HUD Launches Utility Benchmarking for Energy/Water Efficiency

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Posted: Monday, October 10, 2016 5:51 pm | Updated: 9:38 am, Wed Oct 12, 2016.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As outlined in President Obama's Climate Action Plan, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development proposed utility benchmarking of water and energy in its portfolio of public and assisted, as well as newly-insured, multifamily housing. This new 'utility benchmarking' initiative would apply to approximately 2.2 million units across several categories of HUD-assisted affordable housing: developments with Project Rental Assistance Contracts, multifamily properties with mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration, and Public Housing Authorities with more than 250 public housing units.

Under this initiative, certain providers of HUD-assisted or public housing will begin collecting and reporting on their water and energy use. Benchmarking will guide these property owners and PHAs to make informed decisions, reduce operating costs and improve building performance over time.

HUD believes that collecting and reporting these data will lead to investments that: improve resident comfort, reduce tenant turnover, stabilize operating costs, reduce taxpayer burden, preserve affordable housing, ensure disaster resilience and mitigate climate change.

"Every homeowner wants to reduce energy costs to save money. But before property owners and managers can achieve measureable savings in the operating costs of their buildings, they need to understand just how much water and energy consumption is costing them," said HUD Secretary Julián Castro. "Today we propose a common sense practice that will lead to savings for building owners, housing authorities and taxpayers alike."

HUD's proposal seeks to establish procedures for building owners to input utility and energy data into the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's free, web-based ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager. HUD, building owners, and residents have a shared interest in eliminating energy and water waste while stabilizing operating costs to ensure that taxpayer investments are viable for the long-term. However, HUD is currently unable to effectively analyze the energy and water use patterns, improvement potential, and investment needs of properties in the assisted and insured portfolios.

Several studies, including the Government Accountability Office, have recommended that HUD work with property owners to establish the practice of utility benchmarking across its housing portfolios. Utility benchmarking involves tracking the utility consumption of a development on an on-going basis, calculating the energy and water efficiency of the development, and comparing its efficiency to similar developments.

For example, a Portfolio Manager benchmarking score of 50 indicates a property's energy or water use is 'average' compared to similar buildings. A score higher than 50 shows that the property is more efficient than its peers and lower scores indicates the property is less efficient as compared to similar properties. A performance score of 75 qualifies the building for an ENERGY STAR rating for existing buildings. Accordingly, utility benchmarking is a valuable tool in the strategic management of building portfolios over time. That is why a growing number of municipal and state governments across the country are already instituting successful utility benchmarking in commercial and larger residential properties to allow government policymakers, funding providers and building owners to make data-driven decisions.

HUD is dedicating resources to help owners collect, track and analyze energy data. This includes building a website with tools, case studies and links to federal resources. This assistance builds on experience with the Better Buildings Challenge, a voluntary leadership initiative that asks building owners, developers and managers to make a portfolio-wide commitment to energy efficiency and provide their energy savings data and strategies as models for others to follow.

Preservation of Affordable Housing, a BBC partner and Multifamily owner, has been benchmarking its portfolio and collecting and analyzing utility data from more than 1,500 utility accounts since 2010, including at Colony Plaza in Excelsior Springs, Mo. Through benchmarking, POAH identified this building for upgrades that improved efficiency and helped POAH move closer to its goals of reducing energy and water consumption across its portfolio by 20 percent by 2020. Additionally, the building reduced operating expenses by more than $20,000 each year.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

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