When Columbia, Md.-based Enterprise Community Partners made the call to focus on green housing in 2009, vice president of Green Initiatives at Enterprise, Dana Bourland thought the biggest hurdle would be convincing owners to go green. That turns out to not be the main issue. Instead, the hurdles are navigating through the process of making apartments more energy efficient. By stepping back and asking four important questions, Bourland says companies can make better decisions about where to spend their dollars on green. --How is your portfolio performing financially? A property's financial health can determine whether it's a good candidate for green rehab. “Where are those properties as part of their life from a financial standpoint?” Bourland asks. “Are they getting ready to syndicate or are they going to be in a position to recapitalize? You can’t look at it just from an energy standpoint. It’s benchmarking the property from a utility consumption standpoint, as well as a finance perspective.”

--What are you on site operating procedures? Before making huge energy investments, you need to know what’s going on at each property and have operations and maintenance practices. Enterprise offers a toolkit to help.  “Do you know what the plug loads are in the common areas?” Bourland asks. “Are you engaging the operations so that things are working as they should? Do we know if there are water leaks? Do we know if lights have been swapped out and water fixtures have been replaced?”

--Are the residents engaged in the property? It’s hard to reduce energy consumption without resident buy in. Bourland says Enterprise has a Green Leader toolkit to help out. “Do they understand what their behaviors are doing in increasing the utility bills in their property?” Bourland asks. “How are they engaged? Engage the residents and figure out what is important to them from a green living perspective.”

--Is there a need for a portfolio-level refinancing or capital infusion? With a couple of new financing programs announced recently, Enterprise can help provide funding for energy efficiency retrofits. “You can leverage additional funds if needed and make sure that you’re doing a substantive retrofit so that you’re really making good choices to have a benefit from the utility consumption and a health improvement perspective,” Bourland says. “Do a holistic green capital needs assessment, make smart decisions, and continue to monitor and make sure you got the benefit you were expecting.”