As energy costs rise, the economy continues to struggle and resources become scarcer, more and more community associations and homeowners are trying to find ways to reduce energy consumption, reduce their carbon footprints and otherwise “go green”. With recent legislation in Colorado placing limits on the authority of associations to prohibit or regulate certain energy generation devices and energy efficiency measures, the issue has come to the forefront of the attention of both associations and owners. Given all of this, what are some ways community associations can be proactive in creating or encouraging green communities?
If your association has a centralized trash dumpster, contract with your trash removal contractor to also provide for recycling. If your community has curbside pickup, recycling may be included in the cost of that pickup. Encourage all residents to recycle.
Reduce Water Consumption
Many associations have ample open space, much of which may be landscaped with lush Kentucky bluegrass. While bluegrass is attractive, there are many turf and xeriscaping alternatives that require less water and are much more drought tolerant. Consider replacing high-water consuming plants with plants that require less water. Allow owners to install xeriscaping, subject to any approval requirements for any landscaping project.
Practice appropriate landscape water management, which means applying the appropriate amount of water needed to maintain a healthy landscape. This requires an understanding of plant water use, soils and the irrigation system installed. For example, spray sprinkler heads distribute water at a different rate than rotor heads, so having both types of heads on the same zone can lead to over saturation in some areas and dry spots in others. Install smart controllers to detect when plants actually need water. Install rain sensors so turf areas are not being watered when it is raining.
Consider having a water/irrigation audit done to determine areas where water conservation can be improved. Your association may be eligible for a free audit through the Slow the Flow program conducted by the Center for Resource Conservation. Visit http://www.conservationcenter.org/w_SlowtheFlowColorado.htm for more information.
Energy Conservation or Generation
If your association has a clubhouse, have an energy audit done to determine areas where energy is being wasted or where energy use could be reduced. There may be some simple and inexpensive ways to reduce energy consumption, such as installing weather stripping and programmable thermostats. Replace furnace filters on a regular basis. Replace incandescent light bulbs in the common area light fixtures and lamps with compact fluorescent bulbs. Install photocells or timers on outdoor lighting.
Consider installing solar panels to heat the pool or provide power to the clubhouse. If your association makes an energy efficient purchase such as solar panels that would qualify for a tax credit, while the association may not be eligible for the tax credit because the association does not pay taxes, the benefit can be passed through to owners so that they can take advantage of the tax credits offered by the IRS. The IRS has stated that as members of an association, owners will be treated as if they have paid their proportionate share of any costs paid by the association for the energy efficiency device, and owners can therefore claim their share of those expenditures on their individual tax returns. There are some strict guidelines on the types of expenditures that are covered, so owners and associations are encouraged to check with their CPA for more details. Associations can help by letting owners know their proportionate share of the expenditures and that they are entitled to apply for the tax credit.
Review the Association’s Governing Documents
Review the association’s declaration and rules and regulations to identify outdated provisions that discourage or prevent energy efficiency or green initiatives. Amend the documents as necessary to eliminate prohibitive provisions or to include proactive provisions to encourage green activities.
This is just a small sample of things associations can do to help the environment. There are countless resources and websites that can provide in-depth information for associations. Check out: