Author: Danielle Brocker
Before the last week of October 2012, the notion of resiliency was largely an afterthought for the New York City real estate industry. Then Superstorm Sandy hit.
Lights went out. Basements and boiler rooms flooded. A lack of diesel fuel rendered emergency generators silent. Apartments were left without the basics: electricity, running water, elevators, heat, and general access to the outside world. Remembering lower Manhattan in a complete blackout still sends chills through the spine of the Oculus.
By Halloween, Sandy was gone but owners, managers, and tenants alike had already begun thinking about how to make their commercial and residential buildings resilient enough to stand up to the next Superstorm.
Resiliency makes your building stronger — and more profitable.
How do you make your building more resilient? With technologies like solar, cogeneration, and battery storage,* you can produce and store cleaner power at your buildings and provide site-level power security against utility outages. By carefully selecting, configuring, and operating the right set of technologies, a resilient power system can even pay for itself through demand reduction, peak shaving, and reduced supply cost. Bright Power’s Resilient Power Hub integrates solar, batteries, and cogeneration to provide:
- Energy cost savings
- Reliable, efficient onsite power generation
- Cleaner backup power
- Power security
- Reduced risk
A resilient building is a more profitable building. Being prepared for superstorms like Sandy is critical. But so is having clean and efficient systems to help your daily operation. Peak demand shaving? Yes. Cheaper electricity? Check. Safer and healthier residents? You got it!
How are real estate owners prioritizing resiliency?
Located steps from the Atlantic Ocean in Rockaway, New York, Arverne View was not originally built to withstand major storms like Sandy. L+M Development Partners acquired the property soon after Sandy, and worked with Bright Power to revitalize the community and develop a long-term resiliency and sustainability strategy.
The improvements implemented were focused on both maximizing utility savings and allowing the property to better withstand another Sandy-like event. These included installing new storm-proofed HVAC systems, and exterior wall insulation that both makes it easier and less costly to maintain desired indoor temperature and provided much-needed facade improvements. More recently, Bright Power worked with L+M to install 36 kW of battery storage and 36 kW of solar PV at the property to power onsite offices, emergency indoor and outdoor lighting, booster water pumps, and a community room in the event of an electric utility outage. On a regular basis, the solar and battery systems will provide peak demand shaving to reduce electric costs throughout the year.
Now, Arverne View is well-equipped to keep essential systems operating in the face of storms and grid outages while also keeping energy costs low.
Community Access is in the final stages of construction on their 126-unit affordable and supportive housing building on East 172nd in the Bronx. As with many affordable or supportive developments, it was important to build housing with low long-term operating costs. With a priority on operating efficiency and resiliency, Community Access worked with Bright Power to install a Resilient Power Hub (RPH) – a combination of a 53 kW solar PV system, an 18 kW battery storage system, and a 10 kW cogeneration unit.
The solar PV and cogeneration systems would create much-needed cost savings while the battery system, during an electric grid disruption, would run critical equipment to keep residents safe.
By installing the RPH, the project team was able to use a small emergency generator to meet code-required loads. Without the RPH, the building would have needed to install a larger, more costly backup generator. While a large generator would have powered critical equipment in the event of an electric grid disruption, such a system would have provided no operational savings to Community Access.
With these technologies, Community Access will not only be able to avoid peak demand times, but in the event of a power outage, they will have backup electricity to power an elevator, water pumps, lighting to the corridors and exit stairwells, and the fire alarm. Importantly, the RPH will produce ongoing cost-savings so Community Access can provide resilient power that pays for itself over time, unlike the traditional generator.
“Managing energy consumption efficiently is better for our world, and reducing energy costs means more can be spent on programs and facilities for our tenants.”- Steve Coe, CEO of Community Access.
