International Center for Appropriate and Sustainable Technology Scales Efficiency Retrofits in Multifamily Housing

September 30, 2019

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With support from a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) funding opportunity, the International Center for Appropriate and Sustainable Technology (ICAST) has completed energy-efficiency upgrades to nearly 1,000 multifamily buildings, yielding a reported savings of 7.4 million kilowatt hours (kWh), 850,000 therms, and almost 82,000 gallons of water, as well as nearly $2 million in utility cost savings.

The 2015 funding opportunity announcement (FOA), “Solutions to Improve the Energy Efficiency of U.S. Small and Medium Commercial Buildings,” issued and managed by EERE’s Building Technologies Office (BTO), targeted promising solutions to spur the growth of energy efficiency in the small and medium commercial building sector, which is less than 100,000 square feet in gross floor area but accounts for more than 50% of the energy used in the commercial sector, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration's Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey.

ICAST, a nonprofit headquartered in Lakewood, Colorado, successfully concluded a three-year award under this FOA with efficiency results that touched almost 1,000 buildings and can be replicated across many more small and medium commercial buildings. At the start of the project, ICAST operated in two states, improving energy in about 100 multifamily buildings per year. With BTO’s investment, ICAST has grown significantly with staff in five states and energy-efficiency projects in an additional seven states. ICAST has exceeded all BTO project-specific goals, including the following:

Goal 1:  Retrofit 500 Multifamily Buildings
ICAST has provided energy-efficiency retrofit services to approximately 1,000 buildings and consulting services in 2,000 more buildings.

Goal 2:  Launch Two New Services that Enhance the Sustainability of the ICAST Model
ICAST launched a green consulting practice, which currently serves more than a dozen new clients and demand side management (DSM) programs for buildings in five utility territories.

Goal 3:  Create a “Franchise” or “Affiliate” Program
ICAST has eight affiliates providing energy-efficiency services to the multifamily sector in four states and seven cities.

ICAST focuses on naturally occurring affordable housing, or NOAH, a significantly undeserved market in what is considered an already hard-to-serve commercial building sector. NOAHs are typically smaller properties (5 to 64 units), owned by small firms or individual investors.

ICAST Example: Harrison Pointe, Ogden, Utah

Apartment building exterior in the background, with children's playground equipment in the foreground.
Photo courtesy of the International Center for Sustainable Technology (2019).

Building Characteristics:

52 units; 57 years old; NOAH

Energy-Efficiency Measures Installed:

Cold climate heat pump HVAC replacements; smart thermostats; LED lighting; floor insulation; domestic hot water pipe insulation

Retrofit Cost:

$7,635 per unit 

Total Incentives:

$107,198  

1st Year Utility Savings:

$42,859

Annual Energy Savings:

357,161 kWh

 

ICAST Example: The Kirk, Tooele, Utah

Exterior of a large brick building on a city block.
Photo courtesy of the International Center for Sustainable Technology (2019).

Building Characteristics:

48 units; 50 years old; NOAH

Energy-Efficiency Measures Installed:

Cold climate heat pump HVAC replacements; smart thermostats; LED lighting (in-unit, common area, and outdoor); attic insulation; low-flow devices

Retrofit Cost:

$6,144 per unit

Total Incentives:

$113,696

1st Year Utility Savings:

$45,583

Annual Energy Savings:

387,989 kWh

 

ICAST has successfully served the NOAH market using a one-stop-shop approach that makes efficiency simple, accessible, and cost-effective. ICAST offers these owners various financing options and leverages its partnerships with utility programs to access rebates and other incentives (such as green loans from Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Housing Administration). Using this approach, ICAST has successfully developed the pathway for NOAH projects to access deep energy savings including HVAC and building envelope upgrades. Energy and cost benefits of these projects extend to both NOAH owners and tenants.