RALEIGH, N.C. -- Ever since the first Earth Day 25 years ago, builders and developers of multi-housing projects have been encouraged -- sometimes strongly -- to create properties which are increasingly more water efficient.
Nowadays, low-flow showerheads, low-flush toilets, and xeriscape-style landscaping are common features of many multi-housing properties. But there's a method of saving substantial amounts of water that's being ignored -- and for no good reason.
Common-area laundry rooms.
"It's a verifiable fact. Laundry equipment inside individual apartment units wastes a tremendous amount of water compared to common-area laundry rooms," states Bill Bloomfield, Jr., president of the Multi-Housing Laundry Association (MLA). "Residents with in-unit laundry equipment operate washers more often, washing smaller loads, using far more water. If more apartment complexes were constructed with common-area laundry rooms, the water and energy conservation would be significant."
A study by an independent research firm found that, on average, an apartment property with in-unit washers will use three times more water for laundry than a comparable property with common-area laundry rooms, based on standard washing habits. The study found that each apartment with an in-unit washer wastes on average approximately 8,500 gallons per year on laundry. In a 150-unit building, that's 1.275 million gallons of wasted water -- every year.
With in-apartment laundry facilities, water isn't the only resource being wasted. There's also the attendant gas and electricity as well as massive amounts of extra sewage generated by less efficient in-apartment laundries. Encouraging the use of common-area laundry rooms in apartment complexes is an easy, yet significant way to preserve resources without creating an insurmountable hardship for residents.
"Many owners, developers, builders, and managers are finding that common-area laundry rooms can be an amenity with wide appeal to residents," continues Bloomfield. "When they are clean, conveniently located, and well-maintained, laundry rooms add significantly to resident satisfaction and help increase the overall value of multi-housing communities."
The laundry room can be as important in the decision to rent as the swimming pool or parking garage. But to make it stand out, forward-looking properties are going well beyond the basics to make common-area laundry rooms more attractive, appealing places to be. It may be as simple as adding a few potted plants or some graphics for the walls. Some properties are combining their laundry facilities with recreation or exercise rooms, or placing them near play yards or swimming pools.
The primary goal is to make it convenient. The MLA suggests that laundry facilities be placed no more than 250 feet from the apartments they will serve. For many properties, this suggests several smaller rooms rather than one large, centralized room. In addition, laundry rooms should be along main traffic patterns, be well lit and have adequate visibility to ensure security.
A final consideration in the design of multi-housing properties is that in-unit connections take up valuable floor space. They require more plumbing, venting, and electrical wiring, so construction costs are greater than for common-area laundry rooms.
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