Obama Administration Expands Better Buildings Challenge to M-F Housing

Nearly three years after President Obama launched the Better Buildings Challenge to help American commercial and industrial buildings become at least 20 percent more energy efficient by 2020, the administration has expanded the program to the multi-family sector.
Oakwood Shores Residences, a multi-family development in Chicago built by The Community Builders, a nonprofit developer that  joined the Better Buildings Challenge.

Oakwood Shores Residences, a multi-family development in Chicago built by The Community Builders, a nonprofit developer that joined the Better Buildings Challenge.

Nearly three years after President Barack Obama launched the Better Buildings Challenge to help American commercial and industrial buildings become at least 20 percent more energy efficient by 2020, the administration has expanded the program to the multi-family sector.

The Departments of Housing and Urban Development and Energy are partnering with market rate and affordable housing owners of apartments and condominiums as well as public housing agencies to cut energy waste and reduce utility bills. Under the expanded program, 50 multi-family partners, representing about 200,000 units and more than 190 million square feet of space will be committed to cutting-energy use by 20 percent over the next 10 years.

“Over the last two years, President Obama’s Better Buildings Challenge has helped drive greater energy efficiency further and faster, save families money and give U.S. businesses an edge in the global market,” Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said Tuesday in a news release. “By partnering with the multi-family housing industry as well as state and local governments, utilities and manufacturers, we can continue this progress – cutting carbon pollution, fostering economic growth and building a cleaner, more sustainable energy future.”

One of the commercial real estate firms joining the challenge is Campus Crest Communities, the Charlotte, N.C.-based developer, operator and manager of student housing communities throughout the United States. The firm, which last year installed more than 9,000 solar panels at three of its communities, has been committed to sustainability practices since its founding in 2004.

“At Campus Crest we believe in a balanced approach to business – balancing economics with environmental and social stewardship,” chairman & CEO Ted Rollins told Commercial Property Executive. “The Better Building Challenge is a great way for us to participate on a national level with the U.S. Department of Energy and help lead a transformation in the multi-family industry towards greater energy efficiency.”

In February 2011, Obama launched the Better Buildings Challenge and more than 120 organizations representing more than 2 billion square feet of space joined in, cutting energy use in commercial and industrial buildings by about 2.5 percent each year. The expansion of the program to the multi-family sector is important because about a quarter of U.S. households lives in multi-family housing units and spend about $40 billion on energy costs each year, according to the government. Making those housing units 20 percent more energy efficient would save more than $7 billion a year and cut greenhouse emissions by 439 million tons.

The Community Builders, a nonprofit developer of mixed-income multi-family housing that operates a portfolio of 10,000 apartments across 14 states and Washington, D.C., is also among the 50 multi-family private companies, nonprofits and public and agencies participating.  TCB, which operates 7.6 million square feet of space, said it will use several methods to save energy, including improving operations and maintenance, upgrading appliances and equipment and retrofitting buildings.

“We are proud to partner with the DOE and HUD to answer the call to make multi-family housing more energy efficient,” Bart Mitchell, president & CEO of The Community Builders, said in a prepared statement. “We are committed to building and sustaining communities that use less energy and help our residents save money.”

Another nonprofit that joined the challenge is Eden Housing, a nonprofit from Hayward, Calif., that has had its own Green Initiative since 2010. The developer has been using green technologies in its affordable housing projects for more than 40 years, including installing solar hot water systems in the 1970s and double-pane windows in the 1980s, according to its website. Nearly three years ago, Eden put solar panels on the roof of a 100-unit residence for seniors in Hayward that also features water-conserving bathroom fixtures and toilets, energy efficient lighting, and high efficiency water heaters.