With 35 regional offices, 300-plus properties, and 77,000 units in 29 metropolitan markets, Alliance Residential Co., the nation’s seventh-largest management firm, maintains a lot of real estate. And while that real estate makes Alliance a strong company for years to come, its focus in recent years on conserving water and energy affects more than the organization’s bottom line: It helps the environment, too.
To highlight its efforts, Alliance published its Citizenship and Sustainability Report earlier this month. Kelly Vickers, Alliance’s national director of sustainability, says the company wants to share its efforts with employees, residents, and the public to spark awareness and further drive performance across the organization.
“It’s a really great way to pull together everything we’ve done,” she says; “share our story in one cohesive way, and celebrate what our accomplishments are. But also, I think it’s a really great opportunity to identify areas in need of improvement and recalibrate our efforts.
“One of the big drivers behind our report was being transparent about what's working and also what isn’t working,” she continues. “It allows us to share what we are doing and then, hopefully, inspire other companies to maybe learn from what we’ve experienced as well as help us continue learning and growing as an organization."
A whole week devoted to leaks
For the past two years, Alliance has asked its properties to participate in Fix-a-Leak Week, which the Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense program promotes. As part of the campaign, maintenance associates complete a checklist to detect and repair any and all leaks on their property.
Vickers, who started with the company in 2007 as a regional training director, says the number of participating properties increased this year to about 25, and the number of leaks fixed rose by more than 400%. “Oftentimes they’re the kind of leaks that are very small and might not seem like a big deal or may even go unnoticed,” she says, “but when they’re coupled together at one property and across an entire portfolio, it results in an enormous amount of wasted water, not to mention potential property damage.” Alliance hasn't yet measured the amount of water it's saved through this program, but it's working on adding this metric for next year's campaign, Vickers says.
In drought-stricken California, Alliance switched to high-efficiency, 0.8 gallons-per-flush toilets in five of its properties and saw big results, according to its report, including more than 5 million gallons of water saved per year at a 354-unit community.
A bright idea
To become more energy efficient, Alliance has set a goal to reduce its overall energy consumption by at least 10% this year and included energy-friendly projects in each of its property’s five-year capital plans. However, the report notes, more than 75% of Alliance’s portfolio is fee-managed, meaning approval of energy-efficient investments must be OK'd by individual ownership groups. “Open and ongoing dialogue outlining a solid argument as to why sustainability-related projects are a sound investment will always be of great importance,” it says.
At its property Monarch at Shadowridge, in Vista, Calif., Alliance has implemented water- and energy-saving measures with help from HD Supply’s ideallygreen team. The project included upgrading nearly 3,000 incandescent lights with LED bulbs and replacing 234 bathroom faucets that use less water. After a rebate program offered by San Diego Gas & Electric, the price tag for the project was $3,700, which was the sales tax on the new bulbs. Alliance says the upgrades combine for $110 in savings per unit and conserve about 600,000 gallons of water per year.
Alliance Residential Sustainability Report Chart
Alliance has worked hard to embed sustainability into company culture, Vickers says. “We’ve layered sustainability into our annual performance reviews, as part of our training program, [and] through annual campaigns and quarterly reporting so that it’s part of [employees’] jobs,” she says. “It’s important to us that sustainability is a natural part of everything we do. And this is an evolving process."
Vickers says she’d like to get more properties, employees, and residents involved in sustainability efforts moving forward. “A lot of this is just an ongoing conversation,” she says. “You have to continually communicate why something is important and make it meaningful.”