The mortgage and foreclosure crisis and economic slump have affected more than just the single-family home building industry. The multifamily market also is flooded with inventory of both rental and condominium units, and construction of new multifamily buildings has become increasingly difficult as access to lending has been curtailed or severely restricted. But greening existing buildings presents an opportunity for multifamily owners to boost their properties' marketability.

"We've seen a lot of our clients not able to get the capital to build brand-new projects, but they have projects that are four, five, or 10 years old and they want to figure out a way to retain residents, increase rental rates, and increase the sale potential of certain properties," says Bill Belshaw, AIA, LEED AP, design director of the Dallas office of Looney Ricks Kiss Architects (LRK).

That is precisely why LRK, based in Memphis, Tenn., has expanded its multifamily and mixed-use studio to include a new Sustainable Multifamily Renovation Group (SMRG) that will work with apartment owners and developers to upgrade their properties.

Building sustainably from the ground up is relatively easy on the front end, but implementing sustainable changes in older projects is more difficult, Belshaw notes. "The most important thing we bring to the table is that we're not just a firm that does LEED consulting; we're an architecture firm—we can conduct the building study, make the recommendations, and get the work built," he says.

Based out of the Dallas office, SMRG offers three levels of service to accommodate clients' varying needs, Belshaw continues. The group can implement a renovation program to achieve LEED for Existing Buildings certification, a modified program that uses LEED recommendations as a guideline, or a simple green "tune-up" involving energy-efficient upgrades and replacements of mechanical systems, windows, insulation, or other features. For each client, SMRG will conduct a building analysis, which could range from a simple examination of mechanical systems and the building envelope to overall surveys of building function and resident satisfaction to in-depth energy modeling.

LRK, which works with many national mixed-use and multifamily developers, will offer its sustainable multifamily renovation service nationwide.