What does all this frigid cold mean for your energy bills?
Last week, natural gas prices were almost 40 times higher than they have been. While that high a price won’t persist, it is reasonable to expect that energy prices are going to be higher than they have been for the last few months.
Want a better understanding of the ups and downs of the energy markets before another blast of arctic cold arrives? Here’s a memo from the desk of Dan Levin, VP Energy Markets, explaining how this recent cold front has impacted markets.
We often hear from our clients that controlling their winter utility costs can be one of their biggest challenges. This past week’s weather and its impact on prices is an excellent example of why they may feel that way. Understanding the ups and downs of the energy markets (and prices) is difficult enough, but when it comes to events like bombogenesis or “bomb cyclones,” things can get really crazy.
In fact, last week we saw energy prices both rise and fall at the same time! Now to be honest and fair, we are talking about two separate “markets”: the national NYMEX natural gas futures market that moves with longer-term expectations and a price for natural gas needed specifically on that day in the local NY market.
On January 4th, the spot price (daily cash price) for NY set new records reaching $175/DTH. Most of our clients contract for fixed price natural gas in New York somewhere between $4.50/DTH to $5.75/DTH, and fortunately for them, they will not be impacted by the recent January price volatility.
You may also notice in the above chart, that seven of the ten highest prices fell within the past three years and coincide with the 2014 polar vortex cold period. All of the peak days in 2014 lead to natural gas utility supply rates of $8 or $9/DTH that winter. That’s what usually happens. Except for last week. The temperature extremes of the past few years coupled with the high demand in the NY market are a recipe for price volatility and the reason all our clients are hedged or have fixed agreements that protect their winter costs and budgets.
At the same time local prices were setting record highs, the futures market dropped. Despite the extreme cold in the near term across the whole US, the natural gas futures contract for February 2018 saw 7.5% price volatility and a daily price drop of 4.7%. While it is unusual to see large market movements like these in opposite directions, it can happen and it did here for good reasons. In short, the prices dropped for February and many of the forward months, because natural gas production has seen large increases over the past few months, changing market expectations. It is also an indication that we may see low prices once the winter has passed and the high natural gas production levels increase natural gas supply.
With clients across the US, it’s important to talk about region-specific strategies. We welcome market discussions with our clients as well as discussions on your specific procurement strategies.
Send any questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many thanks to our hard-working clients and partners who made 2017 a record-breaking and inspiring year. We look forward to continuing our great work together in 2018!
This year, our footprint grew to include over $1.3 billion in annual utility spend, more than 980 million square feet, and over 900,000 units. Together, we implemented energy and water savings improvements at hundreds of buildings – existing and new construction – across the nation, that have increased net operating income, improved tenant comfort, and increased property value. This commitment to building and maintaining sustainable communities allowed us to expand our impact, completing twice as many new construction projects and twice as many on-site generation installations compared to last year.
We are proud to lead turnkey installations for many forward-thinking owners and managers across the country. While we can’t list every project here, the following are examples are some of the things we have accomplished in the last year.
L-R: Morgan Mickelson, Mercy Housing; Andy McNamara, Bright Power; Jeff Greenberger, Affordable Community Energy Services Company; Caitlin Rood, Mercy Housing; Jessica Esposito, Bright Power
In California, Bright Power completed several comprehensive projects. We implemented retrofits with Mercy Housing across 12 properties, including the installation of heat pump water heaters at 6 of the properties. These heat pump water heaters are 250% to 400% more efficient than a traditional gas-fired or electric system. By using EnergyScoreCards as the foundation of our work with Mercy Housing, we were able to assess performance on a portfolio-level, expediting project work and allowing us to advise on a procurement strategy to manage energy supply costs. To assist with financing, Mercy turned to Affordable Community Energy Services Company (ACE) for an innovative approach – “pay from savings” – allowing Mercy to pay for the upgrades from the energy and water savings over a 10 year period.
Workforce Housing’s 1380 University Avenue saw a 57% decrease in energy costs and 41% decrease in water costs after implementing 7 efficiency measures. See below for a snapshot of an EnergyScoreCards report.
