Ecology concept

As concerns over climate change and social responsibility continue to shape industries, sustainable property management has become an increasingly crucial discipline. To meet the demand for relevant education in this emerging field, Erin Hopkins, associate professor of property management in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at Virginia Tech has authored an openly-licensed textbook titled "Sustainable Property Management."

Released through the Open Education Initiative and Virginia Tech Publishing, housed in University Libraries, this pioneering work fills major gaps that existed in sustainability resources for undergraduate and graduate college property management programs.

The book provides timely instruction on implementing green building initiatives such as energy efficiency, water efficiency, indoor environmental quality, waste management, and site sustainability while also considering the social and economic impacts on stakeholders such as building users, owners, investors, the property management company, vendors, and the community.

“Since building operations represent 28 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions related to energy, implementation of green building initiatives can make a significant impact on lowering carbon dioxide emissions during the building's operation and maintenance building lifecycle phase,” said Hopkins. "I am passionate about this because environmental, social, and governance are critical topics within the property management industry that sometimes get overshadowed by the economic bottom line."

Future Leaders of Sustainability

Integrating real-world examples and activities, the textbook connects to students' aspirations as they prepare to enter the working world. The positive reception from student reviewers validates the book's relevance for cultivating future leaders who embrace ecological stewardship.

“Feedback from students after utilizing this textbook within the new sustainable property management course has been an increased awareness on sustainable property management issues,” said Hopkins. “I have heard time and time again that they were unaware of many of these concepts and they have not heavily focused on sustainability in other classes, so I am pleased that students are receiving this knowledge somewhere during their studies at Virginia Tech. Students learning these concepts will have the knowledge to make informed decisions about green building initiatives upon entering the property management industry and perhaps be ecological stewards within the industry.”

Supporting Students Through Open Access

"Sustainable Property Management" stands out as the first open textbook focused specifically on property management and green buildings. Available in multiple formats online at no cost and under a Creative Commons license, the work advances sustainability education on a much wider scale as well. Inspired by the book, Hopkins has also developed a new course required for property management majors and minors, PM 3684 Sustainable Property Management, first offered in fall 2023. 

Anita Walz, assistant director and open education scholarly communications librarian, collaborated on the project grant proposal, coached the design and development of project workflows, provided project oversight, coordinated external peer and student reviews, and handled overall project management. The project, originally titled "Green Real Estate Management," was funded in part by a 2021 Open Course Grant from VIVA, Virginia’s academic library consortium. 

Kindred Grey, Open Education Resources graphic design specialist in University Libraries, designed the book with color contrast and accessibility in mind.

“I worked to create a text that is accessible to a wider range of readers by using visual content to illustrate and more clearly convey conceptual information that is lucid and visually cohesive,” said Grey. She also formatted, edited, and proofread the text and typeset the text into the Pressbooks publishing software. 

When asked about key takeaways from their experience creating the textbook, the team emphasized the importance of open educational resources to promote access and success for all students.

“By providing cost-free course materials, professors can empower students to excel regardless of financial limitations,” said Walz.

Authoring and adopting open educational resources are a way faculty can help reduce students’ college costs and an example of Virginia Tech Advantage, the university’s commitment to providing the full educational experience to students who have financial need.

Library Collaboration is Key

Hopkins’ collaboration with University Libraries also highlights the essential support libraries provide in bringing scholarly works to fruition.

“This was my first time writing a book,” said Hopkins. “I was unsure about the level of support from University Libraries and I was pleasantly surprised with the level of support regarding the process from start to finish.” 

As ecological awareness reshapes property management, this textbook ushers in a new generation prepared to build a sustainable future.

"By teaching our future leaders the importance of these concepts, we are cultivating a more holistic view on the value of our built environment besides the economic bottom line," said Hopkins.