Carl Seville
Sharpe + Harrell Photography Carl Seville

As boomers approach retirement, many are looking to make a smarter move with their money, and living in a green community is one way to do it.

Oftentimes, the basic energy-saving features boomers are looking for in multifamily communities are the ones that are going to keep utility costs low and savings high.

“It’s not just a matter of green living,” says John Klein, principal and co-founder of Falls Church, Va. based JDM Associates, a firm that specializes in building sustainability initiatives. “It’s as much about saving money and being more efficient with the use of their dollars.”

Energy efficient lighting is one of the most prominent money-saving features that baby boomers look for in multifamily communities, says Klein. LED and CFL lightbulbs provide the same amount of light as standard bulbs, but can make a significant difference in a utility bill.

The Department of Energy estimates the annual energy cost of a single 12 watt LED lightbulb at $1.00, compared to $4.80 for one traditional 60 watt bulb.

Another major money-saving draw for boomers is the presence of Energy Star-rated appliances in units. High-efficiency refrigerators and freezers, and dishwashers or laundry machines that conserve water are all coveted green features because of the amount of money they can save tenants in utility costs.

For Carl Seville, principal at SK Collaborative, the addition of Energy Star rated appliances and lighting fixtures is worth the payoff.

“It’s a fairly easy way to have a certain assurance that the appliances are high efficiency,” he says. “It’s a very recognized label so there is a higher level of satisfaction with it.”

Replacing a 10-year-old standard clothes washer with an Energy Star model can put an extra $135 per year in renters’ pockets, as estimated by Energy Star.

Baby boomers are also looking for energy-efficient windows, heating and air conditioning equipment with high SEER ratings, programmable thermostats, and insulation materials that will keep expenses for heating and cooling low.

In addition to cost saving energy initiatives, Seville pinpoints the health benefits for baby boomers in green multifamily housing. Improved indoor air quality is a key component in efficient buildings—air filtration, moisture control, and low VOC materials improve the health of aging residents and make units more comfortable by reducing drafts and dust within the home.

As consumers catch on to both the financial and health perks of living in greener communities, developers are recognizing the benefits of building greener developments and repositioning existing developments to be more sustainable, says Klein.

Most market-rate developers are building to the National Green Building Standard according to Seville, who describes the certification as a manageable stepping stone into green building.

“It’s probably the least rigorous of the programs,” he says. “Most people find they can meet the green certification without an enormous amount of cost, and get the value out of it without killing themselves in the process.”

Regardless of the type of certification, green communities win the favor of baby boomer residents.

“It becomes a market differentiator,” Klein says of having a green-certified community. “Not just attract more people, but to retain your tenants so you reduce turnover.”