Pilot Demonstrates Viability of Efficiency Program for the Multifamily Sector
CEE recently completed a pilot program for 10 multifamily buildings in Minnesota to demonstrate the viability of an energy-efficiency program for this sector. In addition, the pilot helped confirm that several newer technologies can save energy in multifamily buildings. The pilot was conducted on behalf of CenterPoint Energy
, who has an estimated 100,000 units of multifamily buildings that are centrally heated by natural gas in their Minnesota territory.
Although the multifamily sector is known as a hard one to tackle, we were able to save a significant amount of energy in all 10 of the buildings in the pilot. This suggests that there is a lot of potential for saving energy in multifamily buildings in Minnesota.The pilot installed aerators, showerheads, and efficient lighting in each unit, as well as identifying larger whole-building energy saving opportunities. The pilot staff also performed advanced ventilation system diagnostics on three of the buildings. Several of the larger opportunities, including solving ventilation problems and installing demand controls on distribution loops for domestic hot water systems, have not commonly been done in Minnesota multifamily buildings.
One opportunity that was not commonly recommended in the pilot was roof cavity air sealing and insulation; only one building in the pilot had that recommendation. According to Multifamily Project Coordinator Corrie Bastian
, who conducted the building assessments, “Minnesota’s multifamily building stock is newer than in some other cities, like Chicago, where insulation and air sealing is a very common recommendation for multifamily buildings. In newer buildings, it is not as common to find this as a cost effective opportunity.” This is unlike much of Minnesota’s single-family housing stock in core urban areas, which is relatively lacking in insulation and air tightness levels.
The pilot also conducted market research on the multifamily industry; specifically building owners and managers of market-rate multifamily buildings, the target for the pilot. For centrally heated buildings, which make up the majority of Minnesota’s multifamily building stock, the owners and managers were surprisingly engaged and interested in how they can save energy, compared to other sectors of the commercial market. They were very receptive to a program that would help them save even more. It is a financial decision for them. Most building owners and managers said they would do a project with a payback of five years or less, but only if they believed they would achieve the stated energy savings. This is a lesson for program implementers – they need to work to build trust in their program, and provide reliable information. According to our research, this would be perceived as a valuable service for the Minnesota multifamily industry.
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