When it comes to how sustainability and environmental friendliness play into renting apartments, maybe consumers are just a little bit bipolar. While cognizant of how green building features reduce energy usage and save the planet, renters have traditionally been wary of any price premiums associated with greener apartments and have shown little inclination to pay higher rents for sustainability features. Just give them time, says Evan Matzen, sustainability manager for San Diego–based HD Supply Facilities Maintenance division. While showing a similar dichotomy in the perceived cost versus value of green apartments, new research conducted by San Diego–based Strata Research for HD Supply suggests that budget-bruised consumers aren’t just looking for ways to cut costs—they’re beginning to recognize the savings in renting more energy-efficient apartments, too, even as they still seek to “do the right thing” by going green.

According to the survey of 1,053 consumers, conducted last year, cost efficiency and reduced energy use rank as the second- and fourth-most popular reasons for choosing an environmentally friendly apartment (“good for the earth” and “environmental responsibility” came in first and third, respectively). And 62 percent of respondents likewise reported that their apartment’s environmental friendliness was an important factor in choosing a place to live. “With the current state of the economy, reducing utility costs is a top priority for many households, and, according to this survey, renters place a higher value on an apartment community that will help them reduce those costs,” says Matzen. “With these survey results, we have a direct value link between in-unit conservation measures and increased owner revenues.”

Still, cost seems to be a lingering issue, particularly for those who don’t see renting an environmentally friendly apartment as important, citing affordability (32 percent) and increased ex­penses (25 percent) as the main reasons for their disinterest. Among green-minded renters, 53 percent said they would “consider” paying more in monthly rent for environmentally friendly features, but only 8 percent of that group indicated that they “definitely” would.

“As time has gone by, the resident has moved past the new features of the upgrades and now expects the landlord to simply furnish them as part of sustainable operations,” says Doug Walker, president of property management at Denver-based Nakota Development and former sustainability chief at Highlands Ranch, Colo.–based REIT UDR. “?‘Why should I pay you to do what you should be doing anyway? I don’t pay extra for a door that locks,’ is the renter’s reasoning. Sustainability is simply becoming expected.”

But still not cracking the upper pantheon of resident desires, it seems. When Stratus asked respondents what features were most important in choosing their apartment, energy efficiency and sustainability lingered mid-pack. The top requests? Bigger closets and more storage space.