$9B in energy savings on tap for U.S. apartments and condos
January 28, 2013 - A new report from the Institute for Market Transformation (IMT), Energy Transparency in the Multifamily Housing Sector, finds the American multifamily housing stock holds potential for major energy efficiency gains, which would improve housing affordability by keeping renters’ utility bills down.
By Alyssa Dalton
According to the report, transparency about building energy use can drive these gains. The VIDEO BELOW accompanies the report to look at the benefits of energy benchmarking.
Potential energy savings from America’s multifamily buildings have been estimated at $9 billion, with carbon reductions equivalent to shutting down 20 coal power plants, it continued.
“How a building is built and operated has a big impact on tenants’ utility bills,” said Cliff Majersik, executive director of IMT. “By measuring energy performance and setting improvement goals, owners and operators of multifamily buildings can save energy and money for everyone. This report addresses the practical challenges to ramping up efficiency in multifamily housing.”
New laws in major U.S. cities require owners of multifamily buildings to measure and disclose their properties’ energy consumption. IMT believes these laws will give owners much better information about their buildings’ energy use, and how to reduce it, while policymakers, utilities, and lenders will be able to use the resulting data to craft new programs and incentives for energy-efficient buildings.
The report noted the particular barriers to energy efficiency in multifamily housing, such as dispersed property ownership; a general lack of information on buildings’ energy performance; owners’ difficulty in obtaining the energy data needed to benchmark, if units are separately metered; and the availability of capital to finance energy improvements.
“As a general rule, greater transparency is a positive development, helping markets work better all around,” said Julia Stasch, vice president of U.S. programs at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. “As the report outlines, the implementation of these new laws should be undertaken carefully, especially given that much of the multifamily housing was built before energy codes were enacted and serves many low and moderate-income households.”
IMT recommends measures to address these challenges, such as that cities work with local utilities to ensure that building owners can access aggregated energy data, which allows them to benchmark while protecting tenants’ privacy. Another recommendation is to integrate energy-performance information into real-estate listings, so that prospective renters can know how efficient a building is before signing a lease.
“We’re pleased it raises awareness of the value of unlocking the energy reduction potential of multifamily housing that can yield tremendous benefits such as improved cash flow for owners, healthier living environments for residents, higher quality assets for investors, and job opportunities for the community,” said Yianice Hernandez, deputy director of Enterprise Green Communities.