Protect your properties and residents
Resiliency improvements arm buildings with consistent, efficient, and reliable power on a day-to-day basis. And they keep the building operating during an emergency. Technologies like the Resilient Power Hub can maintain your ROI and help you contribute to the fight against climate change through the use of renewable and cleaner energy systems. Not sure where to start? Find out if your new development or existing building is a good fit for resiliency solutions by contacting one of our experts today!
*Solar harnesses the energy from the sun, producing site-level electricity. Battery storage captures and stores electricity for later use during peak demand pricing and grid outages. Cogeneration systems use natural gas to produce power onsite, generating electricity and pre-heated domestic hot water (a byproduct of electric generation). These systems power electrical systems such as common area lighting, elevators, pumps, and laundry and help reduce costs in areas where electricity rates are high.
Having an energy and water strategy in place — and sticking to it — will help to improve building and portfolio performance. A successful strategy helps you to look at your entire portfolio and prioritize your investments, source and secure incentives and financing, install improvements, and measure the data to verify the success and best inform other opportunities.
Why it Matters
Several of our clients have strategies that allow them to realize benefits beyond their goals. While you might strive to achieve only 1 or 2 of the below, you can often realize additional, unexpected benefits when you deploy a coordinated strategy with an expert. This is why many leading organizations work with us to make it a priority.
- Lower operating costs
- Reduce waste
- Secure more attractive financing
- Receive incentives
- Reduce maintenance headaches
- Increase property value
- Increase NOI with new investment opportunities
- Improve tenant comfort and retention
- Receive certifications like LEED or ENERGY STAR
- Diminish risk of project delays
- Drive corporate sustainability goals
- Reduce negative environmental impacts
- Increase operating cash flow for the life of a building
Map it Out
No matter your current approach to sustainability, we can help you create your strategic roadmap. As an energy and water management partner, Bright Power helps develop an organization-specific strategy and implement it successfully. Our Find, Fix, Follow approach ensures we recommend the right strategy for each portfolio and owner. How does it work? We Find areas of energy and water waste using utility bills; Fix buildings to perform optimally through our turnkey energy audits and retrofits; Follow the data to ensure every project achieves its goals.
Using the steps below, under our Find, Fix, Follow approach, you can feel confident no stone will be left unturned and your strategy will be integrated.
Mercy Housing utilized our Find, Fix, Follow approach to breakthrough challenges and define what success meant to them. Partnering with Bright Power and Affordable Community Energy Services Company (ACE), Mercy Housing sought to upgrade 80+ California properties. We prioritized the improvements across the properties in the most cost-effective way, bundling financing, incentives, and high-impact upgrades. The entire project is being implemented in phases and anticipates the last set of properties to be completed by early 2020.
Mercy Housing is able to utilize a “Pay from Savings” financing model to complete efficiency improvements when they are needed most, rather than waiting for refinancing or taking out a secondary loan. Addressing Mercy Housing’s challenges head on allowed us to find the best solution for them. Learn more about Mercy Housing’s strategy for implementing energy and water projects here.
Easier Said Than Done
Like everything in life, sticking to a plan is easier said than done. The importance of sticking to your strategy may seem obvious but it keeps your team accountable and helps you avoid costly delays. Keeping your goals and benefits top of mind and in plain sight while you implement your strategy will help keep the commitment alive. The good news is that you can rely on an expert like Bright Power to guide your organization throughout the entire strategy, execute implementation, and be your champion to remind you why staying on track is valuable.
Remember, energy and water improvements don’t go out of style like interior upgrades. Here are a few tips to staying on track and keeping to it:
- Budget in advance.
- Create tangible milestones that you know you will keep, and be realistic.
- If you don’t have the in-house bandwidth, then get help from experts.
- Look to others within your organization and outside for examples of what works best.
- Post a visual reminder of the value and results you will see if you stay on track – it keeps you motivated.
Want to learn more? Stay tuned for future blogs in which I will share insights from owners and operators that are leaders in sustainability — including lessons learned and best practices for implementing an energy and water strategy.
