Energy-Efficient Multifamily Housing

Feb 27, 2012 No Comments by

As demand for apartments and condos rises, builders and building owners of multifamily buildings are prioritizing energy efficiency to make their properties especially attractive and affordable.

Multifamily buildings – which usually consist of five or more units – make up about 18% of the nation’s housing. That percentage is growing because:

  • Over 80% of multifamily housing units are rented, and the number of people looking for rental apartments is growing due to uncertainty in home values, limited finances and the need for flexibility in the event of relocation.
  • Cost-conscious home buyers are turning to condos instead of single-family homes for their cheaper purchase price, utilities and transportation costs.
  • Multifamily housing often is closer to the office, stores and entertainment than single-family homes.

Compared with single-family homes, energy use is higher per square foot of living space in multifamily buildings because more people use energy-intensive resources like hot water.  As energy expenses climb along with square footage, it becomes even more important for builders and building owners to make multifamily housing as energy-efficient as possible.

The good news: Thorough energy efficiency retrofits can decrease energy consumption and expenses by 30% to 75% in many multifamily buildings. Such energy-efficient improvements also boost occupant comfort.

Paying for Energy Efficiency Upgrades

Energy efficiency incentive programs and utility rebates usually go to single-family homes or duplexes, and capital can be in short supply for multifamily buildings with low- and moderate-income renters. However, builders and building owners are in luck: Both the ENERGY STAR and LEED designations for homes are being adopted for mid- and high-rise multifamily buildings.

Efficient Windows for Multifamily Housing

Property owners are turning to energy-efficient windows to keep their multifamily buildings insulated. The Alliance’s Efficient Windows Collaborative offers a variety of resources for multifamily buildings:

Efficient Washing Machines for Multifamily Housing

Because many multifamily buildings have coin- or card-operated washing machines, the first step building owners can take to save energy in the laundry room is to use ENERGY STAR-qualified clothes washers, which consume about 37% less energy and 50% less water than standard commercial units.

To step it up, some multifamily buildings promote cold-water washing with incremental pricing on their clothes washers. These washing machines charge more for warm and hot water than they do for cold water, giving residents an incentive to use the less energy-intensive cold water option. For instance, several of Edgewood Management Corp.’s Washington, D.C.-area, multifamily buildings charge $1.25 for laundry loads with the cold-water setting, $1.50 for warm washes, and $1.75 for hot washes. Because residents have switched from almost exclusively using hot water to very often using cold water, the washing machines are consuming 25% to 30% less energy, according to Edgewood Assistant Vice President Terrence Kelley.

Source: ASE

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