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Science Fiction or Your Future? The Story of Tomorrow’s Landlord and the “Tenant-Proof” Apartment Complex

by Al Williamson on December 9, 2013 · 21 comments

Future Landlord Apartment

To advance the mission of finding auxiliary income streams that could exceed gross scheduled tenant rents, I offer the following fictional story:

It’s pretty underwhelming as you approach this “tenant-proof” apartment complex.

You can see some wind turbines on top of the three story building, but it basically looks like a nicer version of the other buildings on the block. However, this complex has gained fame because the owner has figured out how to use the building to generate another source of income that exceeds gross scheduled rents.

The back side of the building reveals a surprising story. From the back, you can see what looks to be a large black blanket covering the entire building with cut outs for the windows.

Lori Mills is the owner and creator of this now “mixed-use” building. She is a middle-aged lady; notorious for wearing denim jeans and white button ups shirts. Mills has successfully integrated a moderately profitable algae farm with her multifamily rental. She uses the building to hang the pads that capture carbon dioxide to grow the algae.

Growing algae that absorbs greenhouse gases has become a popular way to mitigate climate change. The growing market for trading carbon credits has spurred many entrepreneurs into action. And Mills is the success story.

According to Mills, the Supportive Corporation takes credit for her algae’s ability to reduce greenhouse gases as a way to lessen their permit fees. Supportive’s $25,000 yearly contribution to the plant is enough to cover Mills’ mortgage and expenses, but less than the $100,000 Supportive Corporation would otherwise pay if they accounted for all of their emissions. It’s a true win-win for both Mills and Supportive.

Additionally, Mills says she makes between $1,400 and $1,600 every other month selling algae charcoal to a hydrogen gas manufacturing company.

All together, her full automated algae plant earns enough to cover her apartment’s mortgage and expenses without tenant rents. Making it tenant-proof.

Inspired Beginnings

Mills didn’t plan on becoming an environmental entrepreneur. She began just like most lords, eking out a small profit before taxes. But things changed once she embraced the notion of earning more by helping more.

“I started off thinking really big. Why not try to help the entire planet?” Mills said with a smile. That’s when she started researching the latest technologies for fighting climate change.

Mills eventually discovered the Requiron, a machine that uses nanotechnology to convert algae into carbon powder, and found some grants and financing for the plant’s construction. “I could hardly sleep once I realized I could actually use my building’s exterior to hang the absorption pads,” she said.

So What About Tenants?

Although Mills can get by without tenant income, she still wants it. Tenant rents (less repairs) are sheer profit.

She laughs when asked about what her tenants think of the algae plant. “They hardly notice, but I did have to dedicate one of the six units to store the plant controller.”

Mills jokes that now instead of relying on tenants to pay the mortgage, she relies on them to provide security for her equipment.

“In all seriousness,” she says, “the algae plant has freed up funds to make my complex look better than otherwise possible. I can now afford a specialty gardener to maintain an elaborate landscape plan.” Being tenant-proof actually helps attract better tenants.

What Next?

“There is still much more that can be done” says Mills. “I’m still trying to improve greenhouse gas capture rates and the quality of the carbon we produce. There’s no reason the plant couldn’t be more profitable.” She also thinks the tenant-proof concept should be incorporated into the affordable housing industry to make for a “triple win.”

Note: Although this is a fictional story, the concept is feasible. We will, one day, be able to use our rentals to create a significant auxiliary income stream.

Tell us your story of how it will happen.

Photo: Rufus Gefangenen

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Roy N. December 9, 2013 at 5:11 pm

Finally, the long-awaited {first} short story has been published :-D

I am a big proponent of energy efficiency and alternative energy strategies (or even renting roof space for a cellular tower), and have been motivated by what I’ve seen in Europe.

The biggest problem separating us from tenant-proof buildings – or steps in that direction – using alternative energy generation is the fact our utility companies are carbon-addicted dinosaurs.

I’m looking forward to the next story :)


Al Williamson December 9, 2013 at 9:59 pm

Thanks for coining the “tenant-proof” phrase, Roy N.


