What Renters Want in Green Apartments

Author: Alecia Pirulis

Laptop on grass

According to a recent study by J Turner Research and Multifamily Executive magazine, apartment shoppers are increasingly considering green features as must-haves when searching for apartments. This is especially true for Millennials – those currently between the ages of 18-33. These renters are even willing to pay more for sustainability and energy-efficiency. According to a survey conducted by Strata Research in 2013, 64 percent of apartment shoppers said they would pay more to live in a green apartment.

Green features range from building materials and flooring and paint options to smoke-free buildings and beyond. Some are worth considering – others may be too costly or won’t make as big an impact as you might think. Here are some popular green trends to consider:

Apartment Features:

Low-VOC Paint: Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are toxins in traditional paint that release emissions into the air for years after application. And since (according to the EPA) indoor air is three times more polluted than outdoor air, low-VOC paint is safer (especially for those with allergies, sensitivity to chemicals, and respiratory issues) and reduces groundwater contaminants. Low-VOC paint is also better for the ozone and reduces landfill waste.

Why Switch: Low-VOC paints are very durable and therefore cost-effective. And, because these paints give off very little to no odor, freshly-painted apartments can be occupied sooner. When painting common areas, there will be fewer complaints about the odor – and it is safer for residents.

Energy-Efficient Appliances: This was the top-ranked amenity in the J Turner Research survey. Above all other green apartment features, this is the one improvement where you could see the best results.

Why Switch: Energy-efficient appliances save money – as much as $400 a year on utility bills.

LED Lighting: LED bulbs have come a long way in the last 10 years: they are more versatile, they don’t contain mercury, and they even offer warm lighting and dimmable options.

Why Switch: Because they last so much longer than the traditional CFL, they are less expensive to use when considering the overall life of the bulb.

Sustainable Energy: This ranked fourth in the survey. While not as easy or inexpensive as LED lighting and energy-efficient appliances, solar and wind are still worth considering.

What to Watch: Keep an eye on California’s VNM (Virtual Net Energy Metering) program – the results have been impressive and could indicate a future trend.

Community Features:

The Three Rs: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Recycling programs are very popular with Millennial renters – apartments that have a recycling program ranked third in the survey.  And while they don’t necessarily want a composter in their apartment, a community composting area is very attractive to these apartment shoppers. Another important feature you might want to consider: rainwater collection for use in landscape maintenance.

Green Maintenance: Environmentally-friendly cleaning products and pest control can eliminate health and safety concerns and improve air quality. To go green-maintenance, look for cleaning products and supplies that meet the Green Seal standards, and switch to multi-use cleaners in concentrated formulas to help reduce the amount of cleaning products in use.

Smoke-Free Buildings: Since smoke can get into apartments from somewhere else, many residents experiencing secondhand smoke are bothered enough to consider moving. According to the CDC, secondhand smoke causes between 38,000-65,000 deaths each year in the US. Smoke-free buildings also have a reduced fire risk.

Low-Flow Toilets: Low-flow toilets do save water – and money. But they scored last among the must-haves in the survey, and some residents even complained about them.

Community Gardens: Community gardens are catching on in popularity, but this amenity still isn’t considered a priority among apartment shoppers. Surprisingly, less than 5 percent of those surveyed said they would use the community garden.


Walkability: Second only to energy-efficient appliances, those who participated in the survey said walkability was one of their main considerations when apartment hunting.

Bicycle Storage: Millennials tend to prefer alternative forms of transportation: walking, public transportation, and biking. Bike racks and bike storage are highly desirable for this reason.

Charging Stations: Nearly 20 percent of those surveyed said they hope to buy an electric car in the next five years – and that number is expected to increase. Looking for a great way to attract those not-so-far-in-the-future apartment shoppers?  Install charging stations.