Using ENERGY STAR for Multifamily Housing

On Friday, June 26, I moderated a panel at the 2015 NAA Education Conference on the important changes to ENERGY STAR for Multifamily Housing. Scores and certification became available for multifamily properties in September 2014.

Joining me to discuss the changes, as well as the opportunities and challenges related to using ENERGY STAR for multifamily properties, were Amanda von Almen, LEED AP, from Lord Green Real Estate Strategies; Cindy Clare, CPM, from Kettler Management; and Nick Stolatis, CPM, LEED AP, from TIAA-CREF.

It was a valuable discussion, so I’m summarizing it here. You can also download this handy flowchart (PDF) to evaluate your property’s readiness for using ENERGY STAR.

Data Required to Score

Properties with 20 or more residential units can obtain a 1 to 100 ENERGY STAR score with the following data, inputted into the Portfolio Manager benchmarking tool.

  • 12 full months of energy usage data for all fuel types for the whole property, including common areas and units
  • Gross floor area
  • Number of units
  • Number of bedrooms

Certification Requirements

Your property needs the following in order to obtain the ENERGY STAR certification. The certification award year is based on the date the certification is approved.

  • Score of 75+
  • At least 75% occupancy over a 12-month assessment period
  • Online application through Portfolio Manager
  • Data submission verification by Professional Engineer or Registered Architect

Opportunities

  • Energy and water benchmarking: Benchmarking is good management. You are able to detect trends and aberrations, and measure the effects of energy improvements. There is much to be gained, even if you just benchmark common areas of the property.
  • Marketing and leasing: The ENERGY STAR brand has an 85% recognition rate among the U.S. public, mostly because of ENERGY STAR products such as TVs, computers, and dishwashers. Displayed on your certified property, the ENERGY STAR label can provide a competitive advantage.
  • Other certifications: Other sustainability certifications, such as LEED, Green Globes, and the IREM Certified Sustainable Property, use ENERGY STAR to validate energy performance.

Challenges

  • Whole-property data access: You need it for a score or certification, but whole-property data is hard to come by. See this IREM blog post for more info.
  • Data entry: Submetered multifamily properties have lots of data points. Entering the data into Portfolio Manager, and ensuring quality data, can be a challenge. ENERGY STAR and utilities offer tools to help, though.
  • Training: Luckily, ENERGY STAR has great guides, videos, and webinars to get you and your staff up to speed on using Portfolio Manager. There may be a change management process as you begin to use ENERGY STAR for Multifamily Housing—to make benchmarking a priority among other duties, and to make your staff understand that more internal transparency on property performance is a good thing.

The consensus among the panelists was that ENERGY STAR for Multifamily Housing—and the recent availability of scores and certification—is a tremendous opportunity for the industry.

To get started, download the flowchart (PDF) and discuss it with your staff. Visit www.energystar.gov/buildings for more info.

About the Author
Todd Feist is the Sustainability Program Manager at IREM Headquarters in Chicago. He develops classroom and online courses and helps manage the IREM Sustainability program, including the IREM Certified Sustainable Property certification. 


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