At Manhattan School of Music, we converted most of the building to water source heat pumps and replaced an aging chiller with a new, more efficient modular chiller. We also installed controls building-wide and achieved a level of comfort that was unprecedented at the facility. This yielded a net reduction in carbon emissions of 585,000 lbs per year, 15% reduction in water usage, and 10% overall reduction in energy use intensity (EUI). All of these changes resulted in energy cost savings of approximately 12.6%. Our real-time monitoring MoBIUS (Management of Building Information, Utilities, and Systems) service allowed commissioning to happen continuously throughout the year, proactively identifying several opportunities for further optimization.
We also completed a turnkey retrofit at 6 California properties with Bridge Housing which included boiler replacements, controls, LED lighting, and low flow water fixtures.
MG Properties Group completed 8 strategic energy-savings improvements across 12 California communities.
Equity Residential wrapped up the first phase of a larger strategic retrofit project across their portfolio, completing efficiency retrofits at 8 assets in California and 4 in New York City.
In New York City, completed projects include: the design and installation of L+M Development Partners’ 479 kW solar PV system at Marcus Garvey Apartments, the design and installation of a 116 kW solar PV pergola system at BRC’s 233 Landing Road, and the design and installation of a 28 kW solar PV system at Postgraduate Center for Mental Health’s Shakespeare Avenue property in the Bronx.
We worked with Omni New York, LLC to wrap up a large-scale energy and water retrofit at River Park Towers, a 1,600-unit property in the Bronx. The project consisted of installing a new condensing boiler plant and hot water distribution system, LEDs, and new toilets. It also included the installation of a 1 MW cogeneration system that will provide electric and thermal savings to the property as well as power resiliency. The project is on track to deliver $2.7M in annual savings.
In partnership with Breaking Ground, we completed the turnkey installation of two 100 kW combined heat and power (CHP) units for The Times Square, providing backup power for the first time at the property.
Via Verde, Bronx, NY – Jonathan Rose Companies & Phipps Housing
This year also marked the beginning of many exciting projects. With Jonathan Rose Companies and Phipps Housing, we are continuing to create long-term resiliency by installing an 18 kW battery system at Via Verde in the Bronx. With battery storage, Via Verde will be able to store the energy produced from their 66 kW solar PV system and use it as backup power in the event of another superstorm like Hurricane Sandy, as well as take advantage of demand savings.
Construction is starting at LeFrak City on new boiler plants and combined heat and power (CHP) systems for 2 of the community’s 20 apartment towers in Corona, Queens. Omni New York, LLC’s Morris Ave Phase II initiated construction on one of the largest passive house projects of its kind in the country and will provide apartments for formerly homeless residents. River Terrace Apartments, a cooperative in New York City, is closing out the construction of a deep and multifaceted retrofit that includes solar PV, CHP, lighting, fuel conversion, ventilation overhaul, toilet replacement, and heating system steam balancing. We will start installing HELP USA’s Crotona Senior Housing 91 kW solar PV array atop a pergola steel framing system – a project nominated for NYHC’s Community Impact Award. We are midway through installing a 575 kW solar PV system across 20 buildings at Ocean Bay Apartments, 1,395-unit complex located in Far Rockaway, New York.
Congratulations to This Year’s Honorees and Nominees
We’re elated client and partner of Bright Power, OMNI New York LLC is being honored as Developer of the Year at this year’s NYHC & NHC Awards Program. OMNI New York has been a fantastic partner we’ve worked with on projects such as Morris Avenue (pictured above), Archer Green, and 10 Richman Plaza.
We are also incredibly proud that Bright Power has been involved in so many impactful affordable housing projects. We wish all of our clients and partners nominated for the Community Impact Competition the best of luck.
Settlement Housing Fund / The Briarwood Organization & Edelman Sultan Knox Wood / Architects LLP – 1561 Walton Avenue: We provided new construction services including Enterprise Green Communities certification and NYSERDA Multifamily Performance Program (MPP) Partner Services.
Unique People Services & MAP – 2050 Grand Concourse: We are working as the energy efficiency and green building consultant for this supportive housing new construction project. As part of our services, we are helping the development team target a LEED Platinum certification and design on-site energy generation systems that will be able to power critical loads in the event of a disruption to the electric grid.
The Bridge, Inc. & the Leviticus Fund – 3500 Park Avenue: We are currently working as the project’s solar design consultant, continuing the solar design and installation services we have provided for The Bridge on other projects including 918 East New York Avenue, which is currently under construction.
Radson Development & MAP – Creston Parkview: We are providing Enterprise Green Communities certification and commissioning services.
