BBC Multifamily Partner Newsletter
Better Buildings Summit 2016: Recap #1

Over the next several weeks leading up to the 2017 Better Buildings Summit, the BBC Multifamily team will share a series of reflections on 2016 speaker sessions. This week, we’ll learn about last year's session, Strategic Alignments: Renewables, Water, and the Community Stake, that featured speakers from Foundation Communities, Think Little, and Mercy Housing.

The full PowerPoint presentation from this 2016 Summit session is available on the BBC Solution Center. Stay tuned for the next round of 2016 Summit session recaps! Register for the 2017 Summit to connect with your peers and hear from equally impressive speakers.

Strategic Alignments: Renewables, Water, and the Community Stake

Better Buildings Challenge partners understand that reducing energy consumption is critical for their organization’s financial sustainability. But how do other energy saving practices – such as using renewable energy sources and or reducing water consumption – come into play? And to whom should partners reach out for assistance with implementation? To get to the heart of these questions, Susan Peterson of Foundation Communities, Benjamin Knopp of Think Little, and Caitlin Rood of Mercy Housing explored these questions, provided key tips, outlined examples of these practices in action, and highlighted the following in their presentation (available on the BBC Solution Center):

  • Alternative utility allowances calculation methodologies are a way for multifamily property owners to recoup investments in energy and water efficiency, despite the classic split incentive problem common to buildings where tenants pay utilities.
  • High performance buildings are not necessarily high cost buildings; the integrative design process and careful cost-benefit analysis can lead to high performance at low costs.
  • External partnerships are key – having a long term solar development partnership is advantageous so that multifamily property owners do not have to select a new partner for every deal. These partnerships save time and ensure a consistent quality of projects.

Foundation Communities, an affordable housing developer in Austin and North Texas, has benefited from its focus on green investments throughout the lifecycle of its properties, with specific emphasis on water consumption and solar capacity. Susan Peterson provided an overview of five utility allowance calculation methodologies and used case studies to demonstrate the application of two specific methods – Actual Use Methodology and the Energy Consumption Model Methodology – for recouping costs from green investments. Combined with requiring education of all property managers and lead maintenance staff being Certified Green Property Managers, these programs have significantly minimized this partner’s carbon footprint – reducing water consumption by 12% and energy consumption by 2-26% at most properties.

When asked for advice for partners, Ms. Peterson said "Try to get aggregated utility data from your utility provider as a way to do whole-building benchmarking of your portfolio." Don't know your utility's requirements for obtaining resident-paid utility data? Start with HUD's Multifamily Utility Data Collection Database.

Benjamin Knopp from Think Little discouraged flashy building retrofits in favor of an integrated design process that employs cost-benefit analysis to result in cost savings for building owners. He explained several financing mechanisms available for green retrofits, from LIHTC to HOME and CDBG funding and NeighborWorks America Grants, and concluded by encouraging partners to "share their successes and struggles because chances are that several other partners face the same hurdles and someone may have already found a solution." Check out Multifamily partner solutions on the BBC Solution Center.

Caitlin Rood from Mercy Housing explained how her organization created an RFP and selected a national solar development partner through HUD-sponsored Renew300 technical assistance. She highlighted the benefits of solar development, stating that, "solar does not count toward BBC goals except the line loss from the power plan to the property, but it can result in meaningful cost savings and greenhouse gas reductions." Read more about Mercy's solar development process. Ms. Rood underscored the importance of including water efficiency measures in green building retrofits and reiterated that improvements in water performance also save energy.

Bonus: Don't Miss this Opportunity!
The Solar in Your Community Challenge is a $5 million prize competition that aims to expand solar access to low and moderate income (LMI) households; state, local, and tribal governments; and non-profit organizations. The Challenge will support dozens of teams across the country with cash prizes and technical assistance to demonstrate innovative, scalable business and financial models that can open new solar markets that benefit these underserved communities. There are three different ways to participate in the Challenge: on a team, as an expert to teams, or as a coach for teams. Learn more at www.solarinyourcommunity.org and apply by March 17.
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