PMCs Achieving Sustainability in Multifamily Utilities Through “WEW”: Waste, Energy, Water.


Improving the operational performance of multifamily properties through sustainability practices is enhancing both their value and marketability.

Increased attention to a trio of utility costs that for years have been considered merely a cost of doing business is beginning to put money in owner and operator pockets. And there’s asset value to consider as well. Improving operating efficiency to the tune of, say, $2 million annually through utility management translates into a $40 million boost in value at a 5% cap rate.

And it all comes down to the basic necessities of apartment living and operation: waste, energy and water. “WEW!” as RealPage’s Vice President of Sustainability, Mary Nitschke, likes to call it.

Nitschke says targeting waste, energy, and water for efficiencies through new sustainability solutions is having a big impact. One apartment operator reduced waste recycling contamination fees by 34% shortly after implementing a new waste management system. Another implemented a leak detection solution based on smart submeters that saved 750,000 gallons of water in the first three months following implementation.

Sustainability solutions save lots of money. But they also serve as compelling marketing messages at a time when the number of residents seeking green apartment living is on the rise. A recent survey notes that 77%  say green living features save them money on utility costs – a savings you can promote as an amenity.

“Right now, many investors and lenders see sustainable properties as being more resilient and a lower-risk investment, which is why sustainability attracts capital,” Nitschke says.

Three avenues for making money

Waste, energy and water-saving solutions are the trinity of RealPage’s Sustainability Suite, which affords properties proven ways to become greener.

Multifamily clients are gaining better control of waste hauling and recycling expenses. Along with energy and water solutions that are expected to roll out in the first half of 2021, smart waste management is allowing properties to enhance sustainability status. In addition to saving money, Properties can earn the distinction of a Certified Sustainable Award, which signals to residents that their home is making a difference in conserving natural resources while helping to reduce landfills.

Waste: seeing is believing

Properties pay for many waste pickups that aren’t necessary because the dumpsters aren’t full. But this is changing. RealPage has the only solution in the market with all eyes on waste.

Artificial intelligence cameras are attached to dumpsters and take up to six images per day. The cameras and software alert site teams when issues arise, determine how many trash pickups are really needed and whether a property is paying for missed pickups.

The solution also helps identify contaminated recyclables that can be the source of sticky situations. 

Cities and states are levying hefty fines for contaminated recyclables. And those who don’t abide by a mandate that 50% of waste must be diverted into recycling can be fined up to $2,000 per property, per month until coming into compliance.

A RealPage client who was routinely charged for contamination installed cameras and saved nearly $1,500 in the first 15 days of service, identifying contaminated goods, and eliminating them from the recycling flow.

“This AI not only reduces costs by creating efficiencies in trash services, it also reduces the time the maintenance team spends resolving issues, and it provides visibility into how much clean recycling you have at your property,” Nitschke explains.

In addition to saving on fines, the waste management solution can easily pay for itself, adds Nitschke. The cost can be included in resident billings, effectively making it a zero-cost solution for the property.

Energy: sustainability through IOT

Launching in the second quarter, RealPage’s Sustain Energy solution will deploy IOT devices that give operators deep visibility into how their properties use energy.

Data will show when boilers, domestic hot water systems, pumps and HVAC systems need maintenance. The solution will also identify when a window is open and leaking conditioned air and determine when lighting and air-conditioning should be on or off. The technology will not require the expense of a building engineer, Nitschke says.

The IOT gives residents an opportunity to participate in utility demand response programs, where utility companies will reduce your electricity rates if you conserve energy during peak times of day. RealPage’s solution can help properties do this automatically.

Water: Putting a cap on waste

The Environmental Protection Agency reports that 30% of the water properties pay for is wasted. RealPage’s Sustain Water, which is expected to arrive in the first quarter of 2021, reimagines water submeter technology to reduce wasted water.

Currently, the multifamily industry only uses submeters for bill-back programs. But the new technology allows them to provide multiple readings each day rather than once a month for billing. These readings can help operators pinpoint consumption and identify costly leaks throughout the property, not just inside the apartments.

They can even identify problems before they happen and head off costly maintenance expenses.

“By reimagining submeters and deploying them in applications such as the pool, large irrigation systems and large hot water systems, we can detect and notify site teams of rising issues so the team can prevent events before they become expensive problems,” Nitchke says.

The solution also helps identify wasted money attributed to faulty meter issues or water being consumed someplace other than the property.

Like all  the suite’s sustainability components, Sustain Water is integrated into the Community Connect app, so residents can monitor their water usage daily and compare it to that of other occupants.

“They will have the ability to actively manage and reduce their water costs,” Nitschke says. “With these new “WEW” solutions, everyone comes out ahead – the properties, the residents, and the environment.”

Learn more about RealPage’s Sustainability Suite and how to achieve savings and an eco-friendly multifamily operation.

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