HELP USA with SAGE USA & Magnusson Architecture and Planning (MAP) – HELP Crotona Senior Housing: We consulted with HELP USA starting with their tax credit funding application and are providing energy efficiency, green building, and mechanical system commissioning services including NYSERDA New Construction Program and Enterprise Green Communities consulting. We designed and will install a 90.72 kW solar PV array atop a trellis-pergola steel framing system.
BFC Partners, Marvel Architects, SAGE USA – Ingersoll Senior Residences with SAGE USA: We consulted with the development team as part of their successful response to a NYCHA RFP. We are providing energy efficiency, green building and mechanical system commissioning services, including NYSERDA New Construction Program and Enterprise Green Communities consulting.
MDG Design + Construction, LLC – Michelangelo Apartments: We served as the project’s energy efficiency consultant, beginning with an energy audit to identify cost-effective energy and water efficiency measures. The energy scope for the project includes converting from electric baseboard to hydronic heating which will produce significant energy and cost-savings. We are providing the services to procure incentives from the NYSERDA MPP, commission the new hydronic boiler plants, and set up monitoring equipment that will allow us to track the performance of critical building systems in real time through our MoBIUS offering.
RDC Development (MDG Design + Construction, LLC and Wavecrest Management) – Ocean Bay Apartments: We served as the project’s energy efficiency, power resiliency and on-site generation consultant, conducted an energy audit of the 24 building property, and provided an on-site generation feasibility study to assess the viability of solar PV, co-generation and energy storage technologies. After determining that solar PV was the most cost-effective on-site generation technology, we designed a system that will significantly reduce the property’s electric costs. We are now installing the 575.52 kW solar system, the third largest system on an affordable multifamily property in New York State. Read more about our work here.
Monadnock Development & Bernheimer Architecture – One Flushing: We consulted on and are in the process of installing a 116.1 kW solar PV system.
Georgica Green Ventures, Stephen B. Jacobs Group PC, Glenwood Management & Concern for Independent Living – Surf Vets Place: We work as the energy efficiency and green building consultant for this new construction project. As part of our services, we help the project meet the guidelines of Enterprise Green Communities as well as commission its mechanical systems.
Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation (WHEDco), Edelman Sultan Knox Wood / Architects LLP, Peter Franzese – Urban Horizons (UH): We conducted the energy auditing portion of NYC HPD’s first Green Physical Needs Assessment (GPNA).
We think all of the nominees are winners for their dedication and commitment to positively influencing each community they touch!
We’re proud of the intelligent, passionate, and hardworking people that make up the Bright Power team. Each month, you’ll get a chance to meet one of them, understand how they contribute to the organization, and what makes them excited to come to work every day.
Meet Gregory Sherman, Vice President, Business Development, who launched our Oakland office.
What do you like most about working at Bright Power?
Collaborating with incredibly intelligent and passionate people! I really like working for a company that has a clear vision. Bright Power’s mission is an important one, it is what gets me up in the morning. I value our role as a company that is more than a consultancy – we have positioned ourselves where the rubber meets the road, and that is what is needed to improve the energy and water performance of the built environment. We are having a real impact. I have been with Bright Power for over a decade, and it has been quite a ride! Watching the company grow from a few of us working out of a closet-sized office to a market leader 100+ strong has been deeply gratifying. Knowing that our impact is growing every year is one of the most satisfying aspects of working at Bright Power.
What are some projects and accomplishments you’re most proud of?
I am most proud of our early success here in California. It was difficult to trade in the comfort and safety of my position in New York for a business development role in a new place where no one knew the Bright Power name. But thanks to our unique Find, Fix, Follow approach and our successful track record on the East Coast, prospective clients were willing to take a chance on us. It is a great feeling to present our value proposition to a prospective client and get them bought in. Working with clients and friends at organizations such as LivCor, MG Properties Group, AIG, Fairfield Residential, Bridge Property Management, J.P. Morgan Asset Management, Equity Residential, Related, LeFrak, Kaled Management Corp., Goldman Group, Fisher Organization, and Sares Regis have made this journey well worth it.
What’s the one service offering we have that you think is the most beneficial to clients?
Our most valuable service is that we provide many services under one roof. Our integrated Find, Fix, Follow approach to energy and water management is our competitive advantage and differentiator. Once we establish trust, this approach becomes the way our clients manage energy and water.
What’s something people might not know about you and your role at Bright Power?
