Going Green In Property Management - with Barry Manuel

Going Green in Property Management – With Barry Manuel

Episode 68

What do you think about when you hear the term ‘sustainable property’? Is it just a pipe dream or too expensive? Barry Manuel from MEB Management Services joins us to share how they drive sustainability in significant ways, starting with small changes.

Host(s): Jonathan Saar from Market Me Social and Mark Howell from Howl Creative Concepts

Guest: Barry Manuel from MEB Management

Show Highlights

In recent years, sustainability has become less of a trend and more of an expectation. More people are conscious of their carbon footprint than ever before and want to do more to waste less. So how can property management companies get started and keep going to make the needed changes that can attract both new talent and new residents? This article will highlight how MEB got the ball rolling and has never looked back.

Key Questions/Topics Covered

MEB Management Services – Steps to going green in property management

It’s important to note that the size of your company will determine your approach to going green. Larger companies can outsource their green initiatives to consultants that can create a plan for them. On the other hand, moderate-sized companies may need to take a more internal approach. For MEB, they sat down and developed a two-faceted method by focusing on short-term and long-term goals.

Once their initiatives were clearly defined, they began to reach out to other like-minded companies to help them achieve their short-term goals. For example, they partnered with MEEP (Multifamily Energy Efficiency), which distributes energy-efficient LED lightbulbs for free directly to your onsite team for installation.

Another example would be the program run by IREM. You can become a certified sustainable property via this program. Once you have applied, IREM supplies you with a packet you work through. Upon completion, you receive your credentials and hardware that can be utilized around your building, showing people that your company is focused on green efforts and sustainability.

Data collection is the focus of MEB Management’s long-term goals. Partnering with third-party companies helps them collect the necessary information and create reports on energy consumption, allowing them to move forward with creating a sustainable ecosystem. While this is a work in progress and more complex, the program is already showing promise.

Going green attracts the right people

Part of running a successful property management company is attracting the right people—be it residents or employees. On the employee side, MEB has experienced that new generation hires almost always have an expectation that the company they work for is focused on sustainability. In addition, most existing employees were interested in making necessary changes and were eager to get involved.

From the resident aspect, MEB has seen growing interest in its two newest building projects. These homes are being built with sustainable building materials and solar panels. The communities will boast EV charging stations throughout the property. State-of-the-art tech is also being employed to monitor consumption to ensure maximum efficiency. Despite having a higher price point than a standard home, MEB’s interest list is growing daily.

Cost of going green

We all know that any project still needs to consider the bottom line, and yes, going green and using eco-friendly building materials can cost more up front. However, many programs and financial incentives are available that not only defer some of these costs but also boost your ROI in the long run. Even if you are not looking to get involved in an entirely new build, retrofitting existing buildings doesn’t have to break the bank. Consider smaller steps that your community can employ—energy-efficient lighting or a community recycling program. While seeming small, these steps can have a huge impact and help your community enjoy being personally part of the solution.

Help your team to go green

We all know the benefits of working towards a more sustainable future. But some might wonder how to get started with their team. How to get the proverbial ball rolling. It begins with a conversation. For MEB, they found that many of their staff were already personally invested in sustainability and practicing it in their homes. Also, having an understanding that sustainability is not a one-and-done scenario; it needs to be an ever-evolving process. These stepping stones created an excellent foundation and room for growth. Now it’s time to have fun or, as Barry put it, gamification. MEB has found ways to tap into the friendly competitive spirit of its people and create challenges that, while fun, are driving sustainable practices. One of these challenges resulted in removing single-use plastic bottles, with staff opting for reusable bottles instead. A small change, yes, but one with lasting environmental benefits.

Sustainability doesn’t need to be daunting or overwhelming. Getting involved in green initiatives can better yourself and your community, even in small ways. So get the conversation started with your team and see what changes you can make today to focus on a better future.

Class dismissed!

