Senior Living Operators Target Green Projects to Boost ROI

Senior living providers know “green” is good. But historically, going green has lacked measurable returns. Now, some providers are seeing their return on investment in just a handful of years, and one nonprofit has enough confidence to include environmentally-friendly features in new projects.

For one provider, a track record based on retrofitting among other communities gives confidence in carrying out similar projects.

Presbyterian Senior Living recently completed a $24.5 million renovation and expansion at one of its Pennsylvania continuing care retirement communities that included the installation of a geothermal heating and cooling system and an underground storm water storage.


“The way we’re managing storm water and geothermal [heating and cooling] are the two biggest issues,” says Rodney Fenstermacher, corporate director of construction and planned assets at PSL. “We’re always looking for sustainability and green ideas, and are constantly improving ourselves.”

The not-for-profit organization added a 31-unit apartment building, six new “carriage house” style independent living duplexes, and a community space featuring a full-service restaurant and bistro as part of an expansion called Vista Ridge at Ware Presbyterian Village in Oxford, Pa. The CCRC also has 79 independent living villas, 52 assisted living units, and 137 skilled nursing beds.

Because of local rules and regulations, PSL had to keep a percentage of storm water runoff on the property, leading to the installation of 30 underground storage areas. The operator also installed a geothermal energy system for the new portion of the campus.


Presbyterian Senior Living has been investing in geothermal—which uses underground temperatures for both heating and cooling—for some time now, Fenstermacher says. For Ware Presbyterian Village, PSL needed to dig 110 wells, each several hundred yards deep, to install the system.

“We’ve been tracking our energy cost and finding that it is definitely in our best interest to [use geothermal energy],” he says. “We have enough of a track record now to know that it will pay off. It justifies the initial investment, which is more expensive up front, but helps manage long-term cost. We believe it will be effective, which is reflective in residents’ costs.”

With this latest project, however, PSL is looking at a five- to eight-year return on its approximately $1 million geothermal investment.

“It’s newer technology. We take the best shot at trying to figure it out, and found that on other buildings, it was well-worth the initial costs, for what we save on energy,” he says. “We all believe energy is only going to cost more down the road; it’s not getting cheaper.”

Written by Alyssa Gerace

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