Something I did not know about myself is that I enjoy the thrill inherent in business development. It is a good feeling to present our value proposition to a prospective client and get them bought in.
Want to reduce your energy and water costs in your cooperative or condominium? Tired of ongoing energy and water issues clogging up your email inbox and board meetings? Or are you just not sure where to begin?
A few years ago, Park Terrace Gardens in Upper Manhattan decided to form committees that focused on specific issues. This sparked the creation of their Green Committee lead by four passionate women – Osi Kaminer, Kim Schwab, Bev Solow, and Leslie Zema.
What Does a Green Committee Do?
It’s a group of residents that…
- Serve as a resource and contact for the board, shareholders, property manager, and super to address residents’ energy efficiency and sustainability needs.
- Understand the building’s energy needs.
- Research and enlist energy and water management experts, like Bright Power.
- Assess savings opportunities and the best next steps in collaboration with experts, building staff, and board members.
- Collaborate with the coop management, elect to move forward with a plan of action, implement savings measures, and keep the board up-to-date throughout the installation.
- Review project success and savings with the board and shareholders once the project is complete, including a way to ensure ongoing savings year after year.
- Continually learn from other buildings’ energy initiatives.
Green Committee Goal: Keep residents comfortable while keeping energy costs down.
Park Terrace Gardens Green Committee at Work
Through completing their own utility benchmarking, Park Terrace Gardens became aware of the building’s needs to reduce inefficiencies. Needing to comply with local energy auditing laws, the board, by recommendation of the Green Committee, brought on Bright Power to complete a comprehensive energy audit that dug deeper into the property’s opportunities to find sustainable savings. The energy audit report helped elucidate and pinpoint long-term issues and allowed the board cost-effective options to implement energy and water savings measures. The Green Committee was critical to the success of this project and overall process, coordinating with the energy experts while collaborating with the board and shareholders to ensure smooth sailing. As a result, the measures below were completed at the property and the savings are monitored using EnergyScoreCards.
Upgraded boiler and balanced the steam distribution system
The Green Committee counted over 80 windows that were left open during heating season! Since the upgrade, the Green Committee used portable temperature sensors to educate residents on the changes they can make in their unit to get the most out of the retrofit, like moving furniture or heavy curtains away from radiators.
Weatherstripped exterior doors and in-unit AC systems
To tackle this effort and get the return on their investment, the Green Committee created gift bags for each resident complete with weatherstripping designed for windows with A/C units, detailed installation instructions, and handwritten personalized notes to each resident. The committee saw huge success with this campaign and are sure the personalized touch made all the difference. This measure has greatly reduced the amount of air infiltration coming into the building, minimizing the amount of energy wasted in both heating and cooling seasons.
Installed LED lighting
The board sponsored a giveaway of 5 LED bulbs for each unit in an effort to attract shareholders and reduce energy costs. The Green Committee set up the building’s conference room with different types of LED bulbs to demonstrate to the tenants that LED lights can have the same – or often times better – lighting output as other energy-intensive bulbs. Through education and live demonstration, the committee changed the opinions of shareholders. In tandem with a common area lighting retrofit, the building saw the lighting retrofit reduced 15% in electricity cost reductions in the first year!
Installed faucet aerators
The Green Committee shared with the building shareholders how and why they were making the change – using the audit report as a crutch to validate the investment opportunity (payback was under 6 months!). Supplemented with informational flyers and thank you notes, the committee was able to make a big impact.
Advice From Park Terrace Gardens on Starting Your Green Committee
1. Regularly educate and communicate with board members and residents.
Committee member, Osi Kaminer, says that their commitment to consistently educating the board is the key to their success. She also says that having a committee member serve as a board member to liaise between the two groups is crucial. This ensures the committee gets in front of the board regularly and can continue to push forward the Green Committee’s agenda outside of meetings.
Osi attributes their success with residents to the constant communication and open access to committee members. The committee created a group email for shareholders that would forward to the Green Committee and the property manager. They also publicized their phone numbers and welcomed regular contact. This personal communication reminded the other shareholders that the committee members were residents themselves, making shareholders more receptive to the Green Committee’s suggestions.
2. Don’t shy away from shareholders who complain.
Osi is clear: the committee’s goal is to ensure everyone is as comfortable as possible. While they know they may not be able to make everyone happy, they can make everyone comfortable.