Missed last week’s “Implementing Your Energy and Water Strategy: Where to Start?” Check it out here.
Making good on annual energy and water performance goals is hard.
Whether you’re a building owner or operator, work on-site or in a corporate office, your day-to-day work life does not revolve around energy and water performance. Other, more seemingly urgent priorities arise that continually postpone analyzing and taking action on energy and water usage. But, by devoting a small, focused amount of time, you can develop an energy and water strategy that will result in more efficient, sustainable, and profitable buildings.
You can do this! And here’s how.
Set Tangible Goals
Take Bozzuto Management Company. In 2015, they sought to reduce energy across all company-managed properties and establish corporate sustainability goals. Bozzuto defined specific targets like their annual 3% energy savings portfolio goal, joined an energy efficiency initiative under U.S. Department of Buildings’ Better Buildings Challenge, and established a goal of increasing recycling by a minimum of 5% year over year across all communities.
“By establishing a meaningful and achievable goal – the first of many focused on sustainability – we are able to share with our clients that we too are committed to high performance. We can work in partnership with them while growing and promoting a culture of sustainable operations internally.”
Director of Sustainability, Bozzuto Management Company
Design and Implement Your Strategy
The first step many Bright Power clients, like Bozzuto, take to implement their energy and water strategy is to benchmark their properties. Through an analytics tool like our EnergyScoreCards™ cloud-based platform, they can gain a deeper understanding of their energy and water consumption, identify and prioritize opportunities for improvement, and measure and verify results after project implementation.
By defining their goals, outlining a tangible strategy, and implementing it, Bozzuto was able to achieve a 3% energy reduction in 2017 across their whole portfolio. This decrease in energy usage translates to nearly $1 million in savings compared to 2016 data measured in EnergyScoreCards and over $15.5 million in increased asset value across the entire portfolio. Not to mention being awarded ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year for the second year in a row and named Property Management Company of the Year by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), showcasing that you don’t have to choose between doing what’s right for your business and for the environment.
Clients like Bozzuto Management Company are proving that with a sound energy and water strategy in place, goals can be met.
Continue reading here to learn why having an energy and water strategy is important, how to get projects done more holistically, and tips to staying on track so that you can reach your goals.
The Bronx is quickly becoming New York’s favorite borough for new multifamily affordable housing developments. Bright Power sat down with Aaron Koffman from The Hudson Companies to dig deeper into why.
(Bright Power) How did Hudson Companies come to develop affordable housing projects in the Bronx after much of the firm’s historic affordable housing development activity had been in Brooklyn?
(Aaron) Hudson’s been around for 31 years now. Early on, we did work with Housing Partnership to build home ownership units in various places all over the city. Hudson built a lot of two story walk-ups, low-rises, side-by-side kind of developments that were 80-100 units, in the Bronx, Brownsville and even in Fort Greene. It was a great way to bring stability to the communities, since in many cases the land was vacant or underutilized. Then Hudson took its focus toward market-rate housing in the late 1990’s and 2000’s. We did a lot of deals in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
I came on board in 2008 and ever since we’ve focused more heavily on affordable housing. Personally, I really wanted to get us back in the Bronx. The Bronxchester RFP was announced in 2013, and we loved the site. It was mostly vacant, in a great neighborhood next to the subway and all the shopping. And so we went after it, and formed the team for La Central. Thankfully we won and have been going to the Bronx ever since.
Where we can do great work in the Bronx, we would love to do it. Of course, theBronx has become very hot so now there are areas of the Bronx that are not affordable for affordable housing, which is a problem. So we’ve known about it, and then should’ve done more, didn’t do enough, and now we’re back doing a lot.
La Central, 430 Westchester Avenue, Bronx, NY
(Bright Power) How does developing affordable housing in the Bronx differ from other areas of New York City?
