Distribution of housing types in California
Distribution of housing types in California

According to California Department of Finance estimates, as of January 2008 the state had over 13.4 million residential dwellings. Multifamily housing units make up 4.1 million units, or almost one third of California’s total housing stock. Older existing housing have a considerably larger environmental impact than dwellings built under today’s standards. Estimates indicate that energy efficiency improvements alone in California’s older housing stock could save up to 25,807 gigawatt hours of electricity and 972 million therms of natural gas each year. These increases in efficiency could reduce greenhouse gases by 13.7 MMTCO2e per year.

Multifamily dwellings have significant opportunities to increase efficiency, especially in the areas of water heating, space heating, and lighting, which collectively account for 72% of total site energy consumption (excluding common area loads such as pool heating) and landscaping, the main source of water consumption.

Increasing the sustainability of the existing multifamily residential sector presents a tremendous opportunity for reducing energy and water consumption statewide. Utility programs, such as those highlighted in the case studies to the left, have demonstrated that retrofits in multifamily buildings can reduce energy usage by 20% or more and reduce their environmental impact and improve their attractiveness for current and potential tenants. A significant portion of these savings can be achieved through simple, low cost measures and sound operating and management practices that can achieve significant cost savings for property owners, managers, and tenants.

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HUD Mark-to-Market

Case Study: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Mark-to-Market Green Initiative Program The benefits of green affordable housing address the fundamental needs of its residents: affordability and livability. According to the National Energy Policy Report, the energy burden on low-income households as a proportion of income is four times greater than it is for other American households. Greening affordable housing not only makes sense for residents — who can benefit from lower utility costs and healthier environments — but also for owners, who benefit from lower maintenance and operating costs.In response to this opportunity, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) launched its Mark-to-Market (M2M) Green Initiative for affordable housing in July 2007. The initiative was designed to provide an opportunity to replace inefficient building systems and equipment with sustainable, energy efficient, and cost-effective alternatives in conjunction with project renovation and financial restructuring actions supported through HUD’s Mark-to-Market program.. A nationwide pilot, the M2M Green Initiative provided financial incentives and technical support to property owners to facilitate energy and green invests and incorporate sustainability principles into ongoing property operations, repairs and scheduled equipment replacements over the next 20 years of the project’s life. Providing more favorable financing terms and enabling project debt to be restructured to accommodate green investments — even as rents are set to ensure greater long-term affordability for low income households — enables affordable housing owners to realize the green potential of the existing housing stock.After developing the Green Initiative pilot program, the California Sustainability Alliance provided valuable policy feedback to HUD by commissioning Strategic Energy Innovations (SEI) to evaluate the design and implementation of the M2M Green Initiative. The Alliance conducted a study of the current Green Initiative Implementation Guidelines and provided technical assistance to help properties assess their energy performance, identify energy efficiency and green building opportunities, integrate energy efficiency and green technologies into design plans, develop specifications for building performance, and verify building performance to ensure that owners gain the best return on the energy and green building investments.Sustainable opportunities identified include the following:

  • HVAC and Envelope
    • Wall A/C units
    • Common-area A/C
    • Roof-pack A/C
    • Cottage heat pumps
    • Packaged terminal heat pumps
    • Attic insulation
    • Windows
    • Roof/paint upgrades to reduce A/C loads
  • Other Energy Efficiency
    • Lighting
    • Ceiling fans
    • Elevator Motors
    • Refrigerators
    • Clothes washers
  • Water Efficiency
    • High-efficiency sprinkler heads
    • Xeriscaping
    • Drip irrigation
    • Hardscaping upgrades
  • Materials
    • Bamboo cabinetry
    • Natural linoleum floor tile
    • Low-VOC carpeting and paint
  • Solar
    • Solar thermal domestic hot water
    • Photovoltaics

The Alliance’s study recommends improving performance of the M2M green retrofits by upgrading technical and economic analysis requirements, improving utility monitoring requirements and providing more specific guidance for selection of qualified contractors. The study reviews the existing program guidelines and other HUD tools and programs to evaluate the effectiveness of the current M2M program.Download the Alliance’s Green Property Condition Assessment Recommendations for the Mark-to-Market Green Initiative.For more information on the HUD Mark-to-Market Green Initiative, visit the HUD website.

BRE Property in Chino, CA
BRE Property in Chino, CA
BRE Properties

CASE STUDY: BRE Properties

BRE Properties, Inc. (NYSE:BRE) is a real estate investment trust that owns, develops, acquires, and manages highly desirable apartment communities in the West's most sought-after places to live, including 57 properties in California. BRE has a longstanding track record of successfully adapting to the marketplace and turning challenges into opportunities, so it is only natural that they decided to partner with the California Sustainability Alliance to increase the sustainability of their multifamily housing portfolio.

The process began in 2007 with preliminary assessments of five apartment communities that were deemed representative of BRE’s California portfolio. The assessments identified measures that could improve energy, water, and natural resource efficiency. Building upon these findings, BRE worked with the Alliance to characterize the types of equipment typically used in their apartment communities and to identify energy efficiency measures that might be applicable to the full portfolio of BRE’s properties in Southern California. Numerous retrofits and operating measures were evaluated, including:

  • Replacing pool pumps and motors
  • Installing pool covers
  • Replacing inefficient lighting
  • Replacing through-wall A/C units
  • Tuning up or replacing other inefficient A/C units
  • Reducing pool pumping hours
  • Resetting boiler temperatures

At a typical apartment community, these measures will save over 22,500 kWh of electricity and 5,000 therms of natural gas each year, and will pay for themselves in less than two years. If implemented at BRE communities across California, these efficiency measures will result in annual energy savings of over 1.3 million kWh of electricity and 230,000 therms of natural gas. Based on this analysis, the Alliance developed a set of recommended energy efficiency measures for use at BRE’s entire portfolio. To facilitate adoption of these measures, a “Keep It Green with Energy Efficiency” handbook of best practices was created. The handbook empowers BRE on-site staffs to make incremental improvements as they carry out regular maintenance, in addition to providing a business case for larger, more capital intensive retrofit programs.

LINC Affordable Housing
LINC Affordable Housing
LINC Affordable Housing

Case Study: LINC Housing Community Housing Energy Program

LINC Housing Corporation, an affordable housing community for seniors and families, consists of 6,000 units in 45 properties throughout California. LINC’s Housing Energy Program provides education and training within LINC itself, engages in partnerships with green experts and consultants, established green building standards, developed evaluation tools, and funded improvements to four LINC communities.

In 2008, LINC partnered with the California Sustainability Alliance to receive comprehensive technical assistance and recommendations on how to improve their program offerings in the areas of energy efficiency and sustainability. Together, LINC and the Alliance developed strategies, standards, and tools for cost-effective yet green and energy efficient property modernization. Click to view the resulting Sustainability Report.

The Alliance began with a property condition assessment, including a green analysis, an energy audit, cost-benefit analyses, and implementation recommendations. All phases of the building lifecycle were considered, including design, equipment specification, construction, verification & quality assurance, and operation & maintenance. Sustainable design standards, operations and maintenance plans (including guidelines, checklists, and upgrade schedules), a sustainable procurement policy, and other policies and tools were developed to support LINC in incorporating sustainability across their entire portfolio. The Alliance also provided assistance in identifying and obtaining additional resources and funding such as financing, incentives, and rebates.

While retrofits are always site-specific, measures commonly recommended for the LINC Housing Energy Program include:

  • Lighting
  • Ceiling Fans
  • Domestic Hot Water
  • Plumbing Fixtures
  • Irrigation
  • Recycling
  • Carpet
  • Paint
  • Laundry
  • Pool Pumps
  • Pipe Insulation
  • Roof and Paint
  • Temperature Setpoints
  • Smoking
  • Pest Management
  • Cleaning Products

The technology recommendations and tools created through this partnership will continue to benefit all of LINC’s communities throughout California and will result in more healthful, affordable, and energy efficient communities for LINC’s low and middle-income residents. Visit the LINC website for more information about LINC’s green activities.

Folsom/Dore Apartments

Citizens Housing Corporation collaborated with the City of San Francisco to build 98 units of affordable housing for low- and very low-income residents with a variety of special needs. The development includes 3,200 square feet of community and service space.

In October 2006, Folsom Dore Apartments was certified LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver by the US Green Building Council. The combination of energy efficient design and rooftop solar photovoltaics have resulted in very low utility costs.

The average monthly util