Bruce A. Percelay owns several apartment buildings within two blocks of Boston’s city limits, so he decided to make the area his own green oasis.
Percelay’s Boston-based company, The Mount Vernon Company, owns and manages seven buildings at the heart of the city’s Allston Green District, the city's first environmentally-focused neighborhood.
Percelay said besides doing something good for the environment, he wanted to attract good people to the area. “The tenant that is sensitive to green living is a more sensitive tenant and is, perhaps, a better tenant,” he said.
The Element, which opened July 2012, features eco-friendly living for Bostonians who want to preserve the Earth but still live in luxury.
While the neighborhood has its’ own designated stop on the trolley line, that wasn’t enough for Percelay. He wanted to give residents at The Element more green transportation options including four zip cars, two electric car charging stations and enough bicycle racks for every resident to have at least one bike.
The apartment building also has a bicycle sharing station, known locally in Boston as a hubway station. “They’re set up all over the city,” he said. “You put a credit card into this machine and you can take a bicycle and ride it.”
And even though about 60 percent of the tenants at The Element were drawn to sign a lease because of the environment, others didn’t really consider it, according to property managers. While a management company can offer as many options to residents as they want, they cannot force a resident to adopt the lifestyle. So, Percelay and his team began offering incentives to renters.
“Nothing makes a tenant more environmentally responsible than the pocketbook,” he said.
Residents living in older buildings are also encouraged to be more green by getting a bonus if they help management reduce the electricity costs and operating expenses of the building they reside in.
“Indirectly, they can influence the economics of living in the building,” he said. “If they are collectively responsible, they’ll all get a check.”
Residents in the newer, LEED certified constructed buildings have individually monitored water and electric meters, which tends to make the occupants more interested in how much water and electricity they are using each month, Percelay said.
He found that tenants used about 40 percent less water by paying for it themselves and that heating and air costs also declined by about 30 percent as residents self-monitored the utilities.
“So, on a warm day in the summer, the tenant is more likely to turn off the air during the day if they’re paying for it,” he said.
But The Element offers plenty of free amenities to try and get people excited about the movement as well. This coming spring they plan to start a rooftop vegetable garden among the luscious fields of recycled plastic grass The Element has.
“It’s completely voluntary,” he said. “If you want to use it, you can. We are going to try and divide it up by floor.”
While newly constructed multifamily properties can be built specifically to consider the environment, existing properties are also trying to encourage residents to adopt the green life.
One complex in Silver Spring, Md is working toward making sustainability a part of the culture in their buildings.
The Blairs, which are part of the Rockville, Md.-based Tower Companies properties, is just in the beginning stages of becoming more environmentally friendly. This year The Blairs staff sponsored a Christmas tree recycling program where 86 trees were taken for compost as part of a new composting initiative.
The resident compost program started Nov. 1 and had collected about 1,000 pounds of waste to be converted into soil by mid-January, general manager Alexandra Stickelman said.
“For a resident to do it on their own it’s about $30 a month,” she said.
About 100 residents in two buildings signed up for the program which the apartment complex tried to make more accessible by providing in-home bins and collection bins on every floor.
They’re also working to put together educational programming for residents and include a different topic of sustainability in monthly newsletters that go out to each resident.
January’s newsletter was the Carbon Footprint issue and gave residents facts and figures about emissions and carbon dioxide and also offering “carbon coaching” with one of the community program directors.
“Probably about a third of our community is not interested in it at all,” Stickelman said. “And that’s our goal: to get them involved, slowly.”