Green living costs more, but Salt Lake renters pay less than other metros

Chart showing the difference in rent for green vs. non-green apartments. In Salt Lake renters spend on average 14 percent more in rent for in green buildings.

In the United States, building green can cost you.  Proponents of energy efficient building cite lower long-term energy costs that offset the larger construction price tag in building green.  But a new report for renters in Salt Lake City, living in a green building is relatively affordable compared to standard market rate prices.

The report by RENTCafé.coma nationwide apartment search website, found that while nationally renters spend an average of $560 more per month to live in green LEED-certified buildings, in Salt Lake renters spend only $172 more per month live in green, multifamily developments.

Staff from RENTCafé looked at  over 14 million apartment units in 123 U.S. metros and found that the number of green apartment homes is on the rise nationally.  Green apartment units accounted for just 2 percent of the new apartment supply in 2008, compared to an expected 17 percent of the 2016 new supply.  According to data from Yardi Matrixalmost 45,000 new LEED-certified multifamily units were built in 2015.  Another 59,000 LEED-certified apartments units are expected to be completed in 2016, compared to 14,750 LEED-certified units in 2011.

The research team also surveyed 2,631 renters to determine how much renters are willing to pay to live in LEED-certified buildings.  Nationally renters are willing to pay $100 more per month to live in a green building.

Nationally more developers may have embraced building LEED-certified multifamily projects but despite lower costs in Salt Lake, many developers are still hesitant to build LEED developments.  The majority of LEED-certified multifamily projects in the city were built through public/private partnerships with developers and the Redevelopment Agency of Salt Lake or nonprofit organizations like Artspace.

Of the dozens of multifamily developments under construction in Salt Lake City, at least three are being built to LEED standards.  When completed, the Alta Gateway Station apartments, directly west of the Gateway on the 100 South block of 500 West, will be LEED-certified.  Two other multifamily projects that will be LEED certified, the Paragon Station Lofts and the Lofts at Bennion Plaza, were partially funded through public/private partnerships.

The nearly finished, Paragon Station Lofts on the 300 West block of 200 South was built to LEED gold standards.  The Lofts at Bennion Plaza on the 400 South block of 900 East is being built to LEED silver standards with 100 percent of the units reserved for residents earning at or less than 80 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI).

While many developers are reluctant to build LEED-certified multifamily projects, several developers are leading the way in building energy efficient single family homes.  Developers like Garbett Homes, Clearwater Homes and Sego Homes focus on green home suburban communities.

“We have the technology to do it (build green), but we need better building codes.  The days of business as usual are in the past,” said Denni Cawley, executive director of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment at a September groundbreaking for Living Zenith, a five-home net-zero development on the 1100 South block of 400 East by Redfish Builders.  

Living Zenith is one of two net-zero residential developments under construction in the city.  Garbett Homes is building the Almond Street Townhomes, a 17-unit net-zero townhome development near 200 North and West Temple.

An estimated 40 percent of emissions in the Wasatch Front come from buildings.  Net-zero homes consume as much energy as they produce mostly through solar panels and insulation and solar shades that reduce energy consumption.

Posted by Isaac Riddle

Isaac Riddle grew up just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. He has a BA in English literature from the University of Utah and a Masters of Journalism from Temple University. Isaac has written for Next City, The Philadelphia Public School Notebook and Salt Lake City Weekly. Before embarking on a career in journalism, Isaac taught High School English in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. Isaac is the founder of Building Salt Lake and can be reached at