Engaging tenants in energy-savings initiatives

M&R Holdings' Randy Daiter provides tips for maximizing tenant participation
Monday, March 9, 2015

When it comes to energy and green initiatives, we all know tenant participation is critical. Randy Daiter, vice president, residential properties at M&R Holdings has been in the property management business for nearly 30 years. To maximize tenant participation and help drive success, we asked Randy for some strategies that work.

What are some of the biggest challenges property managers face when trying to implement energy and green initiatives?

There can be many but some of the biggest challenges include: tenant buy-in, effective communication, tenant participation and on-going cooperation. We’ve broken conservation initiatives down into mandatory vs. voluntary initiatives. Mandatory initiatives include items like: window replacements, lighting retrofits, variable frequency drives, electrical sub-meters, low-flow toilets, and energy star laundry equipment, while voluntary initiatives include things like recycling and organics. The way we approach these challenges varies depending on whether the initiatives are pushed-down from head office or hinged to tenant participation to be effective.

What are some of the engagement strategies that work most effectively?

At M&R, we implemented a 3-step engagement model that really works. Step 1: Sharing the vision with the tenants through newsletters, posters, special events, notice boards, letters and a tenant portal. Step 2: Listening to the desires and recommendations of the tenants. This is simple and has a profound impact. By accepting feedback, we not only create a relationship which allows for higher buy-in from the tenants, but it also reveals new opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise be considered. Step 3: Partnering with the tenants to develop a sense of unity and trust. Finally, it’s critical to repeat this model over-and-over throughout the project. By following this model, we have implemented our most successful initiatives.

What are some examples of your recent initiatives?

The first example is a mandatory initiative that involved window replacements at two of our buildings. Quantitative benefits included an estimated payback in under 10 years, gas savings between 27-29 per cent, a six figure increase in NOI, and a double-digit ROI. Qualitative benefits included increased tenant comfort, enhanced interior/exterior aesthetics and improved marketing efforts. The engagement model was comprised of a window mock-up, listening to the tenants and consulting with tenants for design and colour. Innovative ideas were brought forward from this model, including an access panel for Christmas lights on the balconies and magnetic curtain rods for balcony door windows.

The second example is based on a new recycling and organics program, a voluntary initiative we implemented across two buildings. Solid waste was lowered by 11 per cent in one year. Overall diversion rates went from the bottom quartile to the top (of 130 similar benchmarked buildings in Toronto), and there were less overall costs and odour. The engagement strategy consisted of convenience, student volunteers, enforcement and education. Enhancements included lowering the access to recycling enclosures for seniors; renovating chute rooms; setting-up information kiosks at tenant barbeques, enhancing lighting; installing canopies over pathways; the use of bin buggies and engineering sliding garbage enclosure doors (in lieu of swing doors).

Overall tips to encourage engagement:

• Engage and educate employees before tenants (builds a sense of pride and ownership)
• Explain the benefits before the project begins (builds excitement)
• Maximize convenience / ease-of-use (to encourage participation)
• Use multiple communication tools with consistency (tenant newsletters, notice boards, surveys, staff newsletters, online texts and email blasts)
• Measure results and repeat engagement model (sharing vision, listening and partnering)