lease renewal time.

However, under current Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines, only certain multifamily properties – specifically high rises – are eligible to obtain an ENERGY STAR rating, that little blue sticker synonymous with lower electric and water consumption. But non-high-rise properties may take advantage of EPA’s energy management program just by enrolling, says Steve Heinz, founder and CEO of EnergyCap, which publishes energy management software.

ENERGY STAR is Good for Business

For any property type, being associated with ENERGY STAR in some way is just good for business.

“There are a lot of individuals and companies that really value the environmental awareness, and ENERGY STAR makes a good statement to that,” said Heinz, who touted the program recently at RealWorld, the annual RealPage user conference, in Las Vegas.

Heinz says apartment property owners should sign up as an ENERGY STAR partner to get the ball rolling even if the rating isn’t available to them. The process is simple: familiarize your property with paperwork on the EPAwebsite, sign the document (preferably by a senior company leader) and appoint someone to be the point of contact.

The commitment is soft but does make a statement to the organization and the apartment property’s audience, customers, and employees.

“You’re not pledging to the Federal Government that you’re going to reduce your energy use by ‘X’ amount,” he said. “You’re just saying that my organization believes in the objective of the EPA and ENERGY STAR program to become more energy efficient and environmentally aware.”

Four Advantages to Becoming an ENERGY STAR Partner

Heinz says that becoming an ENERGY STAR partner or obtaining a rating, the crème de la crème of environmental consciousness, has its advantages for apartment owners and managers:

Boosts Public Relations

“It’s very good for public relations purposes. It makes a great story, and makes the statement that senior management is concerned about energy efficiency and that senior management has taken steps to build and operate this facility in a manner that’s worthy of an ENERGY STAR  label.”

By becoming an ENERGY STAR partner properties become eligible for annual awards and recognition by the EPA. The program’s annual awards banquet generates good press coverage and is a public relations booster, Heinz said. “If your organization is very aggressive in energy management efforts, you could possibly win an annual award which makes a very strong statement.”

Increases Resident Awareness

An ENERGY STAR rating helps increase occupant awareness of energy management by having a plaque or label in the lobby continually making that branding statement to your residents and those walking through the door for the first time looking for a new place to live.

Increases Property Value

Various studies have proven that the rating increases the commercial value of a building. “It will increase lease value, at least somewhat as various studies show that. The tenants will pay more to be in a building that they know is ENERGY STAR building because they they’re going to save on the utility bills.”

Energy management

Property owners, regardless of whether they have a rating, can benefit from the benchmarking systems available through ENERGY STAR’s Portfolio Management System (PMS) and Automated Benchmarking System (ABS).

PMS helps property owners manage an attaché of buildings and their energy usage. PMS is a repository for energy consumption data that properties can use to compare energy usage to prior years.

ABS is an electronic interface that makes transitioning energy data from one system to another much easier, eliminating hard keying of utility bills. There are about 50 different software programs that interface with the portfolio manager via ABS.

Whether or not a property achieves a rating and acquires that little blue sticker, becoming an ENERGY STAR partner is worth the effort, Heinz said. “There are a lot of individuals and companies that value environmental awareness and ENERGY STAR makes a good statement to that effect.”

What energy management steps are you taking on your apartment properties? Have you signed on to be anENERGY STAR partner? Share your experiences in the comments below.

 

However, under current Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines, only certain multifamily properties – specifically high rises – are eligible to obtain an ENERGY STAR rating, that little blue sticker synonymous with lower electric and water consumption. But non-high-rise properties may take advantage of EPA’s energy management program just by enrolling, says Steve Heinz, founder and CEO of EnergyCap, which publishes energy management software.

ENERGY STAR is Good for Business

For any property type, being associated with ENERGY STAR in some way is just good for business.

“There are a lot of individuals and companies that really value the environmental awareness, and ENERGY STAR makes a good statement to that,” said Heinz, who touted the program recently at RealWorld, the annual RealPage user conference, in Las Vegas.

Heinz says apartment property owners should sign up as an ENERGY STAR partner to get the ball rolling even if the rating isn’t available to them. The process is simple: familiarize your property with paperwork on the EPAwebsite, sign the document (preferably by a senior company leader) and appoint someone to be the point of contact.

The commitment is soft but does make a statement to the organization and the apartment property’s audience, customers, and employees.

“You’re not pledging to the Federal Government that you’re going to reduce your energy use by ‘X’ amount,” he said. “You’re just saying that my organization believes in the objective of the EPA and ENERGY STAR program to become more energy efficient and environmentally aware.”

Four Advantages to Becoming an ENERGY STAR Partner

Heinz says that becoming an ENERGY STAR partner or obtaining a rating, the crème de la crème of environmental consciousness, has its advantages for apartment owners and managers:

Boosts Public Relations

“It’s very good for public relations purposes. It makes a great story, and makes the statement that senior management is concerned about energy efficiency and that senior management has taken steps to build and operate this facility in a manner that’s worthy of an ENERGY STAR  label.”