Roy N. December 10, 2013 at 4:27 am


The pleasure is mine … you can apply my small slice of the royalties towards neighbourhood improvement.


Steve December 9, 2013 at 5:18 pm

Sounds great… as long as those grants you mention come from private industry and not the public coffers, which are still empty.


Al Williamson December 9, 2013 at 9:55 pm

Steve, let’s take a collection and start a fund.


Michael Sadler December 9, 2013 at 5:55 pm

Thanks Al for using creativity to open our minds to the possibilities!


Al Williamson December 9, 2013 at 9:57 pm

You’re welcome Mr. Sadler. Please springboard off my thoughts and take us higher.


Lisa December 9, 2013 at 6:03 pm

Love the futurist overtones here! We’re expanding our minds, one post at time. Thanks for the bigger vision and even bigger opportunities.


Al Williamson December 9, 2013 at 10:03 pm

Lisa, thanks for chiming in. What do you think of the idea of earning more by helping more? Science or Fiction?


Brandon Turner December 9, 2013 at 6:39 pm

Cool post, Al! It’s definitely neat to think of the possibilities!


Al Williamson December 9, 2013 at 8:28 pm

Thanks for playing along everyone. And a special thanks to Roy N. for coining the “tenant-proof” phrase!

We have the smartest community on the planet. If we collaborate, we can develop a tenant-proof rental.

Here’s to high expectations!


Roy Schauer December 10, 2013 at 10:58 am

That’s awesome! Perfect outside the box thinking, yet practical. Been toying with a roof top warmer that channels the sun to heat up a holding tank to cut down on gas usage. It’s one of the biggest expenses here in Alaska, short of passing on the expense to the tenant.


Al Williamson December 10, 2013 at 7:28 pm

Roy, I guess being in Alaska make geothermal preheating out of the questions :^)


Tom Waddell December 10, 2013 at 12:18 pm

Thank you Al. I really love the idea of benefiting the environment while increasing income.

Here’s an idea for folks with commercial and large multi-family buildings. Some years ago I looked into the following technology for a very large office building and warehouse (of which I was part of the planning committee). Last I checked, this solar wall (pre-heats the ventilation going into the building) was very affordable and the savings in heat costs were substantial. Roy Schauer, this might work for your Alaska buildings.


Al Williamson December 10, 2013 at 7:37 pm

Nice find. Thanks for sharing. Building exteriors provide a ton of surface area that capture’s a lot of light, wind, moisture, UV, and other elements that could potentially be converted into things that could benefit landlords. Energy is the most talked about byproduct, but what about vertical vegetable gardens, billboards, air quality monitoring, water capture, etc.

Help me expand the list of ideas.


melodee lucido December 13, 2013 at 3:13 am

WOW! So great. Sitting here shaking my head at your creativity. Very stimulating story Al.

Thank you!


Al Williamson December 13, 2013 at 9:37 am

You’re welcome Melonee. Will you join me in looking for ideas?


melodee lucido December 13, 2013 at 3:08 pm

I am truly inspired and absolutely yes I will join you in looking for ideas.


Thomas Landis March 22, 2014 at 3:11 pm

Great concept! I am new to the REI world and am spending a lot of time thinking about how to provide unique value to tenants who care about the evnironment, like a comminuity compost pile (and garden to go with I suppose), rain barrels for watering plants and landscaping as well as thinking about passive heating systems that could reduce utility cost (great link Tom!) the problem with these things though is they don’t really increase profitability of the unit…unless you sell the compost at the local farmers market!


Al Williamson March 22, 2014 at 8:40 pm

@Thomas Landis, you’ve got some forward thinking thoughts for a newbie! Good job.
Regarding composting, you can improve profitability by reducing the garbage bin size.
Rain barrels will pay off if your water is metered.
Passive heating could pay off indirectly by being a feature that reduces vacancies (although this is a catch all answer – but never the less true).

Keep on pushing the envelope. Everything is figureoutable!


Thomas Landis March 23, 2014 at 8:18 pm

Great insight Al, of course reducing cost = more cash flow, I didn’t even think about that! Thanks for the encouragement and looking forward to more science future!


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