Caring About Our Places
Reducing Our Environmental Impact
Brookdale owns or manages more than 1,100 communities totaling over 86 million square feet, so our environmental impact is significant. To make systematic progress in reducing that impact, as part of our Sustainability Roadmap in 2015 we assessed, integrated, and improved all our measurement capabilities, comprehensively understood our true baseline performance, carefully determined which specific major environmental areas were most significant, and set ambitious prioritized improvement goals.
Based on our reviews of our stakeholders’ greatest concerns, our analysis of our biggest environmental impacts, and our core business priorities, we determined that three areas are the most important ones in which we must drive improvement: energy consumption, water use, and waste.
A little over a year ago we created a new role to focus specifically on energy and water reduction efforts. In 2015, we went further by hiring a Director of Sustainability to drive all our efforts at reducing energy consumption, water use, and waste. We now have the ability to measure electricity, natural gas, water usage, and landfill waste for all our operations in a common database, providing us with the basis for in-depth analyses in both the aggregate and at the community level. At a daily operational level, unusual usage trends are now reported so that maintenance personnel can investigate and make corrections as needed. More broadly, having truly reliable baseline data has allowed us to set a genuinely coherent goal of reducing our energy consumption 15% by 2019.
We have set the challenging but critical goal of reducing our energy consumption 15% by 2019.
Although this ambitious goal presents a significant challenge to us, we are committed to it because the need for carbon and greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions is critical. Having completed the hard work of assuring strong data measurement capabilities across all of our operations is providing the foundation for us to drive reductions in our energy use toward our 15% reduction challenge.
For 2016, we are making various capital investments as part of our Sustainability Roadmap specifically to jumpstart our energy reduction goal. In addition to commissioning building systems in more than 400 communities across the country, we will also be implementing energy conservation measures such as LED lighting retrofits, HVAC upgrades, roofing improvements, and changes in community maintenance.
In a similar way, we are currently finalizing the quality of our data systems in the areas of water and waste and refining our goals for both of those. For 2016, we intend (1) to make measurable improvements in our water and waste performance and (2) to be able to specify precise, bold reduction goals for water and waste that are well matched to both overall environmental realities and our operational capabilities. Our 2016 water initiatives include domestic water and irrigation projects, smart controls, leak detections and repair, and behavioral changes (e.g., full-load laundry and dish washing).
While we focused throughout 2015 on the unglamorous but critical work of developing our measurement systems and crafting thorough implementation plans, we also continued our work “on the ground” to directly reduce our environmental impacts.
Below are some examples of the kinds of projects we’ve been undertaking and the progress we’ve achieved.
In 2014, we completed a two-year, $6 million portfolio-wide lighting retrofit, changing all incandescent lighting to compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) in our then-existing 600 communities. In 2015, we began pilot projects for LED lighting that led to retrofits in over 50 communities.
Mark Forest, Executive Director of our Brookdale Eddy Pond West community in central Massachusetts was one of the first to receive an LED retrofit in his community. Over a two-week period late in 2015, we installed new LED lighting everywhere throughout their community – resident rooms, halls and common areas, laundry rooms, housekeeping closets, theatre room, activity rooms, and the parking lot.
"This is a complete win-win-win for all of us," Mark commented. "The lighting is dramatically better: warmer, brighter, safer, much more pleasing. Our residents are finding the new lighting to be truly remarkable. And beyond that obvious win in terms of how we live our daily lives, we are also reducing environmental impact by lowering our energy consumption — and at the same time also reducing our costs. Our residents, their families, our associates, the environment, and the bottom line could not be happier."
Reductions in Water Consumption
In support of California’s drive to significantly reduce water consumption in their drought-stricken state, we responded to the state’s water conservation initiative, put forward in April 2015, by reducing our water use at all of our CA communities statewide by 19% in just the last eight months of 2015 (compared to the same May – December timeframe in 2014). In addition to reducing our water utility costs by 8%, our conservation efforts saved more than 72,000,000 gallons of water. Across all our communities, from 2012 to 2014, our water leak reporting protocol alone resulted in companywide savings of more than $1 million and prevented the loss of a truly significant amount of water.
Environmentally Superior Fixtures and Materials
As part of the expansion, redevelopment, and maintenance of our communities, we have increased our use of attic insulation, heat reflective roofing materials, WaterSense fixtures, and Energy Star rated appliances, which all reduce our consumption. In addition, for our communities’ resident rooms and common areas, we now specify the use of anti-bacterial tiles and Teknoflor vinyl flooring, which reduce the need for harsh cleaning chemicals.
Technology Recycling and Cascading
We have implemented extensive computer recycling programs through which all hard disks are processed by a recycler for data destruction, and all of our mobile devices are recycled at the end of their useful life. Digital devices are also cascaded for other uses before they are recycled: older laptop computers, no longer appropriate for use by individual associates but still functional, for example, are repurposed for training laptops rather than buying additional equipment.
Elimination of Paper
‘Project Electronify’ is the rebranding of an initiative in Accounts Payable to drive the reduction of paper invoices and disbursements of checks. The reduction will be achieved through the conversion of suppliers to electronic invoicing, conversion of paper invoices to email, and the launch of a campaign to increase electronic payments.
Overall, the goal for Accounts Payable is to be paperless by the end of 2016. The already extensive efforts undertaken in this area have in recent years resulted in annual savings well in excess of $500,000 and the elimination of hundreds of tons of paper use. In all our offices and communities, we have successfully implemented a wide range of printing, scanning, and communications practices that have reduced or eliminated printing, saved paper, and improved printer energy efficiencies.