Jonathan (00:15): Well, hello everyone. Welcome to episode 68 of the Juvohub podcast. Juvohub is your helping hand in property management education. So thank you for being here. My fantastic co-host is on a boat somewhere is this week, so I'm glad he's getting a little R and R so it'll be just me. And one of our fantastic guests, we look forward to interviewing and interviewing him and talking to him in just a brief moment. So thank you for being on the show. Please remember to connect with us on your favorite podcast station and follow us on our Instagram account at Juvohub. So thank you again for being here. So let's welcome Barry Manuel CIO of MEB Management. Barry, how are you, sir? Thank you so much for being on the show today.

Barry Manuel (01:04): Doing well and thank you for having us. We're really excited about the opportunity to share with your listeners, some of the things that MEB is doing along sustainability.

Jonathan (01:16): Yeah. It's gonna be an amazing conversation. And when when we first, you and I talked a few weeks ago, there was so many things I was excited to hear about from our audience perspective. A lot of people are wondering, like, how do we get started as a company? How do we train our people? How do we develop that culture of a green culture, green initiatives, sustainability. So I know our audience is gonna absolutely love to see where MEB management is right now and how you got there and what you see for the future. So maybe we can just kick it off with the scope. What does it look like right now, your green initiatives, give us kind of an overview of what you and the me management team are doing right now.

Barry Manuel (02:03): Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, I think it, it is worth it to, to mention the size of MEB because the scope and the approach that different companies take, I think is gonna be different based on your size. Are you a giant re or are you, you know, just really a, a smaller even mom and Bob type company and maybe is, is right in the middle. We a management company. We we are fee based. And so we managed about 25,000 units, mostly in the Southwest part of the country. But we also have some, some deals in Tennessee and other parts of the country as well. And so I mentioned that because again, I think it does make a difference on your approach. We didn't have the luxury for instance, of just outsourcing completely and hiring a consultant and saying, Hey build us a sustainability program.

And, and by the way, when can we have that back? Right? So for us, it was more of an internal initiative. And so with that, we really took kind of a, both a short term and a long term approach in the short term, it was what can we do today? Right. I mean, we, we wanna see results now. We don't wanna build this over a six month or a year period of time. Although some of it is going to require that how can we make a difference today? And so in the short term, what we were able to do, and I would highly encourage others to look at as well is look at programs that are available by others, utility companies, for instance, IREM has a certification program that, that we made a big part of our overall package.

So APS, Arizona public service, one of the utility providers right here in Phoenix, they have a wonderful program it's called the MEEP program. And that stands for multi-family energy efficiency program. So there it is, it's targeted right at apartment buildings. And what they do is they'll come out to your property and they'll actually deliver L E D replacement bulbs for usage throughout your community, both inside and out. So the one caveat to that is they don't install 'em. So it is on our onsite teams to install them. But if you, if you think about it, you're, you're not paying a penny for these bulbs in 30 days or less, you could have taken a fairly significant step toward a sustainable program. So the other thing that I mentioned a little bit is I I obviously on a more national platform, they have a certification program called the CSP or certified sustainable property.

and that that's another initiative that's really fairly easy to implement, takes a little bit of time. It's a little bit more comprehensive than just light bulbs. But you apply for their program. They give you a packet and you work through the packet. And at the end of completion on that you actually get a certification. They give you a nice little badge that you can put on the website as a display. They give you a little bit of a hardware that you can put on the desk in the office. So those are really some short term scope items that we took advantage of then more longer term, and really a little bit more institutional is we partnered with third party companies to develop really a sustainable ecosystem, right? So a little bit more involved not so practical from residents and property managers, but it's something that we really build out. And we're excited about that. It's a work in process. What it's gonna allow us to do is to collect, to ingest data and to really take that data, aggregate that data and report on our energy consumption progress. So those are really the, the, the main initiatives and the main scope that we set out to do

