Safe Way

Properties with the SaferBuilding certification are seeing healthy rents.

When it comes to construction industry standards, “green” does not always equal clean. Developers and investors potentially can increase profits by selecting building materials that are safer both in terms of environmental and tenant concerns. Similar to how organic food commands a higher price, apartments maintained as environmentally friendly command higher rents from tenants who choose to live a healthier lifestyle. SaferBuilding.com , an online resource , has launched a program to help establish safety, educational, and certification standards for building/remodeling projects nationwide.

SaferBuilding.com tests buildings and remodeling projects for toxicity and has a certification program in order to make properties safer overall and increase their value.

Photo caption: The amenities and building materials in this apartment earned it the SaferBuilding certification.
Photo credit: SaferBuilding.com

Meeting the Standards

Properties that achieve SaferBuilding.com certification have increased rental rates ranging from 7 percent to 10 percent. For example, actual rents in a multifamily property have increased from $930 per month to $1,330 per month after remodeling according to SaferBuilding’s recommendations and becoming SaferBuilding certified. Rents were not raised on existing tenants but offered to new tenants after the remodeling was complete.

Existing tenants had new apartment rules that forbid use of chemicals, which leave a toxic residue on the property, such as pesticides. Interestingly, no existing tenants moved out or complained as a result of the restrictions.

About 38 percent of the rental increases are due to the property’s renovation and 62 percent are attributed to SaferBuilding conditions and certification. This number was gathered by looking at rents of other properties with similar features.

There are five categories within SaferBuilding’s certification program, including neighborhood, pesticides, walls, floors, and maintenance. To be certified, properties must qualify in all five categories. Each category has roughly 20 criteria questions. The online process is similar to property disclosure questions required for single-family houses in many states.

For example, the certification asks about what products have been used for termite control. Many termite control products leave a toxic residue after application, while some do not. The certification asks about flooring materials. Both new and old carpeting can exacerbate asthma and other health issues, while hardwood flooring generally does not. Carpeting is a favorite in multifamily buildings due to the price, but using hardwood flooring material and getting the apartment SaferBuilding certified can more than make up for the cost due to increased property value.

Developers can access the precise criteria by purchasing environmental disclosure and site packages, which include how-to guides. The packages are designed for commercial real estate experts and highlight the differences between traditional construction methods and SaferBuilding’s recommendations.

Multifamily Criteria

In multifamily properties, both common areas and individual units must meet certain criteria to qualify for certification. Builders can consult directly with SaferBuilding for assistance in selecting approved construction materials and methods.

In addition, developers can review neighborhood demographics to determine if SaferBuilding features may be a high priority for potential tenants within the market. In some neighborhoods, apartments with high-end finishes, such as granite countertops and wood floors, will rent at a premium and the high-end finishes are worth the extra cost. Similarly, in some neighborhoods, SaferBuilding materials and methods will rent at a premium and will be worth the extra cost. Properties will need the SaferBuilding certification to inform prospective renters since -- unlike granite countertops and hardwood floors -- they may not be easily detected.

SaferBuilding certification costs $80 per property, which includes marketing materials building developers and property managers can provide to prospective buyers and renters. For more information about SaferBuilding, visit www.saferbuilding.com.

Michelle Miller

Michelle Miller is the founder of SaferBuilding.com. Contact her at sb@SaferBuilding.com.


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