In San Antonio, Texas, Better Buildings Neighborhood Program partner CPS Energy Savers worked with the Army Residence Community (ARC) to pull off a nearly-200-unit energy upgrade with military precision.

The ARC, a nonprofit community for retired military officers and their spouses, was looking to upgrade the attic insulation in 189 single-family cottages built between 1987 and 1989.

"This project, our first venture into continuum-of-care community housing, was an interesting hybrid situation where we worked with individual residential units within a larger multifamily community," said Clint McKenzie, program manager with San Antonio's Office of Sustainability. "It saved a lot of time and money for us to interact with a single entity representing 189 homes compared to working with 189 individual residents and their contractors. The economies of scale were significant."

Aware of insulation rebates available through the local municipally owned utility, CPS Energy, the ARC contacted CPS Energy to confirm rebate amounts. Utility and city representatives took this opportunity to convince the ARC to consider additional, deeper energy upgrades to achieve greater savings. Through the CPS Energy Savers program, a collaboration between the City of San Antonio and CPS Energy, the ARC could receive an additional $2,000 for every residence that reduced its energy use by 15% or more.

With a specific energy reduction target triggering additional incentives, everyone involved in the project wanted to get to that level. CPS Energy Savers Program Manager Carla De La Chapa said, "Incentives plus rebates led to much deeper savings; without them, it would have been just an attic insulation job."

"We visited every cottage and looked at every possible way to reduce energy use," said De La Chapa. "Some residents had reported problems regulating the temperature in their homes, so we made thermal improvements like adding attic insulation and sealing ducts. Because the cottages are all electric-powered, we also converted lights and appliances—including refrigerators, air-conditioners, and water heaters—to more energy-efficient models."

Not only did the project achieve 15% energy savings in all 189 cottages, but the upgrades will save the ARC an estimated 381,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity and $33,795 in utility costs each year. Although utilities are included in residents' fees, the ARC ultimately passes these cost savings on to the residents.

Learn more about the CPS Energy Savers program and the ARC's Green Initiative.

Tips for Project Success

  1. Make it easy for the customer to participate. CPS Energy streamlined the 406 rebate applications for the ARC, worked directly with its implementation contractor, and bundled the 189 incentive payments into a single check, reducing the processing and paperwork effort for everyone.
  2. Stay organized and on schedule when working with the military or military-related customers. Contractors made a point to arrive at all meetings and home visits 10 minutes early.
  3. Target organizations with existing environmental initiatives or green missions. Having their executive leadership on board with the mission of the project enabled it to move much more quickly than if program managers had to sell it from the ground up.