In Multifamily, Energy Efficiency Equals Fiscal Efficiency
Mary Nitschke, director of ancillary services for Prometheus Real Estate Group in San Mateo, California, is a regular case study presenter at the Energy Summit in Washington, D.C. each year. With 13,000 units and another 2,600 in the pipeline, her company is the largest privately owned developer in the San Francisco Bay Area. Being a good steward of the Golden State’s resources is a corporate objective and one that Nitschke takes seriously.
Nitschke is also president of the Utility Management Advisory Board, and one of the nation’s authorities on low and no cost energy efficiency enhancements in the multifamily space. No energy summit is complete without case study results from Prometheus’ latest energy efficiency innovations, leaving attendees wondering how the company can possibly implement efficiency on a dime in an area where the cost of living is 62.6 percent higher than the U.S. average.
How does she do it? A look behind the curtain reveals Nitschke’s team of energy wonks who regularly analyze retrofit costs, their payoffs and make recommendations to multifamily owners and developers. One important member of the Nitschke team is the non-profit organization in Emeryville, California, the Association of Energy Affordability (AEA). The national group brings over 130 energy engineers, project managers, building scientists, trainers and technical consultants together with the focus of increasing energy efficiency in ways that pencil for owners, be it utility rebates, federal and state programs that pay in full or in part for certain upgrades and retrofits, as well as locate other funds and products earmarked for multifamily.
“We’re always researching any and all rebates that might eliminate or reduce the pain of up-front or total cost,” said Rachel Kuykendall, senior project manager with AEA and speaker at the recent Energy Summit. Kuykendall focuses on finding that rarified air of no and low cost retrofits that net rapid and notable ROI on multifamily housing properties.
“Low and no-cost retrofits are a really good way for a property owner or manager to dip their toe into the water of energy efficiency in a very sellable way,” Kuykendall said. “Often they are the things that—even without a rebate program—can save operational costs and bring a discernible return to apartment owners.”
Finding the fiscal will
Rebates, incentives and utility discounts are offered in nearly every state (see the Department of Energy’s list of programs). Many utility companies also offer programs. The deals are out there, so it’s about finding and matching those resources that are most beneficial to a specific property’s fit and finish, location, climate and more.
Kuykendall’s organization scouts deals for apartment owners and developers, but also trains companies to match the best program to their specific properties. “We holistically work with owners, within their budgets, to create energy efficiency programs,” she said. Kuykendall’s company includes energy engineers, building scientists and technical consultants that also help inform public policy and building standards in many jurisdictions across the nation.
The proof is in the savings and for multifamily operators, it’s all about return on investment and conservation.