Residents Help Shrink CCRC Expenses, Carbon Footprint

Asbury Communities Inc. has reaped plenty of rewards since implementing an innovative sustainability and energy efficiency program across its six continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) just over a year ago.

For one, Germantown, Maryland-based Asbury pays the same operating expenses for utilities that it paid 2013—and that will continue for the next five years. And then there’s the fact that the program has successfully engaged current Asbury residents, all while positioning the providers’ communities as attractive options for soon-to-be senior living residents, even during times of economic recession.

To create an innovative, attractive program, Asbury worked with its long-time partner, Sodexo, a global company based in France that delivers sustainable, integrated facilities management and foodservice operations.

In May 2014, the companies came up with a plan.

No more guesswork

At the start, implementing the program involved, among other things, performing on-site energy audits at each Asbury CCRC, analyzing the communities’ utility bills and upgrading the communities’ infrastructure to include more environmentally friendly features, such as energy-efficient lighting.

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The cost-saving and environmental benefits from this side of the initiative—dubbed Sodexo360—are already measurable, Randy Michael, senior director of energy management services as Sodexo, tells Senior Housing News.In one year, Asbury has reduced consumption of electricity by almost 12%, water by 10% and natural gas by approximately 4.5%.

Another added bonus: taking the guesswork out of community-level employees’ budgets. Since the communities’ energy costs are frozen year after year, communities know what to expect and can plan accordingly.

“I don’t need a crystal ball to do my budget every year,” Lenny Hines, the director of plant operations and maintenance at Asbury Methodist Village in Gaithersburg, Maryland, tells SHN. “I don’t have to guess what our energy budget will be. It’s a locked in price, and for an organization this size, that’s a gigantic advantage.”

Lunching and learning

Meanwhile, Asbury has residents in mind as much as it does cost savings.

One of the end goals of the program is to engage residents around activities that are meaningful, Michael says.

“Asbury has very talented residents who had very distinguished careers,” he explains. “They don’t want to be bored, they want to be challenged.”

So, each Asbury community has a team of residents who voluntarily serve as environmental advocates amongst their peers. These volunteers meet monthly and continuously teach their fellow residents how they can use less energy in their own apartments.

For instance, at some communities, the teams of volunteers hold regular “lunch and learns” with other residents to get the word out about habits that are easily changed, such as turning the water off when they brush their teeth.

“I’ve found the best way to get residents together is through some kind of food event,” Michael shares.

Additionally, there are touchscreen monitors in each of Asbury’s communities, which are used to show residents how much energy their communities are using, and how much energy their communities are saving.

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So as to resonate with the residents, these figures are measured in terms of energy use, not in dollars, Michael says. And while so far residents are only able to view their own communities’ energy use, there is the potential to pit the communities against one another to lower energy use even more.

“We could do some sort of friendly competition between the communities,” Michael says.

The interactive, resident-centered component is going well at Asbury Methodist Village, Hines tells SHN. There, the touchscreen is located on the wall in the community’s wellness center, which gets the most traffic from residents.

“It’s a win-win situation in my book,” Hines says of the program.

Written by Mary Kate Nelson