Friday, December 13, 2013

2013 & the EPA: A Year in Review


As we reported earlier this year, the EPA has been putting significant focus and effort on developing their systems for multifamily housing throughout this year.  Last week, the EPA announced two of the results of that focus, namely (1) preliminary results in a study aimed to allow multifamily housing to gain a 1-100 score and (2) the announcement that multifamily buildings may now participate in the Better Buildings Challenge.

Efforts by the EPA to Match Recognition of Multifamily Housing to Legal Requirements are leading to a Possible 1-100 Score

While there are benchmarking rules in Chicago, Boston, New York City, Seattle, and Washington D.C., with rules being considered for multifamily housing in other markets, most notably Orlando, FL, currently no score or certification has been available for the Multifamily industry to reward communities who are most efficient.  This release by the EPA is a step toward allowing owners to obtain certification for their apartment communities.

The Structure of the Score is based on Studies done and Awarded for Whole Building Performance

In 2012 the EPA, in partnership with other organizations, gathered data to determine relevant factors to allow accurate ranking of multifamily buildings.  They gathered data from more than 1,100 communities, but due to restrictions on what data was available for the various communities, were only able to accurately test around 220 of those units.  In performing their analysis they came up with a rating plan based on four relevant factors.  Those factors are: 
  1.  Total square feet of the buildings (for both residential units and common areas)
  2. Unit type (high-rise, mid-rise, and low-rise)
  3. Unit count of each type
  4. Zip code
In order to rank the effectiveness of the community, the data listed above would need to be entered into Portfolio Manager along with the energy and water data for the whole community, not just for the common areas or vacant apartments, but for occupied units as well.  If a multifamily owner then wanted to receive an Energy Star certification, this data would need to be verified by either an independent certified architect or an independent licensed engineer.

Manager’s Lack of Data about Utility Usage Appears to be the Biggest Struggle under the Proposed Model

The EPA does not have the ability to assist owners with obtaining resident data at this time.  They do, however, feel that owners will be able to find a way to procure the data and make it usable.  The lack of available data appears to be the largest hurdle to the EPA gaining the acceptance and use of the new model by multifamily property owners.  The 1 to 100 scoring model is still undergoing testing and will either be approved or rejected by the end of February 2014.  If approved, it should be available to use for the 2014 year.  


Better Buildings Challenge

As reported on December 3, 2013, multifamily buildings may now participate in the Better Buildings Challenge.  This program has been run by the U.S. Department of Energy since February 2011.  It was designed to incentivize property owners of single family homes and commercial buildings to perform energy efficiency updates to their buildings and reduce energy and water use across the nation.  The program requires the following commitments:

  1. Publicly pledge a portfolio-wide energy savings goal of at least 20 percent over 10 years and develop an organization-wide plan, schedule, and milestones.
  2. Announce, initiate, and complete at least one showcase project.
  3. Share portfolio-wide, building-level energy performance information to measure progress against their pledge goal, and share information about the energy efficiency implementation models (including the tools, technologies, and processes) they are using to reach their pledge goal.

The approved method of measuring progress towards reducing usage is benchmarking on the Energy Star Portfolio Manager website.  Conservice is involved in helping a number of our customers meet these requirements.

Conclusion

This has definitely been a busy year for the EPA and while the impact of these developments to apartment owners is yet to be determined, it is clear that multifamily housing will continue to be on their radar.  We should expect to see more cities pass mandatory benchmarking rules and see broader focuses on bringing the energy efficiency movement to the multifamily industry.


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