Environmental Sustainability and Urban Revitalization
I wasn't born an environmentalist. However it seems only logical that our society is not going to be be able to live off our fossil fuel driven system forever.
In the past, urban areas were neglected, and the ring of new development into suburban tract housing would develop outside of core cities, now in many urban areas there are second rings of development, degrading the former older suburbs. This is is no-win scenario. Fixed infrastructure, such as utilities, and roads are getting spread over a larger area, thus increasing taxes and expenses for everyone.
I am not against new buildings, especially if they are built to last. However, we need to avoid the throw away mentality. Often the older communities would have the best built buildings. What I do is buy older properties that have intrinsic value, and repair them for long term use.
The continuous expansion of suburbia is slowly becoming unsustainable and is definitely less efficient. This is why we are seeing a steady improvement, and repair existing urban areas. I see this in nearly all cities in Michigan, and in Lansing. Urban revitalization is occurring as we are more intelligent at allocating our limited resources. People are also working on living near thier workplace, this is the best way to decrease enviormental impact. Dense cities are efficient.
If you have ever been to Europe, they build stuff right there.
Below is some of my thoughts about housing and properties:
I hate carpet, and so should you.
Carpet is bad for you. It creates its own dust, keeps a lot of dust around, collects dirt, and cannot be effectively cleaned. You'll have more allergies in houses with carpet. It is also usually manufactured with a lot of chemicals, including formaldehyde, and is usually an oil base product. Carpet is often replaced every few years (especially in rentals), which wastes resources, and and chews up space in landfills. It is also expensive to transport. Carpet sucks.
On the other hand hardwood and tile floors are nice, easy to maintain, and last forever, and there is no dust in them, and they look great.
If you want carpet, buy a nice good rug, plus you can take it with you. Good rugs are awesome.
Build it once and then you don't have to build it again.
Often, the style of construction in the U.S. does not seem to be sustainable in the future. Many houses are being built for our throw-away society. Contrasting this, is the way with the way buildings are built in much of the rest of the world, especially in Europe. Their buildings are often built with the expectation that they are going to last hundreds of years or more.
However, not all housing in the U.S. is built with low quality. In particular many older houses are built right. Some newer houses are built well, however this is less common.
I buy houses that have intrinsic value, that are well built and will last a long time, and then I fix them up. Build it right and you do not have to build it again. This is the best way to ensure that the environmental impact of housing is lowered.
Minimizing the energy impact of housing:
Many people support new advanced technologies like wind, solar and other renewables. These technologies are all fine and dandy and are great options to replace fossil fuel driven society as thesepower generation systems are implemented. That being said people usually look at whiz-bang technologies to solve many issues, and overlook the basics.
Housing uses over a third of the energy in the U.S. The simple fact is with todays technology we all use fossil fuels. The best investment is to not use them in the first place, and the most cost effective thing is to heavily insulate our homes and use efficient furnaces, water heaters and appliances. Many landlords scrimp on the cheapest appliances and heaters because they don't care and they are not paying the utilities anyways.
We do things differently; we make substantial investments in our properties to get them to the latest energy efficieny standards.
Sure this stuff costs a bit more, but we hope you will see the value, you are probably paying a lot less in utilities than where you would elsewhere because of this.
Insulation and Windows
Unlike many things in modern construction, one major thing that has advanced in recent decades is insulation and windows, so we always try to focus our investment dollars in these areas. Insulation is important on a house, particularly older houses that were built before insulation. Windows are expensive to replace and 85% of all units that we own have had them replaced. Some of our properties have very high quality original wood windows that are reasonably efficient. However, the fact is that long run even though we would prefer to keep original high quality windows, the fact is that modern windows are so much better that even the best older windows.
Efficiency of Heaters and Appliances
Appliances consistently use electricity. Heaters, including water and air heaters also have come a longer way to becoming more efficient. However, we are now standardizing on 90% or 95% percent efficient heaters. Current government regulations require a minimum of 80% efficient heaters. The bottom line for you: less carbon out, and at a 20%-30% lower heat bill that what you wil see at other loations. Stoves and Dryers: We veer heavily to natural gas stoves, water heaters and clothes dryers. These are far more efficient at creating heat than electricity and less costly, and also have an overall lower enviromental and carbon load. Most power plants are fossil fuels, and even the newer systems are natural gas. It is far less efficent to burn natural gas at a power plant, convert it to electricity, transport it to your house and then use electricity for heating. It is far more efficient to use the gas in your house at the point you need it and not waste the energy doing an unneccessary conversion from gas, to electricity to heat. It is more efficient to go from gas to heat that putting another technology (electric) in the middle.
Although nearly all siding is a oil based product, all paint is also oil based. Thus if we are going to use the oil product we want the one that is going to last a very long time. Putting siding on is often better and more environmentally sound, and economically, efficient than repainting the outside of a house over time. Good vinyl siding lasts 25+ years. Where a paint job is only 5 years or so.
Long Term Goal of Sustainable Housing
I consistently upgrade my houses, and substantially re-invest the profits back into my houses.
However, not everything can be done at once. This is due to the reality of costs to do all of these upgrades, and prioritizing things that need to be done on houses in operation. What you will know from renting from me is that I focus significant effort going forward towards improving housing stock so that we can minimize future environmental impact.
In general these are the main priorities we have: