Category: affordable housing

25 Jun

Mercy Housing Wins NAA’s ROE Energy Retrofit Award

Bright Power affordable housing, California

“On June 16 Better Buildings Challenge Multifamily partner Mercy Housing was honored with the National Apartment Association’s (NAA’s) Return on Energy (ROE) Energy Retrofit Award. The award recognizes smart, innovative solutions that successfully reduce energy in a quantifiable way by showing estimated return on investment (ROI) at an individual property.”

In partnership with Mercy Housing and Affordable Community Energy Services Company (ACE), Bright Power provided the following services at 205 Jones Street Apartments:

  • Installed heat pump hot water heating system
  • Installed Thermostatic Radiator Valves (TRVs)
  • Insulated pipes
  • Upgraded LED lighting in common areas & resident apartments
  • Implemented low-flow fixtures on faucets & shower heads
  • Installed ENERGY STAR® washing machines

Read more here via Better Buildings.


20 Jun

Two of Many Reasons We’re Proud This Pride Month

Bright Power affordable housing

Bright Power is especially proud this Pride Month to share two groundbreaking projects we’re working on: Crotona Senior Residences and Ingersoll Senior Residences. Both projects will provide quality affordable homes for low-income seniors in an LGBT-friendly environment. They will each house SAGE (services and advocacy for GLBT elders) Centers onsite. Each marks the first LGBT-friendly, low-income senior housing in its borough – Cortona Senior Residences in the Bronx, and Ingersoll Senior Residences in Brooklyn.

These two inspiring projects will meet the unique needs of their future residents. And, by integrating sustainability, they will be comfortable, healthy, and enjoyable spaces that also keep operating costs low, ensuring long-term affordability.

“I’m proud that we can deliver energy efficiency and solar power to a diverse array of clients and populations across the City. We’re able to give residents high quality, healthy places to live, while at the same time minimizing environmental impact and keeping operating costs low. We look forward to working on more projects with HELP USA, BFC Partners, and SAGE.”Jeffrey Perlman, President & Founder

Crotona Senior Residences

Crotona Senior Residences

“Crotona Senior is a prime example of a well rounded, integrated project that hits all three pillars of sustainability equally (environment, social, economic). I’m proud to work on this project, in particular, because it addresses the unique needs of LGBT seniors. Times have changed, and I’m thrilled that Bright Power can be a part of projects that prioritize the needs of demographics that would have historically been looked over.” – Andrea Mancino, Director of New Construction

Developed by HELP USA and SAGE
Located in Bronx
General Contractor: Procida
Architect: Magnusson Architecture and Planning
MEP: Johnson & Urban

Design Details:

  • Balanced ventilation for enhanced indoor air quality
  • Airtight and high-performance building envelope
  • High-efficiency HVAC system
  • High-efficiency lighting and controls strategies to enhance the ambiance
  • Solar PV design and installation
  • Active design to promote physical health
  • Community spaces to designed to enhance well being
  • Non-toxic finishes and materials

We are ensuring long-term sustainability by providing these services:

  • Enterprise Green Communities (EGC) Certification services
  • 90kW solar PV system design and installation
  • Commissioning (Cx)
  • NYSERDA New Construction Program incentive procurement and services

Read more about the project in NYREJ.


Ingersoll Senior Residences

Ingersoll Senior Residences

BFC Partners with SAGE is developing Ingersoll Senior Residences and will be Brooklyn’s first senior living environment that promotes diversity and safety for LGBT elders. Ingersoll Senior Residences will be a 17-story, 145-unit building that will ensure apartments are affordable to those earning below 60% of AMI while 30% of the units will be reserved for formerly homeless seniors. The onsite SAGE center will provide social services and supportive services for all residents. 

Developed by BFC Partners and SAGE
Located in Brooklyn
General Contractor: BFC Partners
Architect: Marvel Architects
MEP: Rodkin Cardinale

Design details:

  • Balanced ventilation for enhanced indoor air quality
  • Airtight and high-performance building envelope
  • High-efficiency HVAC system
  • High-efficiency lighting and controls strategies to enhance the ambiance
  • Active design to promote physical health
  • Community spaces to designed to enhance well being
  • Non-toxic finishes and materials

We are ensuring long-term sustainability by providing these services:

  • Enterprise Green Communities (EGC) Certification services
  • Commissioning (Cx)

BFC won CHPC’s Impact Award for Housing this April for their work on this project. Learn more about the project in NYHC.

19 Apr

Groundbreaking Financing for Energy Upgrades in Affordable Housing: The “Pay from Savings” Approach

Bright Power affordable housing, California, carbon, efficiency, energy management

Mercy Housing

How do affordable housing organizations lower operating costs while keeping tenants comfortable? The obvious solution: upgrade buildings to use less energy and water and deliver better comfort. But it’s not so easy to secure funds to pay for efficiency upgrades. Even with incentive funds that are available from utilities and the government, owners have to get creative. With the “Pay from Savings” financing model, owners can complete efficiency improvements when they are needed most, rather than waiting for refinancing or taking out a secondary loan.

Mercy Housing: A Case Study

In 2016, Mercy Housing, one of the largest affordable housing nonprofits in the country, sought out assistance in upgrading its California portfolio of nearly 100 properties and 6,500 units.

As Mercy Housing’s energy and water management partner, Bright Power first used EnergyScoreCards, our cloud-based energy analysis and benchmarking platform, to understand areas of waste and underperformance. Then, we completed comprehensive onsite energy audits to identify the best opportunities for improvement. Mercy Housing, Affordable Community Energy Services Company (ACE), and Bright Power prioritized phases of work based on factors including building performance, location, and available government and utility incentive programs like California’s Low Income Weatherization Program (LIWP).  The first phase, which consists of six Mercy California properties, wrapped up the installation at the end of 2017.

The three organizations partnered on an innovative “pay from savings” financing approach, which gives Mercy Housing the ability to complete the upgrades and use project savings to pay for the upgrades over a 10-year period. In order to help finance the upfront cost of these projects, ACE recently secured funding through the Reinvestment Fund.

To ensure project returns, Bright Power will actively track and verify savings through EnergyScoreCards and engage with site staff to help optimize operations and maintenance. The efficiency upgrades being deployed across Mercy Housing’s California portfolio include new LED lighting in common areas and resident apartments, innovative heat pump hot water heating systems, low-flow fixtures on faucets and showerheads, domestic hot water controls, and pipe insulation.

Pay from Savings

ACE’s “pay from savings” approach is groundbreaking because it allows owners, like Mercy Housing, to take the savings generated from their energy and water efficiency upgrades and use them to pay for the upgrades over the next 10 years. That means while Mercy Housing is conducting business as usual, their efficiency upgrades will be paying for themselves.

Paying for the project in this way requires careful tracking of the energy and water savings pre- and post-retrofit. Bright Power’s EnergyScoreCards breaks down consumption and spend by end use to allow Bright Power, ACE, and Mercy Housing to monitor savings at the building and portfolio level. This rigorous monitoring was an important factor in securing the “pay from savings” financing for these projects.

Like all EnergyScoreCards clients, Mercy Housing is paired with a dedicated Energy Analyst to monitor their savings. Caleb Smeeth, Bright Power’s Energy Analyst for Mercy Housing said, “I pay close attention to the monthly performance of each project to ensure savings are consistently achieved. If the data begins to trend in a different direction, Bright Power has a hands-on approach to engage with the site staff to diagnose the issue remotely and deploy our California team for additional on-the-ground insights.”

Beyond tracking savings for financing purposes, Mercy Housing can also use this information to see which measures make the greatest impact. This allows Mercy Housing, Bright Power, ACE, and the Reinvestment Fund to forecast projects that will yield strong energy savings and maximize tenant comfort.

The Results from Phase I (6 Properties)

In just four months at 6 properties, Mercy Housing has seen:

  • 29% decrease in gas usage  
  • 9% decrease in electric usage
  • 4% decrease in water usage
  • 7% decrease in carbon emissions

After Mercy Housing expands these upgrades to nearly 100 properties—representing the majority of their California portfolio—they will see impressive estimated annual consumption reduction:

  • 2.1 million kWh electricity – equivalent to 234 homes’ annual electricity use
  • 23,000 therms natural gas – equivalent to driving across the US over 111 times
  • 32 million gallons of water – equivalent to over 48 Olympic sized swimming pools

“Combining the LIWP incentives with the ACE ‘Pay from Savings’ offering, we were able to achieve deep levels of retrofit at these properties in a way we could not have otherwise done. We hope to replicate this approach with more California incentive programs at other properties in our portfolio,” says Caitlin Rood, Mercy Housing’s Environmental Sustainability Director. “It’s a model in which everyone wins—investors, subsidized housing owners, ACE and its partners, and, ultimately, our residents.”

With a model like this, affordable housing organizations can secure funding to meet the needs of their residents, improve tenant comfort, and reduce their carbon footprint. Caitlin couldn’t be more right—everyone wins.



For more information on Affordable Community Energy Services Company (ACE), visit

For more information on Mercy Housing, visit

For more information on Reinvestment Fund, visit

16 Apr

BFC Partners Receives Impact Award for Housing

Bright Power affordable housing

Congratulations to BFC Partners for receiving the Impact Award for Housing at CHPC’s 59th Annual Luncheon!  Don Capoccia, Principal at BFC Partners, accepted the award on behalf of the organization. 

BFC Partners’ work with Marvel Architects and SAGE USA to develop the Ingersoll Senior Residences is making history. The property will not only be NYC’s first affordable housing development built for seniors with services for the LGBT community, but it will also be the nation’s largest!

We’re proud to have consulted with the development team as part of their successful response to an NYCHA RFP, overseen by Juan Barahona, the Ingersoll Project Manager for BFC Partners. Additionally, Bright Power is providing energy efficiency services including:

  • Balanced ventilation for enhanced indoor air quality
  • Airtight and high-performance building envelope
  • High-efficiency HVAC system
  • High-efficiency lighting and controls strategies to enhance the ambiance
  • Solar PV design and installation
  • Secured Enterprise Green Communities certification

Ingersoll Senior Residences will also boast green roofs with local, drought-resistant plants for residents to enjoy and utilizes active design to encourage physical activity for seniors. By focusing on the future residents’ needs, BFC Partners, Marvel Architects, and SAGE USA are creating a community that will be a model for future senior housing.

04 Apr

Housing & Urban Demographic Change: A German Case Study

Jamie Bemis affordable housing

We live in a time of rapidly changing urban demographics, and as a result, housing needs. In New York City, changes in the economic makeup have proven a major challenge as pressure on the housing market causes entire neighborhoods to gentrify; resulting in evolving land use needs.  In Boston, average household sizes have been decreasing for years as family households are replaced by students, young professionals, and the elderly.

Urban demographic change has international drivers as well. Today, global mobility is at an all-time high. In 2015, there were 244 million migrants worldwide—the highest number ever recorded (2015 Global Migration Trends Factsheet). As droughts, famines, wildfires, and other natural disasters are exacerbated by the warming climate, more displacement and mass migration will result. This trend presents a challenge for communities to adapt, since the physical form of cities, building, and zoning codes, as well as other regulations that govern the architectural and construction industries, are slow to change.

As a professional working at the intersection of housing and sustainability, I want to better understand how forward-thinking communities around the world are responding to these trends in innovative manners. Specifically, how is the housing industry (including architecture, planning, and real estate development) responding to the needs for more flexible forms of housing, and what can we learn from these examples?  Furthermore, how can we address the needs of lower-income renters who are more vulnerable to market changes than homeowners or higher income renters?

Case Study: Prefabrication & Expedited Construction

In 2015, Germany welcomed one million refugees into the country, resulting in acute housing needs in a number of German cities. In response, the State Office for Refugee Affairs in Berlin (LAF) has borrowed inspiration from the past and created a framework for the rapid planning and construction of refugee accommodations that has its roots in a mid-twentieth century prefabrication approach to housing development.

Called Modulare Unterkünfte für Flüchtlinge (Modular Accommodations for Refugees), or MUF for short, these buildings provide urgently needed new housing for up to 450 individuals per development and can be built in as little as 46 weeks, including planning.

