In Multifamily Rehabs, Energy Efficiency is Your Plus One

By Better Buildings Challenge Multifamily Team on Apr 27, 2017

Well over half of the existing multifamily housing stock in the U.S. dates to (and in many cases predates) the Reagan Administration – which means a lot of multifamily owners are looking to upgrade and improve their buildings. Through the Better Buildings Challenge, we are seeing that energy efficiency projects are frequently part of the overall plan, going hand-in-hand with kitchen cabinets, flooring, and bathroom renovations.

Four recent Multifamily Showcase Projects incorporated energy efficiency upgrades in different ways:

  • Jewish Community Housing for the Elderly (JCHE): JCHE is undertaking a portfolio-wide effort to increase adaptability and operating efficiency of its properties. The Boston-based company has completed two such efforts:
    • Ulin House: Achieved 18% savings by renovating properties with LED lighting, Energy Star appliances, a cogeneration system, Energy Management System (EMS), low-flow toilets and faucet aerators, make-up air conditioners in corridors with an Energy Recovery Ventilation (ERV) system, and individual thermostats with control valves on the baseboard heaters in each unit, allowing tenants to control temperature within the parameters of the EMS, and more.  
    • Golda Meir House: Expecting 29% energy savings as well as Enterprise Green Communities certification for its energy efficiency improvements. In addition to installing many of the same upgrades as Ulin House, this project included a high-efficiency boiler and domestic hot water system and baseboard hydronic heat and thru-wall air conditioners with air source heat pumps.
  • Elk Valley Manor Apartments earned 33% savings for Gateway Management with numerous improvements throughout the buildings including air conditioning, window and roof insulation, and efficient water heating. The installation of the new equipment has resulted in an average decrease in electricity costs of 15 percent per apartment per year.
  • Leonard Apartments, an affordable housing community in Maryland owned and operated by Homes for America (HFA), took advantage of EmPOWER Maryland state funds and the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program to perform upgrades to appliances, the building envelopes, HVAC systems, water fixtures, and lighting, achieving 27% savings. Water consumption saw a 57% drop in costs - $23,200 - over the course of a year.

While energy efficiency upgrades can increase the price tag of a rehab project, the resulting improvements in building infrastructure, system performance, and resident satisfaction are a net-positive for the long-term.