Energy benchmarking can unlock $9 billion in energy savings by 2020, suggests a recent report by the Institute of Market Transformation. Despite our lofty aspirations of energy independence and tackling global climate change, we are only beginning to implement the first step in the multifamily building sector – understanding our energy use. Multifamily housing has a number of characteristics that should make green retrofits an appealing investment, but only a fraction of the potential energy savings have been realized due to the lack of data on best practices and historical cost savings. Experts estimate that the multifamily housing stock could feasibly become 28% more efficient by 2020, which translates to 51,000 GWh of electricity, or 20 coal power plants worth of carbon emissions.
Increasing Demand and Barriers to Adoption
Given that energy costs have risen three times faster than rent increases in the past ten years, utility bills are beginning to be a significant burden on the almost 40 million Americans that live in these multifamily buildings, costing approximately $22 billion per year. Exacerbating the problem in the case of multifamily buildings is the larger capital investments for energy improvements, lack of available capital, and the divide between building owners, utility bills, and tenants. Still, the main obstacle may be the fact that many building owners have never measured, or benchmarked, the energy performance of their buildings, and struggle to make informed decisions when relying solely on energy bills.