BBC Multifamily Partner Newsletter
Better Buildings Summit 2016: Recap #4

This week, we conclude our series on 2016 Summit presentations by focusing on the Planning Tools: Holistic Needs and Opportunities Assessments session. The full PowerPoint presentation from this 2016 Summit session is available on the BBC Solution Center. Don’t forget to register for the 2017 Summit, which will be hosted May 15-17, 2017 in Washington, DC.

Financial Considerations: Leveraging the Value of Assets and Savings

Buildings are complex machines that are designed with attention to functional purpose, structural integrity, human comfort, public health, neighborhood context, natural environment, historic precedent, budgetary constraints, culture, aesthetics, and on. Thus, any intervention into how a building is built or operated has broad impacts. When seeking to improve the energy efficiency of a building, it may be tempting to take a narrow view. However, the best outcomes can be achieved by looking at a building holistically – understanding how one change will affect the system, avoiding unintended harm and seeking to leverage synergies to create multiple benefits from individual actions.

Consider going beyond the simple energy audit. Think about what it means to you for your building to be “high performing.” Does that mean that your building is merely energy efficient? Or also water efficient and material efficient, healthy for humans and the environment? Are there opportunities to make progress on multiple fronts through a carefully planned intervention or series of interventions?

How is the building in question performing in comparison to others in your portfolio and in comparison to others like it in the country? Are there opportunities to make progress in multiple buildings by planning similar interventions across similar groups?

Mithun, an integrated design firm, and the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation (TNDC), a BBC Partner, presented "Planning Tools: Holistic Needs and Opportunities Assessments" at the 2016 Better Buildings Summit and delved into the benefits of improving building performance through holistic approaches.

Mithun's Erin Christensen Ishizaki described how approaching retrofits from a quality-of-life frame resonates with both residents and funders to motivate change. This frame encompasses health, lifestyle, well-being, and cultural needs, as well as energy and water savings goals. Several case studies highlighted how housing providers can take a holistic approach to retrofit planning, incorporating resident engagement and Health Impact Assessments to help optimize investments.

The Mariposa Healthy Living District is a public housing redevelopment that conducted a holistic needs and opportunities assessment, identifying opportunities to improve energy efficiency, water efficiency, resident health, supportive services, cultural opportunities, and aesthetic design. This assessment combined community engagement with data collection and surveys to create a baseline, then set an ambitious vision and specific goals for the project. Focusing on health and lifestyle needs in addition to efficiency goals attracted new investments to the project. Residents described a sense of belonging and their heightened engagement in resident behavior change programs, combined with the retrofit itself, resulted in a 50 percent reduction in overall energy consumption.

Ishizaki highlighted the following key takeaways from her presentation:

  • Use your assessment as a window to gain a comprehensive understanding of opportunities – and set priorities.
  • Combine people, performance, and place to maximize the performance of capital improvements and resident programs together.
  • Focus your efforts on holistic, evidence-based strategies. The Mariposa Healthy Living Toolkit is a free best practice guide on holistic sustainability, health assessments and evidence-based design.

Ishizaki concludes with this advice for BBC partners: Resident engagement is paramount to achieving BBC goals. Quality of life programs build trust, community, and ultimately achieve long term sustainability goals.

After Ishizaki, TNDC's Tabitha Harrison provided attendees with insights into her organization's sustainability program and explained how they use utility benchmarking to understand the big picture of their portfolio and identify patterns and outliers in order to make strategic interventions and efficient investments. She also delved into challenges that property owners may face in their portfolios, lessons learned in utility benchmarking, and a discussion on how to use benchmarking data beyond reporting for the Better Buildings Challenge.

When asked to give some takeaways, Harrison gave the following suggestions:

  • Think long-term when developing your utility benchmarking plan. What are your goals?
  • Gather the data you’ll need to make decisions that support your goals. Some of this data may not be required for your chosen utility benchmarking platform, so an offline master spreadsheet can be helpful.
  • Do the best you can, even if your data isn't complete yet. Incomplete data is better than incorrect data.

Harrison stressed the importance of utility benchmarking: "Benchmarking is your most valuable tool to help achieve BBC goals. Don’t look at the process as an annual reporting tool, look at it as an ongoing program management tool. Develop your own feedback loop to get the most out of the process."

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