(Aaron) From an economic perspective, the difference is very minor, if at all, between affordable housing in the Bronx and affordable housing in Brooklyn. Taking the economics out, there are more cases where the Bronx has better train access. We were focusing on Brooklyn so the Bronx feels new to Hudson – even if some of our fellow developers have been doing great work in the Bronx for years.
I like that it’s new to us. We keep trying to do more deals in Queens, but for one reason or another it hasn’t worked out, and so the Bronx is still sexy. Though, we love all of our boroughs equally, I love the community groups, elected officials, the incredible amount of pride, and the people and their stories in the Bronx.
(Bright Power) What role does the Mayor’s housing plan play in the increased attention on affordable housing development in the Bronx?
(Aaron) I think it’s always important when government makes a statement that they want to invest in communities. There’s an energy there that trickles down to the agencies and staff level where clearly, when the Mayor does make it a priority, the City does its best to execute that priority. For that reason, it’s great that Mayor de Blasio has made it more of a priority to put more investment into the Bronx and so has the Borough President, Ruben Diaz Jr.
The Borough President tells a great story about how his son just graduated from college, and he and his friends moved to upper Manhattan but he wants him to move back to the Bronx. He wants his Bronx kid back in the Bronx, working as an engineer and living in the Bronx, and his son wants to be there. So the Borough President is really championing investment in the Bronx, and the Mayor is too. And so everything kind of follows suit with that energy, that’s a lot of tailwind for us.
I do think the City showed their cards a little early regarding the Jerome Avenue rezoning and brought some speculators into the market that drove land cost up considerably. Not trying to criticize the administration, but that seems to be what happened. Now you have market-rate developers like Chetrit who does great work but, in the South Bronx? You know what I mean: all of a sudden, where you wouldn’t have seen a market-rate developer, there they are.
(Bright Power) Congratulations on your success on winning the Spofford RFP! What do you think differentiated your proposal for the local officials, community and the City to choose your team?
(Aaron) Obviously I can’t speak as to how we were selected, but we crafted a team for The Peninsula that was first and foremost of the Bronx. We have incredible community partners, including Urban Health Plan – one of the largest employers in the South Bronx – and The Point CDC. And I think the great retailers, in part, joined our team because of our community partners, including Spring Bank, which already has a few branches in the Bronx, and a supermarket. We can activate it at night, because Hunts Point Brewery and Bascom Catering will be there and we can cater events in our open area. We want to try to bring more people in; it’s about inclusivity.
On the development side, I love our team. Our non-profit partner, MHANY, owns many properties across the street on Spofford so they know the neighborhood and certainly have expertise in affordable housing. Hudson brings even more expertise in affordable housing and ULURPs. Gilbane has an incredible depth – they’ve been around for 130 years as a construction company and are trying to expand their New York development. And I will give a shout out to the architects BLA and WXY – they did a beautiful job designing the project. We’ve all been there before, even on the non-profit side. And when you put it all together, that’s what made us so attractive.
(Bright Power) Do you think that implementing sustainable design strategies was a big differentiator?
(Aaron) I do, it’s about sustainability, there’s no question, and it’s also about resiliency. I don’t know if Hurricane Sandy resonates in the Bronx as much as it does in Brooklyn or the Rockaways, but resiliency plays a role.
We’re in a different world where people are more cognizant of their utility use. People understand that power is polluting. Community leaders want to see that their neighborhood has the most sustainable and resilient development in the area. I’ve heard many elected officials boast about the green elements of these projects. And it is meaningful to people. I have talked to tenants of ours on other projects; they’re happy to brag about this.
At Hudson, it’s not just about us saying that we’re about the sustainable stuff, it’s that we’ve actually done it before. We know solar, passive house, cogen, and yet we still want to do one better. Also, we’re sustainable in a smart way – affordable housing depends on finite resources and we must weigh cost premiums to make sure we are doing it in an intelligent fashion.
(Bright Power) Hudson Companies was one of the first affordable housing developers to commit to implementing solar energy on their affordable housing projects. How has your view of solar energy changed over the years?
