Next-generation tools are redefining energy efficiency
These days, multi-family home owners and developers have a wide choice of energy efficient strategies to choose from. LED lighting, Energy STAR qualified devices and energy audits are common. Once obscure strategies are gaining traction, low-cost, sustainable features are the norm, and organizations that advocate greener practices are seeing interest skyrocket. The options range from solar power and on-site green spaces to smart technology.
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With so many other factors at play to attract and retain residents, the value of energy efficiency should not be underestimated. Studies suggest that green living has a strong appeal for tenants. This should be an important consideration, argued Marta Schantz, senior vice president of the Greenprint Center for Building Performance at the Urban Land Institute.
“When we think of the motivation to invest in improvements, it’s not just to save money, it’s to secure the best residents and motivate them to renew their leases,” she said. .
Policies in key markets are pushing multi-family properties to be more energy efficient. California, still a benchmark state for environmental issues, raises the bar. The new code approved in August by the California Energy Commission will require new high-rise multi-family projects to include solar panels and energy storage capacity. When it comes into effect in 2023, the code will build on existing mandates for solar panels in low-rise multi-family communities and single-family homes. The next update will also require electric heat pumps as a benchmark for new construction, while some municipalities have imposed moratoria on installing natural gas lines in new facilities.
On the East Coast, New York City is moving forward with a series of watershed regulations. Under Local Law 97, buildings over 25,000 square feet are subject to a carbon emission cap starting in 2024, followed by further reductions starting in 2030. Homeowners and boards of directors cooperatives and condominiums are required to make efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“Developers are going to have to redouble their efforts on the high performance and energy efficient aspects of the multi-family buildings they are currently developing to meet these future limits,” noted Samuel Biele-Fisher of Bright Power, who manages energy and some water. services to owners of multi-family buildings. “Otherwise, they will end up paying heavy fines. “
For those who are launching or improving efficiency strategies, experts recommend starting with the fundamental step: benchmarking. “The saying is true – you can’t handle what you don’t measure,” Schantz said. Tools like Energy Star Portfolio Manager are essential for prioritizing improvements, she added.
The good news is that smart features are getting more and more affordable. Facility staff can install unit or water temperature sensors for approximately $ 700 per meter; water sub-meters cost between $ 2,000 and $ 5,000 for installation by a plumber. “With new, low-cost controls, we are able to gain efficiency but improve resident comfort by providing better temperature response,” said Lauren Zullo, Director of Environmental Impact at Jonathan Rose Cos. , the New York-based developer.
Choosing the right strategy requires attention to the bigger picture as well as the needs of an individual community. When it comes to more expensive items like solar panels and charging stations, the investment horizon should shape the decisions. “Some things make more sense in the short term but will not be justified in the long term,” said Elie Rieder, CEO of Castle Lanterra Properties. “There are things a short-term owner can invest in that will significantly reduce operating expenses, but in the long term it’s not worth it. “
In Agave, a community of 349 units in San Antonio’s trendy Southtown neighborhood, solar panels and electric car charging stations have generated positive feedback from residents, Rieder said. Quantifying the benefits is difficult, but Reider emphasized the intangible value. “Southtown is a very competitive submarket with a lot of new products,” said Rieder, “so any boost we can give to leasing by differentiating ourselves through our green initiatives makes a big difference.”
Open the way
Once rare in the United States, passive house design offers an increasingly common alternative with cutting-edge benefits. “For the most part, it’s not rocket science,” said Jonathan Arnold, director of the Arnold Development Group, based in Kansas City, Missouri. “Basically you put a sweater around the building.” The heart of the strategy is a building envelope that is both thick and free of metal and dense objects that would let heat escape.
Focusing on the building envelope is a “win-win”, said Schantz of ULI. “It helps solve split incentive issues and just makes it more efficient. “
In the Harlem district of Manhattan, a project at the forefront of energy efficiency is taking shape. With 34 floors, Sendero Verde will be the tallest passive house project in the United States Developed by Jonathan Rose Cos., L + M Development and Acacia Network, the $ 450 million project will include 709 mixed income units and a wide range green amenities, including a 20,000 square foot yard and three community gardens.
Sendero Verde’s energy-saving features include triple-glazed windows, increased insulation, and an airtight building envelope that reduces drafts and energy loss. These designs are expected to reduce energy consumption by up to 70%, compared to a conventional construction project of similar size. The first phase of the project was completed in November 2020. The second phase is underway and should be completed in 2024.
“It really should be a very comfortable interior with a fresh air intake,” Zullo said. “And we will be able to reduce operating expenses for the homeowner, but also reduce costs for residents who will have very energy efficient housing. “
Over 1,200 miles west of Sendero Verde, another major passive house project was recently completed in downtown Kansas City, Missouri: Second + Delaware, the 276-unit community of Arnold Development in a historic neighborhood along the Missouri River. The property opened in December 2020 and is 99% leased.
What sold Jonathan Arnold on Passive House was the promise of a 70-90% reduction in energy consumption that “more than pays” for increased operating costs. Another plus: the appeal of rental units that are “thermally comfortable” and have no cold or hot spots because the careful design of the passive house is so effective in preventing heat from escaping. In the future, his company seeks to develop only Passive House certified buildings.
And in Seattle, Sustainable Living Innovations recently opened what is called the world’s most sustainable high-rise residential building. Dubbed 303 Battery, the 15-storey, 112-unit project will be the world’s first net zero multi-family tower. The property, which comprises 27 affordable units, is built with a proprietary system that uses panels manufactured off-site.
The building will include solar panels on its roof, exterior walls and balconies, radiant heating, collected rainwater and recovered gray water, regenerative gear elevators and daylight sensors to reduce energy consumption. energy. Solar panels will produce 48% of its energy from photovoltaic panels, and the rest will come from renewable energy off-site, according to UMC Inc., which installs mechanical components as well as the building management system. An app will allow residents to adjust lighting, heating and cooling systems, as well as blinds.
Read the October 2021 issue of MHN.