Jonathan (06:18): That is amazing, absolutely amazing great overview. I, and I think from our listener standpoint, too, just to hear your take and what you, what you had to do internally, how you investigated options that were on a, on a, on a government level and then looking for partnerships that would also assist with that. So great tips. And, and, and I appreciate too, sometimes I think property management folks will be like, well, I could, I only, we can only do something like that if I am this size or, or, you know, but there, there are so many things, it doesn't matter what size, doesn't matter how many units you are. And I, I like how you really covered all of that. So thank you for, for that overview, so that it, it triggers a couple of thoughts in my head from, from two perspectives, you know we know it's a, it's a big, big topic and, and it's a very important topic to, to many people from a culture standpoint. So where have you seen with the, the amount of effort that MEB management has put into to this green initiative? How has it affected bringing in new talent or residents when, when you showcase that, that is part of your, your business structure. So kind of a two part question, new talent and resident has, has it had any effect on either of those?

Barry Manuel (07:54): You know, great questions, both of 'em and, and we're obviously still early in the program, but that being said, we we've seen some results some positive results in both of those. And as far as the, the internal, the, the talent not so much people that we've hired just yet, although I was just on an interview yesterday you know, everybody is, is struggling with a, with a shallow labor pool and, and trying to get people. And that's something that we're all struggling with. Just yesterday during an interview, talking about MEB in general and mentioning sustainability as a, as a new initiative that we've set forth just sparked a ton of interest. I mean, you can really, you can really see it, not enough time to have data and collect and report on yet, but even internally, right? So we had been talking as a leadership team for some time about, Hey, what do, what do we wanna do with, it seems to align with our values, with our purpose, how do we do this?

How do we organize this? Well, when we first shared it with our teams you know, there was so much interest, I think at least one person from each department or each team stepped forward saying, you know what, I wanna be a part of this. In a lot of cases, it was people that said, Hey, I already do this at home. Here's some of the things I'm doing, you know, varying degrees all the way from solar panels to, yeah. We stopped using water bottles, you know, plastic water bottles. We're, we're exclusively now using reusable water bottles. So it's all over the spectrum. And so we just saw so much interest and that's really what made this possible for us to do internally. So, right. We all have day jobs. We don't have a sustainable department at MEB so these are people that are just collectively giving some of their time, giving their feedback, doing a little bit of research and making it work.

So the interest is definitely there. And I would just add to that, that the gen Zers, it's almost an expectation. You talk to some of these folks and, and they're asking about these things like, oh my gosh, aren't you doing this? Or why are we still using these, these plastic water bottles? So it, it has shown an impact really look forward to, to seeing that into fruition and how it does actually attract at the resident level. You know, I gotta tell you, we're, we're super excited. We're involved with two major new build projects here in Phoenix that are really unprecedented in terms of sustainability. These, these projects use all sustainable building materials. They have solar panels, they have EV charging stations all over the property. They're using smart own technology to, to monitor energy consumption for lead detection.

Again, these are news. So it's a bit early to tell, but the interest list that we have going for potential residents as this is being built, and by the way, being delayed by all of the supply chain issues that we're all experiencing it, the, the list is growing and growing and growing. So this is happening, mind you in a market where rental growth has been 25% over the last 15 to 18 months. So these, the, there does come a price with some of these extra amenities particularly on these new builds. And the interest level is very high in these early goings.

Jonathan (11:38): Right? Right. Well, that's so many takeaways just from, from, from both perspectives, the resident side, and the, your, your employ, your employees, your team members, you know, I, and I'm glad you mentioned about the labor pool issues, cause yeah. Everybody's feeling that pinch. Like I can't tell you how many times we've had guests on this show over the last year or so, and it's just a consistent theme, but it, it sounds like that with this initiative it's helping retaining people and getting people more involved because I, you know, I look at it from I'm sure most people's perspective is just, all right, well, we, we know we need to make some adjustments we're dealing with you know, changing weather and climate issues and so on and so forth. And, and we're looking at our, our kids and our grandkids and generations to come. And so statistically, like you mentioned, gen Zers, that's like it's besides what the, the income is going to be for a particular job position values are also just as high in, in making that choice of a company where they want to go based on the overall values of the, of the organization itself. So that's, that is really, really cool to hear.

