Catalyzing Efficiency in Apartment Buildings: City Governments and Efficiency Program Implementers

November 16, 2016 | Megan Houston

This blog post is the first in a series of three posts examining recent findings and recommendations in IMT’s report, Catalyzing Efficiency: Unlocking Energy Information and Value in Apartment Buildings. This post examines how governments and energy efficiency implementers can help stakeholders better analyze and act upon building performance data to unlock vast savings through energy efficiency. Click here to download the full report. In addition, please join IMT for a webinar on November 17, where the findings mentioned in this blog post will be further reviewed. Register here.

Increasing the energy efficiency of America’s multifamily buildings could save building owners and managers, residents, governments, energy efficiency service providers, and financiers $3.4 billion in annual savings. Recognizing this, a new report from the Institute for Market Transformation (IMT), Catalyzing Efficiency: Unlocking Energy Information and Value in Apartment Buildings, explores how governments and energy efficiency implementers could help these stakeholders better analyze and act upon building performance data to unlock these savings.

Today, 18.7 million U.S. households—over 38 million people—live in 5+ unit apartment buildings. Many of these multifamily buildings are inefficient, wasting water, energy, and money. While building performance data has become increasingly available as 11 cities and the state of California implement benchmarking and transparency policies that require building owners to track and report their buildings’ energy—and sometimes water—use, the data impact is still in its infancy in catalyzing efficiency investments.

The good news is that innovative governments and efficiency program implementers are creating programs that help owners and managers lower the burden and cost of improving energy and water performance. As part of IMT’s new report, we sought out feedback and best practices underway in the multifamily field as to how these entities can better help various multifamily stakeholders analyze and act upon building performance data. By evaluating benchmarking data and other resources to determine what owners and managers need to implement efficiency actions, these leaders are helping owners and managers turn data into action.

Let’s take a look at a few examples.

In the Northeast, the Cambridge Energy Alliance, a government outreach organization in Cambridge, Mass., works on ways to use benchmarking data to better target outreach and connect multifamily owners to the Mass Save program. The Alliance is also piloting WegoWise benchmarking software with 32 multifamily buildings and assisting with implementation. WegoWise helps building owners track and manage energy use and efficiency through utility data collection and building performance analyses. Finally, the Alliance is developing a multifamily program with Eversource, New England’s largest utility, to offer buildings with five to 50 units a single point of contact to interpret the energy assessment, create an energy efficiency and renewable energy action and finance plan, and coordinate contractors for implementation of the plan. The pilot will include monitoring results through WegoWise or similar software from Eversource.

Similarly, the City of New York's Retrofit Accelerator helps owners and operators of privately owned buildings reduce operating costs and increase the sustainability of their properties through energy and water upgrades. The Accelerator takes advantage of insights gleaned from the city’s benchmarking ordinance, Local Law 84, and its Energy Audits and Retrocommissioning ordinance, Local Law 87, to implement data-driven outreach to identify and assist building owners that have a high opportunity for energy savings. Once these building owners have been engaged, the Retrofit Accelerator team of efficiency advisors provides independent, customized technical assistance at no cost to help speed the uptake of energy and water upgrades. The technical assistance can take the form of referrals to qualified firms for project financing or information about available city, state, and utility incentives. In addition to the Retrofit Accelerator, the City of New York created the Building Energy Exchange, a nonprofit dedicated to providing educational resources and research on energy efficiency in buildings. The Building Energy Exchange hosts classes and events that aim to increase contact between design and construction professionals and real estate professionals.

In Kansas City, Mo., Elevate Energy, a Chicago-based nonprofit, has collaborated with Blue Hills Community Services, a local nonprofit, on a comprehensive efficiency pilot program for affordable multifamily buildings, which is unaffiliated with the city government. The service helps owners benchmark their properties, conduct an energy audit, examine potential savings opportunities, and obtain financing and incentives, while providing construction oversight and monitoring of post-construction savings. The program’s intent is to spare the owner from having to navigate the complexities of developing an energy project on their own. In Chicago, Elevate helps building owners make energy-saving improvements as a way to preserve affordable housing. The program provides a free assessment, recommends practical energy and water saving improvements, solicits bids from qualified contractors, assists with financing options, provides construction oversight, and monitors utility bills for two years post-retrofit. Elevate partners with Community Investment Corporation to finance energy efficiency measures in multifamily buildings.

To learn more about best practices underway, download our full report here. In addition, join us for an upcoming four-part webinar series:

Catalyzing Efficiency: City Governments and Energy Efficiency Implementers
Presenters: IMT and City of Cambridge, Mass.

Participants will hear from efficiency program implementers who have capitalized on city benchmarking data to build and refine programs that better engage owners and managers to implement cost-effective efficiency actions in multifamily properties.
Watch here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wlSZerXwdhE

December 1, 2 PM ET
Catalyzing Efficiency: Market-Rate Multifamily Owners
Presenters: IMT and WegoWise

This webinar will focus on market-rate apartment owners and managers, and showcase how these audience members can capitalize on benchmarking data to uncover energy and water efficiency opportunities in their properties. In addition, attendees will learn about using performance data to build resident demand for efficient apartments.
Register here: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/6611313218653190914

December 8, 2 PM ET
Catalyzing Efficiency: Affordable Multifamily Owners
Presenters: IMT and Bright Power

This webinar is intended for affordable apartment owners and managers. Participants will learn how to capitalize on benchmarking data to uncover energy and water efficiency opportunities in their properties.
Register here: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/8087083223012300034

December 15, 2 PM ET
Catalyzing Efficiency: Lenders and Investors
Presenters:
IMT and Community Preservation Corporation
In this webinar intended for apartment lenders and investors, participants will learn about the benefits of using benchmarking data in their standard multifamily business practices and hear from industry leaders who are successfully doing so while promoting energy and water efficiency.
Register here: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/2409124912828232450

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