While appealing to eco-friendly Gen Y renters may be expensive and time consuming, the payoffs and savings are quite clear.

Developers can lower operating costs by being greener, and can raise rents by providing more convenience to their renters with more walkable spaces, according to panelists at the recent Multifamily Executive Conference.

“Walkable communities are incredibly important,” says Scott Ziegler, founding principal at Ziegler Cooper Architects, especially with the Gen Y desire to live in urban communities. “You need to make walkable spaces more meaningful.”

He suggests building communities where necessities are close to the tenant’s fingertips–not just close to transportation. Some highly-favored communities are those that include shopping centers below the buildings, and are just steps to myriad nightlife options.

“Renters expected these amenities thanks to the condo boom,” says Daniel P. Gehman, associate at Harley Ellis Devereaux

Further, with a boom in biking, it’s smart to have cycling options available for renters, including biking racks and shops. “We’re putting bike maintenance shops in most of our units,” Ziegler said, adding that the addition has been received well by renters.

In St. Petersburg, Fla., a new community called Tortuga Pointe, an e-urban efficiency building, touts lower operating costs thanks to its 87 percent efficiency. The building was created without hallways, maintaining surface parking on 40 units per acre. Having no concrete garage saved builders $3 million in development, and they were able to knock off 22 percent of its square footage.

In Kansas City, Mo.'s Power and Light district, commercial real estate developers eliminated long corridors typical in hi-rises, replacing them with smaller elevator lobbies to free up the center of the building for building systems and services. It improves efficiency while creating an inviting space.

The walkability of these sustainable developements typically offer a $301 month rent premium, panelists said, versus non centrally located communities.