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

The second day of Multifamily Buildings 2011: The Energy Efficiency Edge, presented by the Association for Energy Affordability (AEA), included 28 educational break-out sessions.

Energy efficiency professionals presented best practices from a variety of program models financed by both utility- and government- funded energy efficiency programs. They delved into the strengths and shortcomings of tracking and reporting software used to benchmark energy use by multifamily buildings. They examined the types of upgrades and retrofits that make central heating systems operate more efficiently. They looked at what the federal government is doing to make publicly assisted housing more efficient and reduce the government’s utility bills. Experienced multifamily energy efficiency implementers offered guidance for construction managers new to multifamily projects to keep the installation process on track in order to maximize energy savings. And they discussed ways to harness new communications technology to increase information-sharing and growth of the industry.

On the policy side, David Bradley of the National Community Action Foundation (NCAF) provided a Washington legislative update beginning with a recap of Weatherization achievements. Bradley reported that two thirds of stimulus funding for weatherization has been spent and nearly 80% of the targeted homes have been completed. He noted that in each calendar quarter Weatherization has created at least 14,000 jobs. Bradley’s report discussed the program’s future funding prospects in light of recent developments through last week’s debt ceiling crisis.

“The new era of smaller government is here, and will be here for years to come. It’s going to take all of our savvy, all of our ingenuity and all of our leadership to keep weatherization on the table in Washington” he said. “But I feel there is a bipartisan base from both parties that believe in the Weatherization Assistance Program and will fight to maintain it.”

He called out ExxonMobil for attention as one of the largest corporate partners supporting the weatherization industry. “Going forward, if we’re seriously committed to making weatherization an opportunity, a career path, a strategy for the environment, energy and green jobs, it’s going to take a lot of work and a lot of partnerships.”

Highlight of Educational Sessions

In Harnessing New Technologies for MF Technical Training, presenters Adam Romano, Nate Price, Edward Wheeler and John Korn of AEA shared communications and software solutions for enhancing classroom technical training. Demonstrations included Google SketchUp modeling software, which allows trainers to create 3D renders of structural elements and processes, x-ray vision views of equipment like boilers.

Price shared some of the tools he uses when teaching general building science and process classes. In his classes, students have varying degrees of experience in construction and weatherization, so high-quality, realistic 3D renders and animations are critical to their ability to understand building science concepts and detailed processes like a three-pass boiler in a classroom environment before heading into hands-on training. By ‘bringing the building to the students’ via 3D animation delivered in the classroom or by distance learning, students learn skills such as pre-audit data collection protocols and perform virtual energy audits on computer modeled multifamily buildings of varying degrees of complexity.

“Our goal is for students to walk away with the highest level of understanding possible,” says Wheeler. “These videos explain in five minutes what it might take our best trainer half an hour to explain. This allows our trainers to spend more time elaborating, answering questions and going deeper into content because students get such a firm understanding of the basics.”

The presenters also showed examples of some of the live-action and split-screen streaming training videos they have created for classroom and distance learning courses.

In the session BPI Standards and Certifications for Multifamily Building Professionals: What is on the Horizon? David Hepinstall, Executive Director of AEA and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Building Performance Institute, Inc. (BPI), provided background on the history of the development of the multifamily standards in place today: Multifamily Building Analyst Professional, Energy Efficient Building Operator and Multifamily Hydronic Heating Professional.

With BPI now an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) accredited standards development organization, the process for updating current standards and creating new standards will follow ANSI protocols. The organization has also submitted an application for ANSI accreditation under ISO 17024 for personnel certifications. Completion of these two accreditations will vault the legitimacy and value of BPI industry standards and certifications in the wider community outside of weatherization.

Larry Zarker, CEO of BPI, told the attendees that the organization has seen tremendous growth in standards and certifications on the single-family home side of the industry in recent years, but recognizes that it is time to review and renew the multifamily credentialing infrastructure.

Current activities underway include an update, conducted by a working group headed by Hepinstall, to the Multifamily Building Analyst Professional criteria to a new Standard Practice for Multifamily Building Energy Auditing, which will include additional requirements for conducting whole building, science based building performance evaluation, and will address energy usage, durability and occupant comfort, health and safety. Other standards on the horizon, with scopes in development, include:

Standard Practice for Multifamily Energy Efficiency Building Operation (update)

Standard Practice for Multifamily Energy Efficiency Hydronic Heating Design (update)

Standard Practice for Multifamily Energy Efficiency Air Leakage Control (new)

Standard Practice for Multifamily Energy Efficiency Project Management (new)

In a session titled Beyond Multifamily Buildings: the Energy Retrofit Market for Commercial and Institutional Facilities, presenters Larry Harmon of Air Barrier Solutions, LLC and Steve Tratt of Canam Building Envelope Specialists, Inc. discussed market opportunities for experienced individuals and not-for-profit organizations currently participating in the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) to expand their services to market-value multifamily buildings, commercial buildings and institutional facilities.

Tratt presented some size-of-opportunity statistics: there are 4.8 million existing commercial buildings in the United States representing 70 billion square-feet of space available for occupation, and 40% of those buildings were constructed prior to 1970 and are in need of performance upgrades. He also noted the increasing popularity and valuations on sustainable buildings with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEEDr) ratings and ENERGY STARr labels, and increasingly stringent performance mandates for government-owned buildings.

Other opportunities raised included the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) Market Transformation Energy Plan and 7-Point Challenge, and opportunities to work with Energy Service Companies (ESCOs).

Noting that knowledge of the fundamentals of building diagnostic services provides a strong basis for playing a role in the specification and installation of performance across multiple building types, the session concentrated on the structural changes non-profit organizations need to undergo to make the transition to performing for-profit services.

Harmon identified key strengths inherent to WAP organizations that can serve them well in expanded market, including an existing organizational infrastructure; technical expertise for improving energy efficiency, durability and occupant comfort health and safety; and the ability to manage e complex projects that is specific to multifamily buildings.

Challenges facing these organizations include adopting a for-profit approach and the related ability to assume risk, high overheads, the need to develop or acquire specific experience outside of multifamily buildings, developing a sales and marketing capacity to attract business from new customers, and limited experience operating outside of grant programs.

Critical steps for success include the development of a solid business plan, evaluation of institutional strengths, market research to determine opportunities in local areas, identification of strategic partners and joint venture opportunities to help open doors and provide credibility in the broader marketplace for energy efficient buildings.

About Multifamily Buildings 2011

Held this year in Chicago, IL, August 8 – 10, 2011, the Multifamily Buildings conference hosts design and building performance professionals, policy-makers, energy efficiency program designers and implementers, weatherization agencies, contractors, and diverse energy experts, as well as building owners and operators, in educational sessions and discussions about 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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