Market Characterization Study of Minnesota Multifamily New Construction Practices and Building Improvement Opportunities

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Construction of multifamily residential housing in Minnesota has been growing at a large rate highlighting a growing opportunity to identify and implement building improvements in multifamily housing on a larger scale.

Recognizing the growing importance of the multifamily sector in Minnesota, CenterPoint Energy Minnegasco commissioned the Center for Energy and Environment (CEE) to conduct an effort to better understand this sector. The Minnesota Department of Commerce, State Energy Office, also interested in this effort, contributed funds that allowed the scope to extend beyond CenterPoint Energy Minnegasco's service territory and to address other multifamily housing types (i.e. townhomes) not covered under the original Minnegasco project.

The effort has two distinct parts. The first is to conduct a market survey and characterization study of multifamily housing in CenterPoint Energy Minnegasco's service territory. The goal of the study is to determine the impact of multi-family housing in the region, characterize multifamily new construction
practices, and identify potential opportunities to encourage better building performance.

The study first identified the magnitude of the growing multifamily market in the state. Using data from the Metropolitan Council and the U.S. Census Bureau, CEE estimated the annual rates of multifamily newconstruction. CenterPoint Energy Minnegasco's territory is experiencing an addition of about 11,000 dwelling units per year, while the statewide total is at approximately 20,000 units per year.Common area (apartment/condo) buildings account for nearly two-thirds of this total, while townhomes represent just over one-third.
CEE gathered data on building characteristics and on the development process through 22 semi-structured interviews, ten plan reviews, and five on-site inspections. Those interviewed included developers, architects, engineers, general contractors, mechanical contractors and code officials who are active in the multifamily industry. The organizations represented deal with as many as 11,000 housing units per year throughout the state of Minnesota.

The findings of the survey and site-visits can be divided into nine main categories.

  1. Multifamily industry representatives expressed that their most serious concerns are about moisture and mold issues. Better specification of architectural details, better contractor execution of envelope details, better ventilation system design, and better contractor installation of ventilation systems provide the best pathways for realizing significant building performance improvements in this area. This might be effectively encouraged through educational promotion and better construction oversight.

  2. Promotion of high efficiency furnaces provides the best opportunity to encourage better heating systems. Rebates and promotion of the venting flexibility of condensing furnaces should be effective for the single-family style furnaces installed in most new townhomes and a minority of apartment/condo buildings.

Full report (PDF):
Market Characterization Study of Minnesota Multifamily New Construction Practices and Building Improvement Opportunities