Saving the Environment at a Cost

July 2018

Sustainability is important.

Going green means not wasting electricity.  It means diverting as much waste as possible to recycling and organics.

The value of these practices is clear.  Less clear is the cost we are prepared to bear.

Condo directors have a fiduciary obligation to manage condo fees to the benefit of condo owners.  Does sustainability fall within this mandate?  Do condo owners benefit when diverting waste to recycling or organics?  How about when electricity expenditures decrease but not enough to compensate for the cost of installed LED technology?

While everyone has an opinion on these issues, answers are less clear.

Condo directors have an obligation to prioritize based on affordability and cost.  Determining how sustainability falls into the mix is more complicated.

Certain initiatives are obvious.  Lights consuming electricity when nobody is around may be unnecessary and can be turned off during these times.  Perhaps fewer lights are necessary in a garage.

Then there are incentive programs to consider.  In some areas utilities pay buildings to run off their generators for a period of time to reduce demand on the electric grid.  Utilities may offer promotions for installing energy efficient fixtures.  These incentives can shift the analysis in support of sustainability.

Jon Juffs is Director of Condominium/Strata with McIntosh Perry, an engineering services company providing performance audits to evaluate the potential value and impact of changes to a building infrastructure. “There are always opportunities for replacing equipment for more energy efficient alternatives.  This only makes sense when utility savings exceed the cost of new equipment over a reasonable period of time.”

Sustainability generally does not have a downside for condo buildings so long as the price is right.

Condo directors rightly tend to be more motivated by financial factors than environmental considerations.  In this environment sustainability initiatives need to be priced right.  When financial benefits exist sustainability initiatives are consistent with the fiduciary responsibility of condo directors who manage the property.