Barry Manuel (12:56): Yeah, absolutely.

Jonathan (12:57): Yeah. and then on the resident level, I guess maybe I get your, your, your thoughts on this kind of an auxiliary question. So for what you had to put into, even with the supply chain issues, have you seen a difference in, has there been much of a difference in retrofiting or you know, take COVID out of it in the supply chain? Cause I've talked to a few people who, who had mentioned like yeah, quite a few years ago, like it just didn't make sense. It was so, so expensive to think about retrofiting an apartment community so that it became more sustainable, more green friendly is, is that overall, still the case Barry or is, are, are, is our, our overall costs and return on that investment, like you mentioned with energy consumption, is it more is it more like, you know, palatable when you look at those numbers for an investor or for you know, for a management company?

Barry Manuel (14:04): Yeah. So, so great questions and, and great points to bring up. And, and really when, when we look at sustainability at MEB we, we are making a division between retrofits and new builds, right? Because it, it's gonna be a different strategy for both on the new build side. You know, you're gonna pay a bit more, as you alluded to with, with eco-friendly building materials, but in return you're you are also eligible for certain incentives, lender, incentives, and, and other financial incentives that actually boost that ROI where it does perhaps make sense to do it now on the, on existing properties, the retrofit, you, you're probably not gonna, you know, replace building materials. You might put solar panels on it, but the retrofits that's the beauty of, of the program that we're building is it doesn't matter. It could be, it could be an IEM certification, you know, that that applies to a retrofit.

You, you could change our bulbs, it doesn't need to be a new build. It doesn't need to be new building materials. We can do recycling. We can do all sorts of initiatives that maybe don't have quite the buzz that, that you can have with the new builds, but nevertheless can have an impact. And what we find Jonathan is that people, both residents and team members, they wanna be a part of this. They, they actually wanna make a difference. So like what can I do personally, towards green living? And so you see the solar panels, you see the EV charging stations, those are super cool. And we all, we all love those things, but we also enjoy and are fulfilled by being personally a part of the solution. And so that's why we think that these really work in both cases.

Jonathan (16:02): Awesome. That is so, so cool to hear. Very, very good. Thank you. So this kind of leads up to, to the big question that's been on my mind and, and for our audience too, it's like, okay. You, you, you have some people that are, are super passionate about it, but especially in bigger organizations, the question is, is alright. Alright. How do you much like we're seeing with, for instance, DEI, it's like, that's a big conversation in property management right now, and leaders are, are working nd forming you know, committees and focus groups and so on and how they can make that part of the company culture. Green initiatives is no different as big as a topic as DEI. So you had shared in our, in our pre-interview kind of discussion what it was like not every property management company, just like they snapped their fingers and had a green initiative program. So what was it like, like in the early stages when, when MEB was making those decisions, how did you you know, get training involved or how did you get that culture involved? Can you tell us a little bit more about that?

Barry Manuel (17:23): Yeah, yeah. So, so absolutely. And, you know, with, with the culture, part of it, it made it a bit easier learning just how many people were, were personally interested in sustainability and already practicing sustainability in their, in their homes and in their apartments. And so that, that was very encouraging and, and gave us a, a bit of a foothold to work with. And it is a process. You know, one of the things that, that we're learning still is this is especially when it comes to the cultural aspect of this, it's not a one and done. We are absolutely a work in process. We're trying to make it fun for people we're doing contests. One of the things that, that we did at a conference, I was at just last week, I was sort of sharing a little bit before we started recording here is to, to encourage not using the, the water bottles and instead use the reusable water bottles.

