What to Look for in a Green Condo

There are countless reasons to prioritize environmental sustainability and energy efficiency when searching for your home, but should you look for an eco-friendly condo that you plan on renting out?

We believe the answer can be a resounding YES and here’s why:

Innovative & Quality Design – While green building is a relatively new field, it’s one that has a lot of science, technology and engineering research to back it up. And as green condo communities are still relatively new, you’ll find many architects and builders eager to show off their environmentally friendly innovations in these sites. Many builders embark on these projects as case studies for the future of building and take great care in their planning and execution. Materials and finishes are chosen thoughtfully to stand up to the informed consumer’s scrutiny.

Reduction of Annual Energy & Management Costs – Over the long term, you’ll see a reduction in your energy costs, from heating and cooling to water and electricity. This means the money in your pocket for the utilities and management fees you pay as a landlord as well as during untenanted times. These cost savings are also an attractive feature for your tenants. Recent data suggest green developments can cost about 1-4% more than a non-green counterpart but save you much more once built. And eco-friendly condos are certainly a selling feature when it’s time to cash out.

Conscientious Tenants – While nothing beats a rigorous tenant screening process, it’s safe to say that those who care enough to seek out a green condo rental are conscientious and informed.

Individual & Community-wide Health Benefits – Materials and finishes with low to no off-gassing VOCs (volatile organic compounds), lowered greenhouse emissions, and better water and air quality within the unit and building’s common areas mean better health for each individual and the community overall. This is an investment we should all strive to make.

And of course, taken together, all of this is good for the planet.

So what exactly do you look for when searching for a green condo? This list of features for the surrounding community, building and suite should get you started.

Community and Transportation

A commitment to a green lifestyle is not just about the home itself but how that home fits within the building and larger community.

  • Walkscore: When choosing a green condo, look for a location with a high walk score, indicating daily errands can be done on foot. This means quick jaunts to get groceries, to the bank, to cafes and to local schools.
  • Transportation: In addition to the walkable neighbourhood, ensure ease of access to public transportation. Ideally, the building itself should offer ample bike storage, car-sharing memberships and vehicle access, and charging stations for electric cars.

Building Design Features

  • Look for LEED: The Canadian Green Build Council has developed LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, which ensures projects with its Platinum, Gold or Silver rating have met certain sustainable performance benchmarks such as decreases in energy consumption by at least 25% compared to code. LEED certification evaluates building performance across 6 categories and is worth becoming familiar with.
  • Alternative Power Generation & More: Whether it’s onsite windmills and solar panels that generate energy, high-efficiency geothermal heating and cooling systems, or hybrid backup generators that will see the building through power outages, these are some ways green buildings are lowering emissions and energy costs and serving their communities. Living or green roofs and walls are a popular feature of green buildings. The plants provide insulation for the building while also purifying the surrounding air. Smart designs that make use of natural light will also cut down on electricity costs. Be sure to ask for a substantive list of the cost savings you can expect in the maintenance of your condo.
  • Waste Diversion: Look for comprehensive recycling and composting facilities on-site that are easy to access for all residents.

Suite Features

  • Low irritant/low VOC materials and finishes are important to the overall air quality within a condo unit. Research the finishes in use to ensure they make the grade.
  • Look for energy efficiency within the suite, like low-flow toilets and showerheads that work with the building’s overall water-saving plumbing. Energy Star appliances and good use of natural light will also save electricity. Likewise, in-suite control over heating and cooling means control over how much you or your tenants use and spend on utilities.
  • Ensure the suite’s ventilation system is bringing fresh, filtered air into the unit.

If you’re investing in an environmentally sustainable condo, do your research and look for the LEED rating, so you aren’t taken in by green-washing. Good luck and good for you!

Image courtesy Andy Aurthur

What to learn more about retrofitting your existing single-family rental home? Click here to read about how this makes good financial sense.

Sabine Ghali
Sabine Ghali
Helping real estate investors build wealth over time

Sabine Ghali, Managing Director at Buttonwood Property Management, Award Winning Real Estate Broker and an Entrepreneur at heart. Sabine is on a mission to help investors create real estate wealth over time in the Greater Toronto Area. Sabine is published in a number of media outlets, including Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, Toronto Sun, Entrepreneur, Forbes, and Gulf News, among many others.