Why maintenance needs to be viewed as strategic

April 22, 2017

Greatest Wasted Loss in Multifamily Property – Water

The population is steadily increasing, and with that comes the constant influx of housing. Multifamily properties are responsible for a large percentage of energy usage in cities throughout the country and world.  According to The Atlantic Cities, “2 percent of New York’s properties account for 48 percent of the city’s energy use. And about 75 percent of the city’s largest buildings are multi-family residential properties, many of which are highly inefficient”.

Mandatory energy benchmarking is being implemented in major cities throughout the United States and is crucial for the longevity and sustainability of our planet. With the water costs rising, it has never been more important to make the switch to more efficient water distribution and plumbing fixture solutions. According to PBS, the average monthly water bill in America is $120 and researchers at Michigan State University predict this number to rise by $49 over the next five years. A survey of 30 major U.S cities discovered that water bills rose by 41 percent just between 2010 and 2015. Water and sewer costs in Chicago more than doubled during this same period of time. This rise is impacting both households and multifamily property owners, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. The good news? There are cost-effective solutions to control this.

Why is it that we are only now aware of these issues? Historically, water costs were so low that it was pretty much ignored.  Since this was off the radar of most property owners, it was heavily neglected and we are now paying the costs of old inefficient systems along with increased water demand and usage.

Illinois is currently experiencing these impacts first hand. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has proposed a new utility tax over the next four years that will increase the average homeowner’s water and sewer bills by $226 per year (or about $2.51 per every 1,000 gallons of water used). By the end of the four years, the proposal would add up to a 30% tax on water and sewer bills. Unfortunately, there are currently no rebates or incentives to help promote switching to more efficient solutions.  

Water systems in multifamily properties are rapidly becoming the most expensive component of building and property maintenance. Without incentives and rebates, it is in the hands of the property owners to tackle these issues. It is not a matter of if your water system will need replacing, it is when. There is no reason to wait for catastrophic failure to replace or upgrade. Switching to more efficient water solutions will greatly reduce your utility costs while helping put more money in your pocket. By reducing consumption, you can effectively counteract the rising water costs and in many instances reduce your costs. In addition to the utility savings, these new high-efficiency water systems often have a longer lifespan than traditional systems, requiring less maintenance and ultimately happier tenants and environment.

It is time to stop associating building maintenance as an issue and view it as a strategy that can be leveraged to improve infrastructure, bottom line, and environment.