Investigating a shareholder’s complaints about a cold unit sparked a visit where the committee learned that a previous tenant had removed a radiator from the unit. And, in discussing this with the shareholder, the committee learned that there were other units facing the same issues. If they had simply said “the boiler is set above the temperature required by law” and moved on, they would never have learned about the missing radiators in multiple units.
3. Understand the Board’s Goals.
Have the committee start with a list, provided by the board, of items they may want to explore and address. Let the committee investigate and share back their findings with the board. Keeping your goals aligned will be a constant reminder – you are both on the same side with the same goal.
4. Look to Others’ Success.
This Green Committee attended many workshops and connected with other buildings that completed or were undergoing similar projects. By learning from those who already have gone through the process, the Park Terrace Gardens Green Committee knew about potential roadblocks before they hit them. And, they were able to show what a project might look like on the other side, exciting the board and shareholders.
Read more detailed information about the steam system upgrades in this Building Energy Exchange case study.
See the survey the Green Committee used to help our engineers understand residents’ behavior when it comes to heating and cooling their apartment here.
See an example of a flyer the Green Committee posted thanking residents for their participation in NYSERDA’s Energy Reduction Plan here.
Energy and water benchmarking is a simple concept that can mean very different things to different people. For some, the phrase conjures a burdensome and impractical requirement – especially the collection of resident utility data where providers don’t make it easy. For others, benchmarking seems like an almost magical catalyst that can unleash a future of high performance, low-carbon buildings. The reality includes both. But whatever your perspective, it’s safe to say that in the last decade benchmarking has gone from “cutting edge” to a mainstream practice of the multifamily real estate world. Still, we’re just getting started.
Launching EnergyScoreCards platform in 2009, Bright Power has been a leader in multifamily benchmarking for some time, continuing to work with visionary real estate companies, publish research and share best practices ever since. In this post, I draw on that experience to shed light on this rapidly evolving real estate practice and answer common questions.
Who is Benchmarking?
By summer 2017, 18 cities and one state now require multifamily buildings over a certain size to benchmark, and sometimes publicly disclose energy and often water consumption (Source: http://www.buildingrating.org). That’s big, and between California’s requirement taking effect next year, the expansion of the NYC law to include buildings 25k – 50k SF and HUD’s new benchmarking rule in development, the number of properties benchmarking annually is set to increase dramatically in the next year. To give a sense of scale, in terms of square footage and CO2 emissions, covered multifamily buildings in NYC alone represent 1.5 Billion square feet and 7.5 million megatons emitted annually CO2. In Chicago it’s 260 million square feet, emitting 1.9 million megatons of CO2, Seattle has 100 million square feet of benchmarking multifamily buildings, Boston 66 million, Philly 5.4 million square feet – and the list goes on.
These numbers, understate the total multifamily properties that benchmark their energy and water consumption, since many do it voluntarily – including the 112 of the 345 partner organizations (that is portfolios, not buildings) that have signed up for the Better Buildings Challenge, or a number of 250 members of the Global ESG Benchmark for Real Estate (GRESB), an investor-led sustainability reporting framework, which includes some of the country’s largest multifamily owners and managers. In other cases, lenders like Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac or housing agencies like NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (NYCHPD) or the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) require that borrowers, or at least those accessing green programs, benchmark their energy consumption, adding to the number of participating owners.
While benchmarking policies undoubtedly include some owners who have been reluctant and may do as little as possible to avoid a fine, the success of voluntary programs shows that leading multifamily owners are now doing it on their own accord; they’ve reached the conclusion that benchmarking provides real business benefits and is necessary to proactively manage their properties and stay competitive.
How Does It Work and Where Do I Start?
Utility bill-based benchmarking rarely requires any new hardware to be installed to collect consumption data, but that doesn’t mean it’s simple. While even just getting owner-paid data for a large portfolio can require collecting at least 12 months of historical data for hundreds or thousands of utility accounts, the real elephant in the room for multifamily properties is tenant data, which is needed in one form or another to assess whole building consumption and spending, usually required for compliance with local laws. Some utilities have made it easier by providing aggregate whole building data and integrating with ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager, meaning owners may comply with the laws without having to manually type in utility data, or pay a service provider to retrieve and transfer it.
