Better Buildings Challenge Multifamily Newsletter: August 2021

In This Issue:

Key Announcements

Air conditioners

  • Interested in heat pumps but not sure what to do next? Watch the Better Buildings webinar What’s Hot with Heat Pumps for an overview of heat pump technologies and a discussion of current state policies surrounding them.

  • Sunrun and GRID Alternatives renewed a partnership to train California residents in solar installation skills for a second year. GRID Alternatives recruits and manages trainees who join Sunrun on California’s Solar on Multifamily Affordable Housing (SOMAH) job sites. The SOMAH program brings the benefits of solar energy to low- and moderate-income tenants while providing paid training opportunities for eligible job trainees.

DOE Secretary Recognizes Jonathan Rose Companies for Healthy, Efficient, Affordable Housing

On Wednesday, July 14, 2021, Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm and HUD New Jersey Field Office Director Justin Scheid visited Grace West Manor, an affordable housing property in Newark, to recognize owner and Better Buildings Challenge partner Jonathan Rose Companies for its progress in making housing healthier, more affordable, and more energy efficient for low-income families.

Image of a group of people at Grace West Manor

From left to right: Miguel Ortiz (Rose), Josh Haggarty (Rose), Kevin McKee (Rose), Nathan Taft (Rose), Justin Scheid (HUD), Sec Granholm, Eric Pennington (City of Newark), Congressman Payne, Kelly Speakes-Backman (DOE), Lauren Zullo (Rose), Caroline Vary

Jonathan Rose Companies joined the Better Buildings Challenge in 2014 and is on track to reduce its energy intensity by 20 percent within ten years across its 11.5-million-square-foot portfolio. The company has achieved an average of more than two percent annual energy savings through a multi-faceted, cost-effective approach to energy and water efficiency, including:

  • Deep energy retrofits
  • Converting systems from fossil-fuel consumption to electric
  • Incorporating renewable energy
  • Using data to monitor and analyze environmental performance at all properties

During the site visit, Secretary Granholm toured Grace West Manor, a 429-unit project-based Section 8 property in Newark. Approximately $22 million in upgrades have already been implemented at Grace West Manor that will not only improve efficiency and lower costs for the owner but also improve resident comfort and reduce residents’ utility bills. The upgrades were financed through a combination of owner investment and leveraging of state and federal incentive programs, including Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) and the Weatherization Assistance Program. In 2019, the property entered into an Energy Services Agreement to install 180.5 kW of rooftop solar photovoltaic at no cost to the property owner. Power will be purchased by the property at a 15 percent discount for the duration of the 20-year agreement.

Improvements to the property include key energy and water efficiency improvements such as modernized elevators, new energy-efficient domestic hot water boilers, LED lighting upgrades, high performance windows, weatherization measures, and water efficiency upgrades, with further improvements to be undertaken. Since Grace West Manor was acquired, the property has reduced its Energy Use Intensity by 13.3 percent, carbon emissions intensity by 14.3 percent, and water use intensity by 58 percent, according to Jonathan Rose Companies.

Spotlight on Partner Projects

  • Congratulations to Better Buildings multifamily partners Beacon Communities, Community Builders, and Preservation of Affordable Housing on receiving awards for their participation in Massachusetts Clean Energy Center’s (MassCEC) Passive House Design Challenge. MassCEC seeks to demonstrate that multifamily affordable housing that meets Passive House standards can be built at a low- to no-cost premium in Massachusetts. The Passive House Design Challenge made awards of up to $4,000 per unit for eight new construction affordable housing developments that are seeking Massachusetts LIHTC. Combined, Better Buildings partners received $1.04 million.

Community Builder's award will help fund their new North Commons at Village Hill Passive House project.

Community Builder's award will help fund their new North Commons at Village Hill Passive House project.

  • In the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak, Cambridge Housing Authority took a number of steps to improve Indoor Air Quality and reduce the risk of COVID-19 for their senior residents. At their Truman Apartments property, Cambridge installed new high efficiency heating/cooling units with fan coils and an integrated energy recovery ventilator (ERV) within each unit; installed UV lighting in the fan coils, which aims to inactivate airborne microorganisms according to the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) guidance; increased the outside airflow rate 30 – 50 percent by increasing CFM fan speeds; and installed higher level Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) air filters in common areas and offices. Across their whole senior housing portfolio, Cambridge installed 200 high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters in common areas.
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This material is based upon work supported by funding under an award with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The substance and findings of the work are dedicated to the public. Neither the United States Government, nor any of its employees, makes any warranty, express or implied, or assumes any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, apparatus, product, or process disclosed, or represents that its use would not infringe privately-owned rights. Reference herein to any specific commercial product, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the U.S. Government or any agency thereof. Opinions expressed on the HUD Exchange are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position of, or a position that is endorsed by, HUD or by any HUD program.