Several energy efficiency retrofit programs for multifamily buildings have started up recently. New York, California and British Columbia are locations that I know of, but I'm sure there are others. In addition, some of these regions are looking at updating their energy codes for multifamily buildings. And layered on top on that are the multiple market conditions - for example landlord vs. tenant split incentives, tenant advocacy, investor, intermediary managers, IEQ - that can greatly affect our ability to retrofit multifamily buildings. These are the issues and societal context within which we need to operate. Please share your stories and suggestions in this discussion thread.
Add Wisconsin to your list. Focus On Energy (statewide EE program) has had a robust MF element for almost a decade. Our office is one year into a two-year project to weatherize 100 buildings comprising 6,000 units.
The weatherization work is VERY complicated -- as this group develops. I'll pump into it some of our experiences AND our dillemmas!
Wisconsin Division of Energy Services
Thank you Don. I didn't know about the Focus On Energy program. I'm looking forward to hearing more.
Mutlifamily Weatherization?? Who knew?
The National Weatherization Training Conference (Decmeber 12 to 15) is actually running an entire track on weatherizing MFBs. I'll be there discussing blower door testing in MFBs. And, by then, there's a good chance we will be well along on our task to begin an effectiveness study of Wisconsin's MF Wx program. (This first half will focus on typical measures/typical costs.
Anyone else planning to be there??
Too true. I have seen the NYSERDA studies. I also found a couple of academic/economic studies in the same vein. They report savings on the low side of the NYSERDA numbers; generally around 15%.
That said, yes, master metering is generally a bad idea, whether your goal is effeciency OR occupant behavior that supports efficient use of energy. It's a little cheaper to build a building this way. However, it does shelter low-income tenants from fluctuating energy costs AND from utility shut-offs. We see it mostly in very low income apartments, where living units are very small and where occupant demographics don't support a whole lot of energy-hogging appliances. (Wisconsin outlawed master metering in the late 70s.)
And, it's a problem that can be approached effectively only through building codes. It's almost impossible to undo a master meter configuration once the building is built and occupied. (There are comapnies out there that will sub-meter in various technological ways without re-wiring, but that costs, too.) You not only have to re-wire the building, but you also have to re-structure the entire business model for the property and its rents.
There is a downside -- once you meter individual apartments, it's a LOT more justifable to use electric baseboard heat. Bad idea. It's not just that it's the least environmentally-friendly space heating system possible! It also shifts the space heating cost to the tenant and subjects them to wide swings in electric costs through the year. In the low-income units I deal with that, that's how you end up with the tenant "heating" the unit with their gas stove -- CO poisoning be damned!
Our proposed incentive for submetering MF buildings was shot down due to the unpopular idea of shifting costs to tenants. Even though tenants will adsorb fuel costs either way, it seams utility programs fear the bad PR that goes along with a perceived cost being passed on to tenants.
I worked on a project a few years ago where the owner decided to submeter his 100-year-old mid-rise on his own dime. He left the wall of meters exposed in an interior hallway so that tenants would take notice of the spinning meters.
A popular trend here is submetering water/sewer.
The problem is that everyone assumes that if the tenant doesn't write a check themselves, they don't pay the utility bill. In most buildings, nothing could be farther from the truth -- the tenants always pay, one way or the other.
When the utility check that the owner writes gets bigger, any/all of the below happen;
1) the rent goes up
2) maintenance gets deferred
3) security is addressed by making building access more difficult, not by making systems easier to use
3) upgrades (cosmetic, comfort) get deferred
4) tenant selectivity goes down/ "problem" tenants or tenants that don't fit in become more common
5) resident programs/amenities disappear.
Any of these affect the existing tenants negatively. Whether or not tenants pay the utilities, tenants always pay the utilities. MF programs would be a lot simpler if this could become the accepted wisdom in our world.