Benchmarking myths Recently, Marla Thalheimer, senior ESG program manager at RE Tech Advisors, was part of a Senior Living Insights webinar where she shared how some of the myths about complexity or diffi culty in changing energy use can discourage managers from going after these benefi ts: Many think utility costs are part of the

cost of doing business, and can’t be con- trolled. But a large portion of utility costs are controllable. And the best way to fi nd out where these are is through benchmarking. Staying on budget is not the same as running effi ciently. When you proactively manage energy usage, you can uncover opportunities for signifi cant cost savings— which can then be used to improve net operating income or to reinvest into areas such as resident programs or staff retention. Age of a building may not be a big factor.

Although new buildings are generally made to be greener, factors such as the utilities mar- ket, location, and management can be more

important than age. A new building can run up costs if it’s not managed well, and an old one can be managed to realize savings.

Know your energy score Portfolio Manager gives access to more than 150 diff erent metrics on performance. Your community can also get an ENERGY STAR score, which “allows you to compare your energy performance to similar proper- ties nationwide.” The average score is 50. If your com-

munity scores below that, you have ample opportunities for savings. Any score lower than 75 means you still have some good ways to save.

A plus for business In addition to savings, there are other bene- fi ts to benchmarking, says Richard Nix, se- nior director of senior living sales at Yardi. “Today we are seeing a signifi cant in-

crease in green fi nancing programs off ering discounts for mortgages. These programs


With droughts and water limitations in some areas in recent years, saving water becomes more than a good thing to do— it’s a necessity.

As with other utilities savings, the place to start is benchmarking. ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager also provides the ability to track water usage over time, view usage trends, and watch for usage spikes. Visit portfoliomanager. for more information.

ENERGY STAR shares these ideas for saving water in senior living communities:

Open the communication. Make sure you have an easy process in place for staff and residents to report leaky faucets and toilets. A resident committee might be a good idea to help handle this.

A leaky faucet that drips at the rate of one drip per second can waste more than 3,000 gallons per year, the amount of water needed to take more than 180 showers.

Check your fl appers. Toilet fl appers should be replaced every few years. Before move-ins and after move-outs are a good time to double check operations. Use only the specifi c make for your toilet—not universal brands.

Look for water-saving fi xtures. Purchase low fl ow/ high-effi ciency fi xtures when possible, looking for the EPA WaterSense label. Changing showerheads can be an

adjustment for residents. Making a replacement as part of move-in preparation can be more practical.

Check fl ow rates in gallons per minute (GPM). You’re looking for showerheads with fl ow rates of 1.5 GPM; faucets with 1.5 GPM, pre-rinse spray valves with 1.28 GPM, and toilets with a maximum of 1.25 GPM.

Manage landscaping. According to the EPA, outdoor water use in the United States accounts for nearly 9 billion gallons of water each day mainly for landscape irrigation—and as much as 50 percent of this water is wasted because of overwatering caused by ineffi ciencies in irrigation methods and system.

Tune-up the sprinkler system. Ensure your irrigation system is property zoned and sprinkler heads are in good working order. When sprinklers are on, walk the property to make sure water is hitting landscaped areas and not watering hardscapes such as sidewalks and parking lots. Consider purchasing smart irrigation controllers to ensure watering only when it’s needed. And you can reduce the need for watering by using native plants. (See page 20.)

Fix a leak. The EPA’s annual Fix-a-Leak Week is March 16 through 22. The EPA provides resources to test for leaks and stop them. Checking your water usage during a colder month, such as February, when regular usage is typically lower, is a good way to detect leaks, the EPA says. Visit watersense.


usually require properties set up reporting in Portfolio Manager and send certain EN- ERGY STAR reports to the loan servicer on an annual basis,” he says. A score can also serve as a “litmus test”

for developers on fi nancial performance, he adds.

“Extensive studies have been completed

showing strong correlation between EN- ERGY STAR Scores, occupancy rates, and rents per square foot.” A good source for comparison and up-

dates is BuildingRating ( This international information exchange al- lows you to fi nd specifi c energy and bench- marking policies for your region, as well as a history of the policies and relevant media coverage, with a click on the map. It also allows you to compare several

states, cities, or municipalities. For instance, you could look at neighboring states to yours to see what policies they have in place and how long they’ve had them, to get a sense of the trends.

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