About Multifamily Energy Efficiency
The sheer size and growth of the multifamily sector and the potential for large energy savings demonstrate the need to bolster energy efficiency—and the associated economic, environmental, and health benefits—among multifamily building owners and residents. This goes for both new construction and existing multifamily buildings of every vintage.
However, many multifamily buildings avoid energy efficiency upgrades because of a disconnect called the “split incentive.” The building owners or managers, not the tenants, are in the position of making building-wide efficiency improvements to big-ticket items like a heating and cooling system, better insulation, or newer windows. But the tenants, not the building owners or managers, pay the energy bills and thus would realize the savings. This split incentive issue usually means that efficiency improvements don’t get made. It confounds traditional utility efficiency program delivery and requires some creative solutions.
Multifamily in the Southwest
Growth in the multifamily sector in the Southwest is going gangbusters. Construction rates took a dip in the recession years but have climbed even higher than before the recession, and continue at a frenetic pace in the cities and suburbs. Whether it is millennials that prefer urban city living and/or and can’t afford single-family home prices, or the influx of new residents in the Southwest, it keeps apartment and condo occupancy rates high.
At the same time, traditional utility energy efficiency programs at the major southwest utilities are behind the curve and scrambling to keep up. Only a couple utilities have a comprehensive multifamily efficiency program, and most of the rest assume that multifamily building owners, managers, or tenants will wade their way through single-family residential programs or commercial and industrial programs, or they offer simple direct install programs or kits (LED lightbulbs, shower heads, and faucet aerators) that are a good start but insufficient.
SWEEP's Role in Multifamily Energy Efficiency
SWEEP studies and analyzes utility energy efficiency programs and incentives for the multifamily sector. And we turn that research into better-designed, stronger, and more effective multifamily energy efficiency programs and solutions by participating in utility dockets and planning groups about demand-side management (DSM). SWEEP recommends a multifamily program that:
- Specifically targets the sector (rather than being lumped in with either residential or commercial).
- Goes beyond basic direct-install programs.
- Uses a one-stop-shop or a concierge-style model that connects the building owner or manager with a single point of contact who is able to help coordinate and streamline the process start to finish.
- Offers easy access to monthly whole-building energy data so owners can prioritize and track efficiency investments.
- Gives extra assistance to low-income sector through higher rebates, enhanced technical assistance, and customized outreach and marketing.
- Partners with cities, housing advocates, health advocates, trade associations, and contractor networks to expand the programs’ reach.
SWEEP also works on strengthening, improving, and simplifying energy codes that apply to multifamily new construction or major renovations. We encourage local jurisdictions to adopt the latest energy code and to improve the rate of compliance and enforcement.