How Apartment Buildings Are Becoming More Sustainable

bottom up view of apartment buildings - how apartments are becoming more sustainable

You’re looking for a new apartment but want a place that is environmentally friendly. Buildings take up around 40% of the world’s energy consumption, but households who live in apartments use significantly less energy than households who live in single residential homes, so you’re already on the right track. Nevertheless, you need a home with electricity, water and a heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system, so how can you find a place that is comfortable but eco-friendly?

The world is simultaneously experiencing an energy and water crisis, with greenhouse gases continuing to drill holes in our ozone. In response, people are becoming more environmentally friendly to conserve the planet for future generations.

If you are one of 75% of renters interested in apartment buildings making an effort to go green, here’s what you should know about finding a green complex. 

The Challenges to Becoming Sustainable

Builders and designers looking to become greener face obstacles they must tackle to maximize the benefit of their efforts for the environment and their tenants.

Builders have begun using sustainable materials when working to be more green. Recycled items can reduce energy requirements and emissions by up to 90%. Careful consideration must be made to prevent pests and other issues from infiltrating your home, however.

Another issue apartment builders face when wanting to become sustainable is price. Eco-friendly products can save money in the long run, but most have a higher upfront cost that can be hard to manage if the builders work on a budget.

Though there are obstacles, apartment builders are listening to you and other tenants who want to live in a greener space and are trying to create more sustainable living arrangements.


There’s a heavy environmental impact in the production of metals and plastics used in building construction, in part because high heat is essential in their processing. This heat consumes energy and the manufacturing process emits greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Using these items for your home doesn’t take advantage of the raw materials already out there.

Sustainable building materials include wood and bamboo, but they can also bring challenges, including potential pest issues and mold. Builders must be aware of these issues to prevent and mitigate them appropriately for your apartment. Treating wood and creating moisture barriers can resolve these problems.

Builders are also starting to use recycled materials to construct their buildings. Recycled plastic and reclaimed wood can provide an eco-friendly alternative to traditional items like aluminum and steel in your apartment.

Low-carbon concrete is also more environmentally friendly than metal, as it works as a better insulator for buildings, lessening the need for more HVAC usage.


Lights are necessary, of course, but they take energy to use. Residential lighting takes up 4% of U.S. energy consumption, so this is an area where builders can make a big difference in energy conservation. Two leading energy-efficient solutions for your apartment are windows and light-emitting diode (LED) lighting.


Windows are excellent ways to provide light in your apartment. Sustainable builders are equipping complexes with oversized windows to allow for more natural light. This lessens energy usage by providing sufficient lighting during the day.

Natural light can also benefit your health by improving sleep and boosting vitamin D.

LED Lights

LEDs are the most energy-efficient lightbulbs currently on the market. They can be up to 90% more efficient than standard bulbs. These lights also last 30 times longer than CFLs and up to five times longer than fluorescent lights.


fridge and stove - how apartments are becoming more sustainable

At the very least, you need appliances to cook food, keep it cold and do laundry. Items that use electricity and natural gas take up a large percentage of your total household energy usage. Installing Energy Star-rated appliances is a great way for builders to ensure your apartment has efficient machines that meet federal standards.

Energy Star ratings come from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and are found on refrigerators, washers and dryers, heat pumps and water heaters, as well as ductless heating and cooling systems.

You can also look for apartments with CEE-tiered appliances if they don’t have an Energy Star rating. The Consortium for Energy Efficiency ranks products in a way comparable with Energy Star for energy efficiency standards.

These programs help the environment and save the money needed to pay for inefficient fixtures, making it a win-win situation for apartment investing.

Water Efficiency

Water is a necessary component of human life. You need to be able to drink it, cook with it and use it for hygiene. In many parts of the world, we use much more of it than we need, but apartment managers have found ways to make water use more efficient.

WaterSense features can save water and money. Like the EPA’s Energy Star system, WaterSense rates efficient water fixtures such as toilets, showerheads and faucets. These products can conserve over 700 gallons of water a year, helping the environment and saving on your utility costs.

You can even look into apartments using greywater recycling systems to increase sustainability.

Heating and Cooling

Another great way apartments improve efficiency is by using ductless heating and cooling. This type of HVAC system is commonly found in hotel rooms and requires no ductwork in the building.

The system works with a head unit mounted inside a room that goes to a larger base outside the building. The units are controlled individually to pull heat in or out to adjust the space to your desired temperature.

Another way apartments can be more energy-efficient is by installing thermostats with smart capabilities, allowing the automatic temperature adjustment to save power when you are gone for the day. These thermostats have sensors that can switch to an away setting when you’re at work or on vacation. This ensures energy is not wasted.

Recycling Programs

More apartments are becoming greener by implementing residential recycling programs. They provide easy access for you to recycle items like cans, cardboard, paper and plastic.

Some programs provide bins in each hallway or near the same dumpsters used for depositing trash. The apartment building will connect with a local recycling service to retrieve the items regularly. They will then advertise the program to you and the other tenants, encouraging you to utilize it.

Recycling provides many eco-friendly benefits, including reducing landfill volume, creating jobs and conserving natural resources.

Green Administration

Building managers and administrators realize their need to provide and promote energy-efficient practices for you. They should include an electronic rent payment option so you have the choice to go paperless. But they could also help coordinate carpools and educate tenants about how the building focuses on energy efficiency.

They can also implement cloud-based access control. Standard building systems require servers that consume a lot of energy and require maintenance. This can be avoided by allowing you to use a cloud-based access control that stores data in the cloud, avoiding the headache for tenants trying to access the apartment when a server goes down.

Building managers must invest in systems with proper security, so you know your information is safe when you use them.

Creating Sustainable Apartment Buildings

Building owners and managers must consider how to be more energy-efficient. Landlords recognize that being sustainable helps the environment, saves money and attracts tenants like you, who are looking for a green space to call home.

Accessibility and cost can impact a building’s ability to become as efficient as possible, but even those that can increase their efficiency slightly are sure to see the positive effects.

Feature image: Olesia Misty; Image 1: ready made

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