For other utilities, however, getting tenant data requires the laborious process of getting individual authorizations from residents and then collecting data from the utility, often extrapolating a whole building estimate from a (hopefully) representative sample. Even when working with utilities that integrate with Portfolio Manager and provide whole building data, a building owner still must set up the connection to Portfolio Manager (which often involves some amount of troubleshooting), and collect and enter property information (including square footage, units, bedrooms, information on commercial spaces, etc.). Fortunately, the EPA posts a searchable list of the utilities that offer automatic data integration, HUD has created a helpful benchmarking toolkit, and many cities with benchmarking requirements also provide a benchmarking hotline or other resources to help with compliance.
While some building owners have the time and interest to take on benchmarking DIY, most prefer to seek assistance from specialized software or service providers to collect, curate, clean and analyze the data. The good news is there are now several options for getting help, including:
- Signing up for a multifamily benchmarking service such as Bright Power’s EnergyScoreCards service (which for full disclosure I helped create and oversee) or WegoWise.
- Utilizing a bill aggregator or bill-pay service to transfer data to Portfolio Manager such as Ecova, AUM, NWP, Conservice; or others.
- Using a more broadly-focused sustainability reporting services like Goby or Measurabl, which may include integration with Portfolio Manager.
If you need to or want to benchmark and you don’t want to go it alone, there are many companies now ready to assist, some of which have now been running for years, gaining in experience and capability, offering better service and value. Given a range of different offerings, getting an apples-to-apples comparison between providers is critical.
What Can I Do With Benchmarking Data?
Too many conversations about benchmarking begin and end with talking about data. Insight and action are the goals – not just data collection. No one ever saved a kWh or made a building better just by staring at numbers on a screen – no matter how quickly they arrived there or how engagingly they were presented. Translating data into insight and action can be done in dozens of ways, from peer comparisons to identifying candidates for building upgrades, to watching trends and tracking progress toward goals, to measuring the impact of specific energy and water saving projects. Unfortunately, benchmarking laws, and even some benchmarking data services, seem to trust that once building owners collect the data, getting value from it will just happen automatically.
At Bright Power, we’ve seen that while a few owners are adept at translating data into action, most need help from an expert. There are a dizzying number of possible ways to slice and dice and crunch utility data, so performing the right analysis to answer your questions, and then knowing what to do with the answers is difficult. Even simply comparing energy usage between two properties to see which is more efficient is not a simple task: Given differences in geographies, building and equipment types, ages, different metering configurations and other factors, a reasonable expectation for consumption varies from property to property. Buildings are complicated and a meaningful peer comparison is a complex and evolving field (see our recent blogs and whitepaper on the EnergyScoreCards grading model). Providing analysis and insights from data is really the driver of success for real estate companies.
Insight and action are the goals – not just data collection. No one ever saved a kWh or made a building better just by staring at numbers on a screen.
There are no one-size-fits-all answers on how to use energy and water data, but one long-term Bright Power client may spark ideas for how to use benchmarking in your own portfolio. This client, a large portfolio spanning 23 states, began benchmarking several years ago as the key to satisfy GRESB reporting requirements and show their investors they take sustainability seriously. In the last few years, our Energy Analyst and Account Management teams used property spending and consumption data from EnergyScoreCards to identify the sites with the greatest potential for energy and water savings, and target those that could benefit from specific technologies like lighting upgrades or combined heat and power.
We then overlaid project feasibility and savings potential with eligibility for utility and state incentive programs across the country, and identified sites that could receive the largest subsidies for new equipment or more detailed energy audits. Using this strategic, data-driven approach, our engineering and installation teams completed 19 energy audits and over 30 installation projects ranging from common area LED lighting retrofits, to comprehensive whole-building energy and water upgrades, to combined heat and power (CHP) installations. Where work has already been completed, we are tracking month-to-month consumption to ensure expected savings materialize, and the owner can rest assured that we are ready to troubleshoot if things don’t go as planned.
In 2007, Bright Power collected data the old-fashioned way and performed a lot of our analysis using spreadsheets. There were no benchmarking disclosure laws and no national multifamily score from ENERGY STAR. There were bill processing companies but few if any who had meaningful analytics for multifamily. Multifamily benchmarking has come a long way in the last 10 years. If current trends continue, we can count on benchmarking to grow as a practice among real estate owners, and the process continuing to get easier, as more utilities provide whole building data and more service providers hone their methods for capturing, storing and analyzing the data. More owners will also successfully follow their own version of the process described above, moving beyond data collection to use the information to drive significant portfolio-wide projects to save energy and water, cut operating costs, improve resident comfort, access millions of dollars in incentives and improve the value and longevity of their properties.
