Highlights from Day One of Multifamily Buildings 2011: The Energy Efficiency Edge

The opening day of Multifamily Buildings 2011: The Energy Efficiency Edge, presented by the Association for Energy Affordability (AEA), included a plenary and 21 educational break-out sessions on topics ranging from policy and program design to building assessment and enhancement, and from project financing to workforce development training certification and accreditation.

The opening plenary featured a keynote address from Karen Weigert, Chief Sustainability Officer for the City of Chicago, who told the assembly of over 500 attendees about the city’s programs and plans for enhancing the energy efficiency of multifamily buildings, noting that multifamily housing stock is critical to sustainability success, as it accounts for 30-32% of total square footage within the city. Across all neighborhoods, 50-60% of residential square footage in Chicago is multifamily, which also makes up the majority of affordable units and rental units.

“We want vibrant neighborhoods, thriving businesses and a healthy environment,” she said. “The concept of energy efficiency is front and center. You win on energy, you win on jobs and you win on savings. This is strategically important to the competitive advantage of the City of Chicago.”

Following Weigert, Robert C. Adams, the head of the Weatherization Assistance Program for the US Department of Energy (DOE), took the podium to provide an update on current activities. He presented some highlights resulting from American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding, including weatherizing more than 100,000 units and the creation of more than 15,000 jobs.

Taking a slice out of recent political headlines, he spoke about the potential for energy efficiency to help ease America’s debt crisis, pointing out that, “The United States spends $1.1 trillion a year on energy. If we improved to be 20% more energy efficient, it would save $200 billion a year.”

Next, Wayne Waite, Manager of Field Energy and Climate Operations, US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), addressed plenary attendees. He told the crowd that HUD spends $6.8 billion a year on energy related utility costs, noting that 85% of its buildings were constructed before the advent of any significant energy codes. As with Adams before him, Waite provided an update on recent achievements in and initiatives for improving energy efficiency.

Among those initiatives: upgrading standards, prioritizing investments in energy efficiency, attracting/incentivizing private investment, using green tools and energy efficiency protocols, mitigating regulatory impediments to energy efficiency investments and addressing data and technology capacity gaps.

“No longer will HUD be the lowest common denominator in energy efficiency on the block,” he said.

Ted Leopkey, National Program Manager, ENERGY STAR® Multifamily High Rise at the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), closed out the plenary session by providing attendees with a sneak peek into the new ENERGY STAR Multifamily program that will be officially announced the week of August 15, 2011.

David Hepinstall, Executive Director of AEA, moderated the plenary session, providing speaker introductions and color and history on the multifamily buildings industry.

“We had to prevent homelessness through unit abandonment,” he told the crowd. “We want the infrastructure built under ARRA to become a base that is improved, not one that falls backwards. We need to thank the HUD and DOE folks here for their efforts to help us do that.”

Highlight Education Sessions

In the morning break-out session, Green Financing: Who is Really Doing it?, presenters Sadie McKeown of the Community Preservation Corporation (CPC), Debra Schwartz of John D. and Catharine T. MacArthur Foundation and Chrissa Pagitsas of Fannie Mae outlined the opportunities for financing water and energy efficiency improvements in existing multifamily properties.

McKeown explained how lenders calculate energy savings into mortgages, and used the experiences of two buildings within CPC’s 62,000-unit portfolio to illustrate key points, including incorporating benchmarking and retrofitting as part of the underwriting process, with third-party audits to reduce risk.

Schwartz presented findings from MacArthur’s Window of Opportunity Initiative, under which 68,000 homes were preserved and improved, with $5.3 billion of new capital invested and $7million in grants and loans just for direct energy efficiency improvements.

Pagitsas spoke about the Green Refinance Plus program launched Jul 2011by HUD to support green retrofits and renovations of affordable housing properties, including loan terms, refinance and acquisition of existing affordable housing properties, debt service coverage up to 5bps lower, loan to value up to 5bps higher and no minimum or maximum loan amount. The program requires a Green Physical Needs Assessment and delivery of an annual ENERGY STAR Statement of Energy Performance Report. The program is currently only for existing affordable housing properties, but Pagitsas said the agency is looking for ways to extend it to market value properties.

The afternoon session, High Rise Multifamily ENERGY STAR, presenters Ted Leopkey of the EPA, Torrance Kramer and Sharon Gould of Franklin Energy Services, LLC and Richard Arnesen of Stone House Development, Inc. shared their insight into the results of the ENERGY STAR Multifamily High Rise pilot program.

Leopkey shared some high-level information on the new program’s requirements, then handed the podium to his co-presenters, who shared their experiences working within the pilot, with a focus on City Row Apartments, a recent project in Madison, Wisconsin.

About Multifamily Buildings 2011

Held in Chicago, IL, August 8 – 10, 2011, the Multifamily Buildings conference hosts policy-makers, program designers and implementers, as well as building owners and operators, design and building performance professionals, weatherization agencies, contractors, and diverse energy experts as they discuss the challenges and opportunities facing an industry devoted to making multifamily buildings across North America energy efficient, durable, healthy and sustainable.

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