Green Retrofits For Apartments Face Hurdles

According to a recent Yahoo survey, energy efficiency is the No. 1 desirable feature of the American “dream home.” Likewise, the commercial building sector has been slowly but surely increasing its focus on energy efficiency, with high-profile retrofits such as that of the Empire State Building leading the way. But one building sector still lags behind on green renovations: multifamily housing.

Why? The answers are, well, complicated. Like those who manage commercial buildings, developers and owners of multifamily housing are increasingly cognizant of the benefits of green retrofits, which include lower out-of-pocket costs (for utilities covered by the owner) and greater desirability on the part of tenants, both of which help to strengthen their bottom line as landlords.

multifamily housing

image via Boston Apartment Market

Likewise, tenants seem to have gotten the memo on energy efficiency—like American homeowners,  the nation’s renters are increasingly aware that their utility bills and their carbon footprint are connected, and saving cash means saving carbon, too.

When you throw in all the interest from government entities, regulators and utilities, it’s not hard to conclude that everyone wants greater energy efficiency, across the board. So what’s the problem?

According to a recent report from the CNT Energy and the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEE), owners of apartment buildings face many of the same difficulties once faced by the commercial building sector, including challenges in finding technical assistance, financing or qualified contractors to upgrade their buildings.

Hurdles like this have been addressed for the commercial sector via assistance from entities like the Clinton Climate Initiative an the L.A. Commercial Building Performance Partnership, which are among the forces bringing together financial institutions ready to back energy efficient retrofits and qualified contractors ready to get the job done. Could the same thing happen for multifamily housing?

Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.