(Aaron) We’ve gone from solar being an interesting idea to solar being a no-brainer. We’ve done some great work with Bright Power in the solar and sustainability department, and the economics have only supported more investment in solar. It saves the development money, which makes the project more sustainable and allows us to put more investment back into the development.
I wish at Dumont Green we’d done a bigger solar project. Still, we’re putting in-ground and tree lighting to enhance security at night, which could happen, in part, because we’re taking electricity savings and putting it back into the building.
We see solar success every day at Gateway. I hear from a lot of Gateway tenants how proud they are when they drive down Flatlands Avenue and they see all the solar arrays up on Elton Street and they know that they live there. They are very proud that it feels state of the art. To reach 1 million watts of solar power generated at Gateway was a proud moment for our team.
We were drinking so much Kool-Aid on the solar at Gateway, which The Related Companies was a partner on, that Related has just now installed their own solar array on the Related Gateway mall. A big company like Related is always looking at the bottom line, so for them to buy in on the retail side is quite the testimony for solar.
Gateway Elton Street, Solar PV System
(Bright Power) Have you noticed tangible benefits or received feedback from residents about sustainable design elements of your buildings?
(Aaron) La Central is going to be the first affordable job where we’re doing VRF (variable refrigerant flow) HVAC systems. I’m really excited to move those tenants in, even though it will not be complete until 2020, and have them find out that the air conditioner is remote controlled, it’s already installed, and their windows are as big as possible – you get all the light!
I like to ask our tenants, “You know that new apartment smell, that smell of a freshly painted apartment?” And of course they immediately say yes. Then I tell them, “Yeah, unfortunately that smell is actually bad for you. That’s off-gassing.” When they walk into our apartments, they don’t smell anything. Then, it immediately hits them – oh, these guys are doing it better. Whether it’s no VOC paint, no vinyl, or putting dishwashers in the apartments (major water savers), I see that tenants are happy to be in our developments because we’ve taken steps that give tenants respect. That speaks volumes to how Hudson does business.
(Bright Power) Many of your development projects, including La Central and Spofford, are joint ventures with non-profit housing providers. What do you look for when selecting your development partner/s on a project? Can you describe the benefits they bring to your developments?
(Aaron) Non-profit partners are essential to every affordable job that we’ve done. What do we look for? We want a real partner. We are not an 800 lb. gorilla for-profit developer. We want collaboration. We want feedback and criticism. The non-profits in NYC are incredibly sophisticated, and we want their knowledge to help inform our projects. We look for that feeling of collaboration, competency in a particular field of social service depending on the building program, or general knowledge of services/neighborhood – if we can find all three, the better.
About Aaron Koffman: As Principal, Aaron heads Hudson’s affordable housing pipeline and portfolio totaling over 3,600 units and ~$2 billion in costs. At 797 kW and spanning nine buildings, the Gateway Elton solar project is collectively the largest solar installation on an affordable housing development in New York State. Aaron is the project lead on several large affordable housing/mixed-use new construction developments in the city, including: the 992-unit La Central development in the South Bronx, the 740-unit Spofford Detention Center Redevelopment in Hunts Point, the 659-unit Gateway Elton development in East New York, and a 56-building affordable preservation portfolio in several Brooklyn neighborhoods including Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights.
Prior to joining Hudson, Aaron was a Project Manager with Forest City Ratner Companies, focusing on the 6,400-unit Atlantic Yards (now Pacific Park) residential development. In addition to serving on the Boards of the NYU Furman Center, Coro New York and the Center for Urban Pedagogy), Aaron is an Adjunct Professor of Affordable Housing Finance at NYU. Aaron received a Masters of City Planning degree from MIT and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from UC Berkeley.
Andy McNamara, VP West Coast Operations at Bright Power (left) with Aaron Koffman, Principal at Hudson Companies (right) at Gateway Elton’s solar PV system unveiling.