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In an effort to combat climate change, lawmakers at all levels are increasingly looking to apartment owners and developers to improve the energy efficiency of their buildings. In the past year, numerous proposals have been introduced that would require apartment properties to exceed existing energy-efficiency requirements (as contained in the ASHRAE 90.1 building standard) by anywhere from 15 percent to 50 percent.
Strategies and Costs to Exceed ASHRAE 90.1-2004 Requirements in a Multifamily Apartment Building is available to members of the following organizations by clicking the links provided below:
Policymakers can request a copy by contacting Paula Cino at 202/974-2345 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This report is designed to help firms identify the most cost-effective way to meet mandatory and voluntary energy-efficiency goals. It also helps policymakers understand what is technically and financially feasible. For example, the report finds that it will not be possible for most buildings to achieve a 50-percent increase over the ASHRAE 90.1 with today’s technology.
The research was conducted by Newport Partners LLC, an independent consulting firm with extensive expertise in building science and energy-efficiency technology. The firm performed comprehensive energy modeling of a typical apartment property in three U.S. climates to determine what products and practices would be required to exceed existing requirements by 15 percent, 30 percent and 50 percent as well as the payback for those investments.
There are serious practical and cost barriers to achieving 30-percent or 50-percent improvements over ASHRAE 90.1-2004 energy standard.
Most buildings will not be able to achieve a 50-percent increase over the ASHRAE 90.1 with today’s technology. Even meeting the 15-percent goal in some cases will require the use of extraordinary technology and practices. For example, it would cost as much as $8,000 per apartment unit for a property in Atlanta and would require a 16- to 25-year payback.
Most apartment owners would not be able to recoup these costs through higher rents, because they must compete for residents with older, less efficient and less expensive apartments. Also, unlike other types of buildings, apartment owners cannot recoup these costs through lower operating costs because most savings in new buildings accrue to renters who pay their utilities directly. This disconnect must be considered in any cost benefit analysis before modifying codes and standards.
There are several things apartment owners can do to significantly improve the energy efficiency of their properties, such as making different water heating and lighting choices or incorporating onsite renewable energy generation. Unfortunately, these kinds of improvements are not within the scope of existing energy codes, so the energy-efficiency gains they produce are not included in the “math” used to determine how much a property has improved its energy efficiency.
Apartments are already the most efficient and sustainable form of housing that can be developed. They are higher density, use less material per housing unit and have inherently lower utility costs per housing unit. They are also critical in meeting our nation’s affordable housing needs. If policymakers impose unrealistic energy-efficiency mandates on the sector, the cost to develop these properties will spiral, which will exacerbate our affordable housing shortage.