By becoming an ENERGY STAR partner properties become eligible for annual awards and recognition by the EPA. The program’s annual awards banquet generates good press coverage and is a public relations booster, Heinz said. “If your organization is very aggressive in energy management efforts, you could possibly win an annual award which makes a very strong statement.”

Increases Resident Awareness

An ENERGY STAR rating helps increase occupant awareness of energy management by having a plaque or label in the lobby continually making that branding statement to your residents and those walking through the door for the first time looking for a new place to live.

Increases Property Value

Various studies have proven that the rating increases the commercial value of a building. “It will increase lease value, at least somewhat as various studies show that. The tenants will pay more to be in a building that they know is ENERGY STAR building because they they’re going to save on the utility bills.”

Energy management

Property owners, regardless of whether they have a rating, can benefit from the benchmarking systems available through ENERGY STAR’s Portfolio Management System (PMS) and Automated Benchmarking System (ABS).

PMS helps property owners manage an attaché of buildings and their energy usage. PMS is a repository for energy consumption data that properties can use to compare energy usage to prior years.

ABS is an electronic interface that makes transitioning energy data from one system to another much easier, eliminating hard keying of utility bills. There are about 50 different software programs that interface with the portfolio manager via ABS.

Whether or not a property achieves a rating and acquires that little blue sticker, becoming an ENERGY STAR partner is worth the effort, Heinz said. “There are a lot of individuals and companies that value environmental awareness and ENERGY STAR makes a good statement to that effect.”

What energy management steps are you taking on your apartment properties? Have you signed on to be anENERGY STAR partner? Share your experiences in the comments below.

Increase NOI by Setting Up Home Services for Residents

By Jessica Fiur, News Editor – MultiHousingNews.com

New York—In a recent webinar called “Ancillary Income: Enjoy Increased NOI By Helping Residents Set Up Home Services,” hosted by MHN and sponsored by NWP, presenters Chris Finetto of NWP and Jason Scutt of CSI and MyServicesNow demonstrated the benefits of bundling technology packages for residents. According to the presenters, by doing so, it makes it easier on the residents and provides ancillary income for the property managers.

“Moving is a daunting process—even for the folks operating the property,” Finetto said. “It’s a logistical ballet.”

According to Finetto, the challenge for property managers is creating an amenity or a perk for the residents without increasing expenses. However, he warned to do so with caution.

“Selling ancillary services can be a distraction from the leasing process,” Finetto said.

Scutt agreed that selling these services during move-in might be a little daunting. However he felt it was in the best interest of the property manager.

“[When they move in,] residents tend not to have the services they could and end up doing it on their own because it’s not in the lease,” Scutt said. “That’s a missed opportunity for revenue.”

In order to take advantage of the best deals, Scutt recommended studying up on the various companies offered at individual properties, since not all communities in a portfolio would offer the same services.

“Audit your revenue share opportunities,” Scutt said. “Use the audit information to create a baseline for your success at each property.” Another key to success with ancillary services is to make it as simple as possible on the residents. “It has to be easy, or no one is going to want to do it,” Finetto said.

Some of Finetto’s suggestions for offering these services to residents included introducing a concierge-based amenity, issuing a unique toll-free number for each site (which would also make sales tracking easier) and offering online access. Ultimately, these services should be an asset to both the staff and the residents at a property. According to the presenters, there are several benefits of offering bundled technology packages: it’s preferred by residents, it allows for revenue growth at the property, it’s a source of new income potential and it’s liked by the leasing associates.

“Moving is never going to be a fun experience,” Scutt said. “But we can make it a better experience.”

What Does Generation Y Want from an Apartment?

by  – PropertyManagementInsider.com

First-class amenities. A hip, urban feel – even if it’s in the suburbs. A strong sense of community. Stellar and fast customer service. And all at a reasonable price.

These are what Generation Y look for in an apartment, according to a panel of young industry professionals at the recent MPF Research Southeast Apartment Markets Conference.

The wants and needs of this particularly demanding generation have been hot topics among the multifamily industry’s senior executives, seeking to better understand this fast-growing segment of the multifamily market. To help find some answers, MPF Research assembled a panel of Gen Y’ers working in the apartment industry to share their insights with nearly 300 professionals at the September 18 conference in Atlanta, touching on the topics of development, operations, and marketing.

Development

To lure the 20-something crowd, apartment communities should be designed to facilitate their social lifestyles, the panel said.

“You need amenities to get people to want to host and that bring a sense of community to the property,” said Don Hoffman, regional director for The Worthington Companies in Atlanta.

Such amenities include a truly resort-style pool area (the term “resort-style” has been used too generously to describe even very average pools), dog park (and stock it with amenities like a dog-washing station), market-quality gym (small gyms with minimal equipment will go unused) and others that encourage social interaction.

“We’re all about being together,” said Tyler Washburn, design intern at the Dallas-based firm Humphreys & Partners Architects.

And these amenities should be prominently placed in public view, not hidden away at the back of the property, panelists said.

“Appearance is a big deal to us,” Washburn said. “You want to want to tell your friends where you live.”

