Sentinel is committed to undertake programs designed to minimize the environmental impact of its assets, conserve energy, and reduce its carbon footprint. We have a full-time professional on staff to supervise our efforts to incorporate sustainability into our operations. He is an architect and a graduate of the Columbia Real Estate Development program, and has obtained his LEEDS certification.
Examples of Sentinel’s sustainability programs include installing dual fuel boilers and utilizing web-based software to monitor and control heating costs, installing showerheads and toilets which reduce building-wide water usage, utilizing energy efficient appliances and installing bamboo flooring, an environmentally friendly flooring material. Sentinel started to install electric car charging stations in our communities in December of 2014. The charging stations at the first property installed already have been charged 241 times in two months. This represents savings of 908.86 KG of greenhouse gases and 271.576 gallons of gasoline off the road. Adding more electric car charging stations is one of our major green efforts in 2015. We use ChargePoint’s built-in system where residents can simply start a charge, track real time charging status and receive notifications from a mobile app. It’s a great amenity to have in areas where electric cars are becoming popular. Starting in 2015, we will be providing residents with a quarterly sustainability newsletter on our property websites focusing on these new programs as well as energy and water saving tips for renters.
Sentinel’s portfolio mainly consists of multifamily communities in which tenants pay utility companies directly for their own utilities, which makes it difficult to track consumption. However, the apartment industry has discovered that sub-metering contributes to energy conservation. When residents are paying for utility consumption, they tend to become more aware of usage and want to benefit financially by reducing unnecessary use. At the same time that this practice results in the saving of electric and water usage, it also benefits the landlord in reduced costs. Where state and municipal laws permit, Sentinel has been transferring the cost of all utilities from the landlord to the residents.
Sentinel’s residents are regularly provided with “green” lifestyle tips and environmentally favorable programs including comprehensive on-site recycling programs, battery recycling, reusable shopping bags, bicycles for resident use and other site-appropriate programs. Most recently we have been utilizing third party vendors to provide “valet trash service” for the residents of Sentinel managed communities. The service provides individual containers and collects trash and recyclable materials directly from each apartment. This solves the problem for communities that have limited space for recycling containers as the valet trash service provider places the recyclables in appropriate containers, ensuring no contamination and increased recycling participation.
Our property managers, district managers, asset managers and regional directors work with our capital programs and sustainability professionals to identify areas of improvement for each property during the annual budget and asset plan process. During this process, the capital programs team evaluates the capital needs for the coming year, including assessment of energy efficiency items such as lighting upgrades, insulating strategies, replacement of windows/doors and HVAC upgrades. They also address water efficiency issues, including repairs to irrigation systems, selection of appropriate landscaping and improvement of pool systems. Unit upgrades are evaluated and are designed to include both energy- and water-saving components, as well as environmentally advantageous materials. Sentinel requires its contractors and suppliers to provide energy efficient and sustainable materials for all of its properties to the extent practicable. For example, we have a national relationship with Home Depot/HD Supply that incorporates many of the best practices for the industry.
Sentinel initiated its participation in the GRESB (Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark) survey in 2011. This survey is used by institutional investors to engage with fund managers and listed property companies to improve the sustainability of the global property sector. Sentinel’s funds reporting to GRESB in 2014 represented three of the 23 total US residential funds responding.