Published on January 8th, 2013 | by GBE FACTS1
Energy Benchmarking Key to Realizing $9 Billion in Savings in Apartments and Condos: Benefits for Owners and Renters
Almost 40 million Americans live in apartments and condominiums in multifamily buildings (those containing five or more units). Over the past decade, these Americans have seen their energy costs rise by 20 percent — more than three times the average rate of rent increases. A new report from the Institute for Market Transformation (IMT), Energy Transparency in the Multifamily Housing Sector, finds that the nation’s multifamily housing stock holds potential for major energy efficiency gains, which would improve housing affordability by keeping renters’ utility bills down. Transparency about buildings’ energy use can drive these gains.
A short video companion to the report takes a look at the benefits of energy benchmarking
New laws in major cities require owners of multifamily buildings to measure (or benchmark) and disclose their properties’ energy consumption. 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. 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.
“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.”
The multifamily housing sector is too complex and fragmented for a one-size-fits-all policy approach. The new report, written by IMT’s Andrea Krukowski and Andrew C. Burr, describes 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.
“As part of our groundbreaking call to action to green all affordable housing by 2020, we at Enterprise Community Partners were thrilled to contribute to this report,” said Yianice Hernandez, deputy director of Enterprise Green Communities. “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.”
This report was made possible by the generous support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Additional information about benchmarking and the multifamily housing market can be found in this media backgrounder.