But many developers have emphasized features that don’t appeal to Generation Y, the panel said. These features include video game rooms, movie theaters and sport courts. Business centers aren’t a draw either, according to panel members, who were also lukewarm on tanning beds and demonstration kitchens.

In addition, so-called green features are nice, but not necessary – especially if they make an apartment more expensive.

“The part of me that focuses on being green doesn’t translate to my pocketbook,” said Taylor Brown, development associate at The Integral Group in Atlanta.

Brown said he likes to bike or walk all that he can, but doesn’t want to pay more for green-specific features – a point several others agreed with.

Operations

Despite the differences between many senior executives and their Generation Y clients, at least one customer service axiom spans the generation gap. “It’s important to be responsive to residents,” said Jessica Sanders, community manager for Westdale Asset Management in Dallas.

And today’s young adults expect up-to-the-minute responsiveness.

“We want to know immediately what’s going on,” said Carolyn Lewis, recruitment manager for Atlanta-based Gables Residential.

For example, if there is a broken gate on the property or the water has been turned off for maintenance, Generation Y expects an email or text message instantaneously. Attaching a note to their front door “is not acceptable,” Lewis said.

That’s why apartment operators should embrace technology, the panel said. Generation Y is used to paying bills, submitting and tracking maintenance requests, and getting notifications online, through email, or via text messages.

The best way to embrace technology is hire office staff that “speaks to the type of lifestyle and sense of community you’re trying to create,” Hoffman said.

“You want people,” Sanders said, “who are going to relate to the clientele.”

Leasing agents and other office staff should be adept at communicating digitally, the panel said. Another common complaint among young professionals is office hours. Panelists said they often work late or stay out late, making it difficult to pick up a package or conduct other business at the property’s office during usual office hours.

“When we want to see office staff, it’s not going to be from 9 to 6,” Hoffman said.

In addition, community events should be planned with Gen Y’s schedules and desires in mind, according to the panel. They should be convenient for young professionals – held, for instance, off site and after usual business hours or on weekends. And operators should ditch the typical pizza-and-a-movie events – which panelists dismissed as boring.

Marketing

When it comes to Generation Y, operators should throw out traditional marketing strategies – and even some of the newer ones, according to the panel.

Bombarded by advertisements throughout their lives, this generation is skeptical of traditional marketing. To young adults, “word-of-mouth is everything,” Hoffman said.

The panelists said they don’t routinely use Internet listing services, opting instead for blog comments found through Google searches and descriptions in posts on Craigslist. After spotting a candidate, they usually visit the property’s website, which can be a positive or negative experience, the panel said.

That’s why operators should invest in their property websites, which Hoffman called a “front door for the digital environment.” To better their chances with Generation Y, operators should have a mobile version of their website to ensure it’s accessible on smartphones and iPads, Lewis said.

And while social media might seem to fit with their reliance on word-of-mouth, Generation Y doesn’t use it to find or select apartments. Instead, the panel said, social media is best used to foster relationships between the property’s residents and management.

Still, a poor social media presence can hurt a property in the eyes of Generation Y. Little interaction with users and infrequent updates reflect poorly on the property’s management.

Adam Zuckerman, acquisition associate at Wood Partners in Atlanta, said he had never checked his apartment’s Facebook page until recently – and found it sparse.

“If you’re going to have a Facebook page, be sure and update it,” Zuckerman said.

 

MPF Research will host a similar panel session, featuring members of Generation Y from within the apartment industry, at their Texas/Southwest Apartment Markets Conference on November 7 at the Hyatt Regency in Downtown Dallas. Details and registration information can be found here: https://www.realpage.com/apartment-market-research/apartment-market-trends/southwest-conference

Acoustic Ceiling Panels Enhance Your Amenity Package

Multi-Housing News Magazine

Valley Forge, Pa.—As the multifamily industry continues to redefine what complete amenity package means, it is important to consider the function of a ceiling in different settings. While sound proofing is definitely a must inside units, there are certain applications where it makes sense to provide an environment with enhanced acoustics. Media and screening rooms, business centers, lobbies, clubhouses and demonstration kitchens could all benefit from a bolstered environmental acoustics.

CertainTeed Corporation has responded to the growing interest from architects and the design community for seamless wall-to-ceiling surface designs with the new family of Gyptone BIG Large Format Perforated Acoustic Panels. The line includes four products, each with a distinct pattern of perforations and acoustic backing tissue. Quattro 41 features a square perforation pattern, while Line 6 features line perforations. Sixto 63 and Sixto 65 each feature hexagonal patterns.

All of these panels are made with 80 percent post-consumer and 5-percent pre-consumer recycled content and can be fully recycled into the manufacturing of new gypsum products. The panels are suitable for direct or suspended screw mounting and can be easily painted with a short-nap roller to coordinate with your community’s particular design scheme. CertainTeed also offers a complete grid system and complementary Gyptone ceiling tiles for each BIG pattern, which provides a clean, monolithic transition between vertical and horizontal room surfaces.

For more information on CertainTeed’s full line of products, visit their website at www.certainteed.com.