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“Green” Practices to Ease Future Financial and Budgeting Concerns.

Lisa A. Magill, Florida Lawyer, Real Estate AttorneyAs you have probably seen on T.V. or read in the newspapers, this is Earth Week.  That may, or may not, matter to you as an individual, as a community leader or as a property manager.

Regardless of your individual feelings about environmental concerns such as climate change or energy policies, smart decision making mandates consideration of comprehensive planning and utilization of techniques to glean cost savings associated with improving energy efficiency while reducing energy, waste and water consumption costs.  Thus, every community leader, member of a Board of Directors, and property manager should become aware of the laws, programs and opportunities available to reduce expenses of the community, especially in light of budget shortfalls.

While there may be a mind-set that believes it is too expensive to be “green”, that is not necessarily the case and, in fact, the opposite may be true. Community Associations may not be able to afford not to be “green” in light of the long-term cost saving opportunities.

H.B. 7135, creating the 2008 Florida Energy and Economic Development Act, received unanimous approval from the legislature last year. Goals of the legislation include stimulating the economy, reducing pollution and increasing energy efficiency (of course) in an effort to propel use of alternate energy and create “green” industry jobs. The legislation specifically imposes efficiency requirements for state buildings and directs the state to purchase fuel-efficient vehicles. It also continues state programs for solar energy rebates and creates funds for renewable energy grants. The State of Florida allocated $5 million in rebates to property owners that purchased and installed solar energy systems in 2007 & 2008. Changes to the Florida Administrative Code reduce connection costs associated with solar and other renewable energy systems as well as credit (offset) costs for creating power. Condominium Associations, therefore, may not only reduce their energy consumption costs by installing renewable energy devices, but actually may create a new revenue stream from energy credits. Condominium Associations are uniquely positioned to take advantage of these rebates, cost saving techniques and possible new revenue streams as a result of Section 718.113(8), Florida Statues, which provides:

Notwithstanding the provisions of this section or the governing documents of a condominium or a multicondominium association, the board of administration may, without any requirement for approval of the unit owners, install upon or within the common elements or association property solar collectors, clotheslines, or other energy-efficient devices based on renewable resources for the benefit of the unit owners.

There are plenty of examples of the “business case” for simple retrofits and changes in practices. Building maintenance and repair is an ongoing process and long-term considerations have proven highly beneficial. Some low cost improvements have a remarkably high return and implementation of “sustainable strategies” when tackling major renovation/repair projects are likely to increase the value of the property in addition to lowering operating costs. Some examples include:

FBI Field Office, Chicago, Illinios:

Total improvements and modifications lowered operating costs by more than $400,000.00 annually. Minor changes, including replacing exit signs and sealing connections for a cost of less than $10,000 resulted in annual savings of more than $25,000. The property owner was “paid back” for that investment in 4 months. An energy audit and resulting changes to the HVAC system at a cost of approximately $15,000 results in an annual savings of over $50,000! Simple landscape changes resulted in lowering water bills by $12,000 annually. How many of us would reject a 400% return on an investment?

USAA Realty Company: 
Lighting retrofits, installation of motion sensors instead of timers, installation of LED exit signs and window tinting at a cost of approximately $140,000 resulted in $71,000 annual savings. The property owner was “paid back” for the costs of the improvements in less than two years and now enjoys those savings perpetually.

Adobe Towers / Multiple Hi-Rise Office Buildings:
Major improvements cost initially over $1 million, but rebates reduced those costs by approximately $300,000 and the annual savings of $900,000 increased the value of the building by over $10 million!

Can your community afford not to reduce its future expenses?

I encourage you to share experiences regarding efforts on your part or the part of your association to improve energy efficiency, reduce waste and reduce water consumption, both positive and negative. Please check back for further information, tips and resources or contact us for guidance.


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