Challenges with Controlling Energy Consumption in the Multifamily Industry
In June 2013, President Obama gave an update about the expansion of the Better Building Challenge to include multifamily housing. The Better Buildings Initiative, which is aimed at reducing energy waste, pollution, and increasing funding for clean energy technology, was launched in 2011. The broad initiative aims to reduce energy use in commercial and industrial sectors by 20% by the year 2020. Multifamily is categorized under commercial buildings, and while the initiative does have financing options for retrofits and creates tax incentives for increasing energy efficiency, reducing energy consumption in multifamily is still a challenge.
Most units are individually metered for utilities.
Even more important than having an initiative is having the data and means to reduce energy usage in multifamily buildings. For multifamily properties that are individually metered, it’s difficult to measure and improve on energy goals. NAA reported that the majority of apartment buildings in the US are individually metered for gas and electricity, unlike commercial buildings, which are master metered. This creates complications for multifamily businesses to collect information about electric, gas, and water usage in individual units, since state disclosure laws limit access to this information.
Multifamily residents move around.
Furthermore, residents of multifamily buildings are transient, making it difficult to measure, track, and improve upon energy efficiency. NAA’s 2012 Survey of Operating Income and Expenses in Rental Apartment Communities found that the average turnover rate in individual metered properties is 53%, so more than half of tenants are staying in their units for less than a year. While apartment residents use less energy than residents of single-family homes due to small unit size, this presents a challenge to providing tenant incentives to lower energy costs, and puts a strain on property managers to market and fill vacancies rather than focus on improving energy efficiency.
Multifamily buildings come in all shapes and sizes.
This makes it more difficult to measure energy efficiency in multifamily housing buildings. Apartment communities vary in size, shape, type, and age, and will require a variety of assessments and level of improvement to reach new energy standards. New building codes simply won’t apply to these older buildings, so a more situation-specific application for energy efficiency is needed for these multifamily buildings.
While encouraging residents to reduce energy usage and tracking it on the unit-by-unit level is not easy, it is possible to make high-level changes to reduce energy consumption in your buildings. Retrofitting your building with solar panels, grey water filtration, or energy-efficient windows will provide energy savings for your entire building as well as tax credits for your business. Installing energy-star appliances, low-flow faucets, or lighting sensors in common areas are steps you can take to lower utility consumption. You can learn more in our e-book about How to Attract Residents with Green Apartments. What are some ways you are lowering energy usage in your buildings? Share with us in the comments section below.