The next big frontier in multifamily energy and water data may dive deeper into the data, looking at interval or “real-time” information that tracks consumption on a daily, hourly, or even 15-minute basis, allowing owners to more quickly catch problems and enabling a much deeper level of analysis than possible from monthly utility bills.
Many companies are working on devices and platforms to capture and analyze this type of data, although most remain rather expensive for the typical multifamily building. This more granular data may already make sense for applications like catching leaks, monitoring large HVAC systems, or participating in demand response programs with onsite generation technologies like CHP and batteries. Sometimes, this data is already available from new utility smart meters; in others, it will require installation of new hardware, but the costs appear to keep coming down and capabilities expanding. Really, if you’re interested in understanding how multifamily buildings use energy and water – things are just getting interesting.
Thanks to Apollo Engineering for featuring Jon’s article in their Summer 2017 Watts Hot Newsletter.
Our hearts go out to those who were affected by multiple hurricanes over the past months. We know that the road to recovery is long and daunting, as we are still rebuilding after the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy five years ago. We also know that you can bounce back stronger and more resilient than before.
Take Ocean Bay Apartments – a 24-building, 1,395-unit complex located in Far Rockaway, New York – which was severely damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and began redevelopment this year. Among major energy efficiency and storm resiliency measures, over the next year, Bright Power will install a 575 kW solar PV system across 20 buildings.
MDG Design + Construction LLC tells the amazing recovery story in this video.
For the first time, owners of mid-size buildings above 25,000 square feet in New York will be required to submit their annual benchmarking reports. The Greener, Greater Buildings Plan approved this legislation last October and will go into effect next submission deadline, May 1, 2018.
Learn more about the changes here.
Other cities and states with local benchmarking policies can be found on Building Rating.
Have a building above 25,000 square feet that needs benchmarking? Reach out to your Account Manager or contact us as soon as possible so we can ensure you are in compliance.
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.
In an effort to save energy, reduce maintenance costs, and leverage investments in existing building management system, more and more facility managers are beginning to research and deploy fault detection and diagnostics (FDD) software platforms in their facilities.
The 411 on FDD
FDD platforms consist of three major components: a way of acquiring data, a set of algorithms for processing it, and a means of displaying the results. If that sounds similar to a building automation system, don’t be surprised: Most FDD systems are designed as add-ons to an existing building management system, though some standalone platforms do exist. The difference is that, while modern BAS collect and store vast volumes of data, creating actionable results from that data is a time-consuming and difficult task. As anyone who has spent hours poring over building trend charts trying to figure out why they always get a particular alarm at 2 a.m. can tell you, this is a task worth automating. But to really save time and money, FDD systems must accurately identify real problems and provide an easily digestible idea of how to resolve it, if not an outright diagnosis. Getting it right is no easy task.
As with many cutting-edge software products, not everyone means the same thing when they talk about FDD. Generalizations are difficult, as even a single vendor’s FDD product is often infinitely configurable. No two software platforms are identical. At worst, FDD software may be nothing more than a fancy way to create alarms and trend plots, albeit with much more functionality than is built into most BAS.
Trending features can include plotting multiple time series of overlapped data, which may help determine the causes and effects of a problem by plotting one BAS point as a function of another, or plotting a mathematical expression based on multiple BMS points. True FDD systems attempt to detect and diagnose equipment failures by applying a sophisticated rule-base — what a computer scientist would call an “expert system.” Such a rule-base contains both general knowledge (“there should be little to no flow in a chilled water loop if the chilled water pump is off”) and knowledge specific to the facility in which it is deployed (“the chilled water loop delta T should never be greater than 12 degrees F or less than 4 degrees F”). From this embodied knowledge the system can make sophisticated deductions. Some FDD platforms come with this rule-base predefined and uneditable. Others allow users to modify or add to it, though often with a steep learning curve.
When the right steps are taken, FDD can be a huge success, speeding the diagnosis of subtle problems that might otherwise have taken months or years to discover. As FDD becomes a more regular add-on or feature of BAS, and as the costs of hardware and data storage continue to decrease, FDD may see wider and deeper deployment. Operator training and trust, and the ability of FDD software to provide targeted information with explanatory context, will continue to determine the success or failure of future FDD systems.
See full article here.