A core element of these new developments is a focus on flexibility. While each new site is based on a common design, the modular nature of the construction means that the developments can be customized as needed for each location without major structural redesigns. The dorm-like format allows for future uses as student housing or affordable micro-units in areas where housing prices are rising. With up to 10 new developments being construction per year in Berlin alone to keep pace with immigration, lessons learned from each development are incorporated into each new iteration of developments. For instance, a need for a variety of unit sizes has caused LAF to design units that can be combined for families or separated for smaller households and single adults as needed. LAF achieved this by adding lockable doors between units—similar to what you see in connecting hotel rooms—allowing site staff to quickly and easily transform two or more smaller units into one larger unit. In addition, more handicapped accessible units are being incorporated into future developments to better accommodate elderly residents and residents with disabilities.

Each development consists of three buildings in a campus-like setting. Two buildings are primarily residential and consist of individual units with shared kitchens and bathrooms on each floor. Since the residential units are relatively compact, common areas and amenity spaces are included in each building. Considerable attention is paid to the use and programming of these spaces to meet a variety of community needs, including study spaces, language learning classes, healthcare for women, recreational areas, childcare, and more. The third and only non-residential building consists of administrative spaces for the on-site staff, as well as laundry facilities. In the center of the three buildings is a semi-private recreational area, which provides activities for youth of all ages and encourages interaction between residents and other community members from the neighborhood, who may also use the recreational facilities.

While the developments are limited to six stories by Berlin’s building code, they strike an effective balance between space efficiency and compact design while also prioritizing the need for social spaces, on-site services, recreational uses, and the ability to foster community.  Similar balances have been achieved by projects in New York like Via Verde, a 222-unit residential building in the Bronx developed by Jonathan Rose Companies and Phipps Houses that includes live/work spaces, a rooftop garden for residents, open air courtyards, a health education and wellness center, bicycle storage, and a fitness center.

Lessons Learned and Takeaways

A number of lessons can be learned from the MUFs in Berlin. First, the design and construction approach provides a number of valuable takeaways. Prefabrication and the use of a common design allow for the construction of a permanent residential development that meets both current needs and anticipated future uses in less than a year. This design and construction technique can be applied to different settings where flexibility and/or expediency is a priority. Modular construction techniques are already being used in the US in some applications, and the trend is growing as labor and material costs continue to increase. The MUF approach demonstrates how this approach can be used successfully in a supportive housing project.

The material choices allow for expedited construction timelines while not compromising on energy efficiency. Concrete construction, radiant floor heating, natural ventilation, and high-performance windows allow for occupant control of thermal comfort while minimizing energy consumption. The result is a comfortable, quiet residence that stays naturally cool in the summer, requires little artificial lighting, and is energy efficient – outcomes that are aligned with New York City’s commitment to providing sustainable, high-quality affordable housing.

The dormitory style of this development could inform future student housing, senior housing, micro-units, and/or SROs in New York City where space efficiency is a priority. This campus style setting with a semi-private outdoor space surrounded by mid-rise buildings is a useful land use approach for balancing human scale with density.

While the design and construction techniques utilized on this site allowed the project to meet core objectives around cost, space flexibility, and timelines, the social element of the project has proven to be the most challenging. While some neighborhood residents have contributed resources and stopped by to volunteer their time, others were wary of the additional pressure on local infrastructure that new residents would entail. At town hall meetings, neighborhood residents expressed concerns about sufficient school capacity, public parking, and the availability of local resources for the influx of new residents. Looking back, site staff suggest that a more proactive public outreach strategy—coupled with an effort to actively address and mitigate common concerns such as parking and school seats—could improve community support for new developments.

Stay tuned for my next blog post, where I explore innovative approaches to existing building energy efficiency retrofits!

Sascha Langenbach, Jamie Bemis, Susanne Bölte
L to R: Sascha Langenbach, Press Secretary for LAF; Jamie Bemis, Bright Power Account Manager; Susanne Böltes, Coordinator and Head of Accommodations at the Berlin MUF site
13 Feb

Bright Employee: Jamie Bemis

Bright Power affordable housing, Bright Employee

Jamie Bemis Bright PowerWe’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 Jamie Bemis, Account Manager.

