In a green world, apartment renters are the last holdouts when it comes to recycling and other sustainability initiatives. But that’s changing thanks to a program currently being rolled out by the Federation of Rental Housing Providers of Ontario (FRPO).
FRPO’s 10 new Living Green Together standards are an addition to its existing Certified Rental Building (CRB) program and are designed to foster a strong environmental culture both in apartment dwellers and property owners and managers.
Ted Whitehead, director of certification for FRPO, said about one million Ontarians live in apartments. “These are what I call the last bastion of consumers that haven’t been brought into the green-environmental phase,” he said.
Living Green Together
The new Living Green Together standards will be introduced to all FRPO buildings through the CRB program. Currently, some 105,000 suites with about 250,000 Ontario residents participate in the program. The CRB program sets out audited standards for multi-family rental buildings and provides prospective tenants with a symbol of quality assurance when they’re seeking an apartment.
Whitehead notes that home owners are used to participating in green programs and are reminded to do so at every step. When the gas bill arrives, for instance, it contains flyers telling home owners how to conserve energy. Same with the water bill, Whitehead said. And placing out recycling bins is second nature.
The program aims to educate renters in apartments to become better conservationists and lower their consumption so that as costs rise, those don’t impact them on their rent going forward.
The 10 standards are comprehensive and encompass everything from the reduction of energy and water consumption to the introduction of recycling programs and education and awareness programs.
Each standard is established with clear goals as well as mandatory audit requirements. For example, under electricity reduction and conservation, members are asked to install energy-efficient electrical fixtures and light bulbs for use in common areas and within suites and to install Energy Star appliances and laundry machines.
The audit calls for documentation, including invoices and purchase contracts, to prove that the fixtures have been changed, as well as for evidence showing that communication was made with residents demonstrating how they can reduce energy consumption.
With the program, Whitehead said FRPO hopes to reduce the energy footprint of a building anywhere from three to 15 per cent.
One of the standards calls for an environmental champions program. That training program will help equip staff with the latest information on products and services that go into the environmental operation of a multi-residential apartment building, Whitehead said.
Under that program, members will need to accredit at least one employee as their environmental champion. That individual will then become an internal resource who will help promote the skills and knowledge necessary to operate the building in an environmentally responsible manner.
Whitehead said the Living Green Together program isn’t applicable to the province’s condominiums as the condo community has its own association responsible for its own programs.
FRPO’s own program
By the same token, FRPO decided not to go with the BOMA BESt building assessment module for multi-unit residential buildings. Whitehead said he didn’t believe the latter program was geared sufficiently toward front-line staff and resident engagement and secondly, FRPO’s membership indicated that they were looking for their own program.
FRPO is aiming to have all the buildings involved the program by the first quarter of 2015 and the respective property managers in compliance with the new standards by that time.
“We’re quite excited about it,” said Whitehead, who noted the program is attracting a considerable amount of interest from property owners, many of whom own buildings in other parts of the country.
“We’re currently examining the opportunity to expand the program across the country,” Whitehead said.
In a statement made earlier at one of the green initiative roll-outs, Whitehead said: “These new environmental standards actively promote the creation of a strong, environmentally-focused business culture: one where environmentally responsible practices and effective resource management help drive positive bottom line results.”