They, they had, they did a contest where they gave out all of these water bottles with different color lids, and they divided the team members with accordance to the color of the lid that they have. And there was a QR code on the bottle itself, and you downloaded an app and scanned in every time you filled up the water bottle, you scanned it in. And it was a contest to see who would refill their water bottles the most right. A pretty simple thing, but, you know, we're competitive people. right. And, and it actually works. It worked well for us. You, you gamify this a little bit, you add a little bit of buzz. It needs to be tangible too though. And people do have an actual heart to make a difference for this, especially at me, it's kind of who we are.

You know, we're built on a tagline of home is our specialty. And we believe that, that we deliver in excellent way homes to people that are, that are really looking for homes. That's what we do. And sustainability is now a part of that more and more of the results from surveys that we're seeing and even taking ourselves are validating that sustainability is important to people, and it's not just as gen Zers as well. So it becomes a little bit more natural for me D because it is so aligned with who we are and our core values and our purpose as a firm.

Jonathan (19:54): That is, that is awesome. I, I love that gamification I item that you use as an example, you know, that's, that's, especially for retention and being able to, you know, as a, as a learning nerd, you know, I'm not just a marketing nerd. A lot of people know me as a marketing nerd, but I am definitely a learning nerd. And I love hearing of very creative ways to be able to get people, to, to see the point in something and to, and to feel part of it. And gamification is just an, is an awesome tool. So I, I that's so, so cool to hear that that was used in order to, you know, just get everybody on the same Bo on the same team, so to speak and, and and realize the impact that it has. Cuz sometimes you can go the other way.

I, I, I'm sure you've watched the shows too. I've, I've watched plenty of documentaries and they, you know, tell you how much plastic waste there is. That's out there and it's just like, oh my goodness, it's just, it's depressing. And you don't even know where to begin, but if everybody does their little part, like just in that game, you know, what a difference it makes when everybody comes together for, for a common cost. So that's, that's really, really cool. Really cool to hear. Well this is you know, wow, Barry, like what an amazing conversation, so incredible to see what MEB management is is doing and, and thank you for being, you know, an industry leader along those lines. We look forward to seeing so many more things to come. And, and I think from from a trainer's perspective from those who are listening to this show, so many good starting points for, for everyone on what you can do and, and just little ways to kind of you know, build that momentum up and, and build that culture you know, build that culture from the inside out. So thank you so much for being on the show. How can people get to know MEB management? How can people connect with, with your company, with you? Anything you'd like to share with our audience today?

Barry Manuel (22:00): Yeah. You know, first and foremost, Jonathan, thank you again for the opportunity to, to be here and share a little bit about what MEEB is doing along sustainability and for anybody that, that wants to, to look into more and follow us a little bit look for us on, on LinkedIn. Our website address is MEBAPTS.com. Plenty of information there. And we look forward to just building this out and encourage you other companies to do the same.

Jonathan (22:32): Yeah, yeah. In just a short period of time, I'm sure these were all just little teaser of the bigger picture of what you and your organization are doing. So thank you for that. We'll make sure that those are in the show notes for our listeners to be able to check it out after they've listened to this show. So Barry Manuel CIO of MEB management. Thank you so much. Look forward to having you, maybe on a future episode, as a follow up to see what other things you're doing from a training perspective on, on green initiatives. I mean, it's just, I love this subject, you know, just one of hundreds of subjects I love talking about, but this one just is so cool to see how so many people who are making a little bit at a time making a dent in, in making the planet a little, a more, more green friendly.

So again, thank you for being here and for our wonderful listeners, we appreciate your support so much. So please, please take this episode. If you're thinking about green initiatives, share this with your team reach out to Barry, reach out to MEB management, do check out that I sustainability option all kinds of resources that are available to you. And if you have any questions that you'd like either me or our co-host to answer please, you know, share those with us, DM us, we'll be happy to discuss those with you. So thank you so much, everyone for being tuning into today's show until next time.

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