What are some of the things you like most about working at Bright Power?
I love the work we do here. It’s creative and challenging, and it’s closely aligned with my values. As an Account Manager with affordable and supportive housing clients in New York City, I get to wake up every day and feel like I am contributing to making the City a more resilient and sustainable place. Because I am passionate about mitigating the impacts of climate change, as well as social and environmental justice, it’s really gratifying to see our projects reduce utility burdens on low-income residents in NYC, and directly contribute to the city’s greenhouse gas reduction goal of 80% below 2005 levels by 2050. Today, cities across the globe are taking the lead towards climate change mitigation and adaptation. I’m proud to say Bright Power is helping NYC to be a leader in this effort by ensuring all new buildings we work on are built to the highest standard of building performance and each existing building we touch becomes more energy and water efficient.

What are some projects and accomplishments you’re most proud of?
I am proud of all of our clients, many of whom do not have a background in energy efficiency and sustainability, but who nevertheless spearhead innovative projects that incorporate cutting-edge techniques around high-performance building design and on-site generation. For instance, St. Nick’s Alliance just won the Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) RFP for Dekalb Commons in Brooklyn. Two of the buildings will be certified Passive House and will include rooftop solar PV systems. This will be St. Nick’s first Passive House project, demonstrating a willingness to try new things and push the envelope around high-performance building design. I find it particularly inspiring to see these types of projects in the affordable housing sector, where budgets are always tight. A few years ago, developers and city officials would have said that affordable housing couldn’t be designed with high-performance techniques due to the cost and the lack of expertise in the industry. Thankfully, this conversation has shifted dramatically in the past few years, and we’re seeing more and more developers, architects, and engineers who are excited about the opportunity to create innovative, beautiful, healthy, and sustainable residences for low-income New Yorkers. The Dekalb Commons project is a perfect example of this.I am also proud to work closely with Settlement Housing Fund, the Related Companies, Mutual Housing Association of New York (MHANY), RiseBoro Community Partnership, Banana Kelly, Workforce Housing, B&B Urban, among others.

What’s something people might not know about you and your role at Bright Power?
A lot of people don’t know that I am a mechanical engineer. After college, I worked for an MEP firm designing HVAC systems for mission critical facilities like clean rooms and laboratories. Later, in graduate school, I conducted research for the Sustainable Design Lab in MIT’s Building Technology Department. I was the only city planning student in our research group. I loved translating our building-specific research techniques onto urban-scale problems, especially trying to address the immense challenge of creating more sustainable coastal cities. Now, my engineering background allows me to have informed conversations with clients as well as with Bright Power’s engineering team.

What’s the one service offering we have that you think is the most beneficial to clients and why?
I think our New Construction (NC) service is particularly beneficial. Capturing energy efficiency opportunities during a renovation or a new construction project is a huge opportunity that is too often missed. Investments in energy efficiency during the design phase pay dividends over the life of the building, in terms of reduced O&M costs, utility cost savings, and tenant comfort and well-being. The subject matter expertise our NC team brings is critical. From Passive House to Enterprise Green Communities and more, they understand the cutting edge of green design techniques—many of which are constantly evolving—and bring this to design teams. In this capacity, our clients can rely on us to provide strategic advice that incorporates cost-effectiveness, long-term impacts, indoor air quality, maintenance concerns, risk management, and more. Part of the reason we have so many returning clients is that once they see the value of this service, they return over and over again. It’s one of my favorite services to sell because for me it’s such a no-brainer for our clients.

We hear you’re going to Germany – what are you going to do there?
Yes! In March I will be traveling to Germany as a McCloy Fellow (a transatlantic professional exchange program sponsored by the American Council on Germany) to study innovations in the built environment and climate change mitigation efforts. My hope is to meet with individuals from across the industry to explore how cities are responding to the needs of a changing climate. To answer this question, I will look at three specific consequences of global warming: global migration and growing urban populations; the shift to green energy supply and distribution; and green building design. By exploring how these specific issues are being addressed in local communities across Germany, I will gain insight on best practices, lessons learned, and key strategies that can be implemented here in the United States. I used to live in Germany, so for me, this is both an opportunity to learn from the cutting edge of our profession, while also a return to my roots in some ways. And I am thrilled to be bringing new subject matter expertise to all of our clients at Bright Power so that we can continue to push the envelope here in New York and build residences that are fit for the 21st century. You can read more about my trip here