HUD Launches Utility Benchmarking To Increase Energy, Water Efficiency

HUD yesterday proposed water and energy use benchmarking in its public and assisted housing portfolio as well as in newly insured multifamily housing.  

Utility benchmarking involves tracking a property’s utility consumption and calculating its energy and water efficiency to compare it to similar developments. HUD’s new benchmarking initiative would apply to more than two million units across several categories of HUD-assisted affordable housing including developments with Project Rental Assistance Contracts, Federal Housing Administration-insured multifamily properties and public housing authorities with more than 250 public housing units.  

Under the initiative, some HUD-assisted and public housing providers will begin collecting and reporting on water and energy use. HUD said collecting and reporting these data will lead to investments that stabilize operating costs, reduce taxpayer burden, preserve affordable housing, ensure disaster resilience and mitigate climate change.

“Before property owners and managers can achieve measureable savings in the operating costs of their buildings, they need to understand just how much water and energy consumption is costing them,” said HUD Secretary Julián Castro.  “Today we propose a common-sense practice that will lead to savings for building owners, housing authorities and taxpayers alike.”

Several sources including the Government Accountability Office recommended that HUD work with property owners to establish utility benchmarking across its housing portfolios. For example, a benchmarking score of 50 would indicate that a property’s energy or water use is average compared to similar buildings. A score above 50 would indicate that the property is more efficient than its peers. A 75-plus score would qualify the building for an Energy Star rating. 

HUD said many municipal and state governments across the country have instituted successful utility benchmarking in commercial and larger residential properties that allow government policymakers, funding providers and building owners to make data-driven decisions.

For example HUD said multifamily firm Preservation of Affordable Housing, Boston, has benchmarked its portfolio and analyzed utility data from more than 1,500 utility accounts since 2010, including at Colony Plaza apartments in Excelsior Springs, Mo. “Through benchmarking, POAH identified this building for upgrades that improved efficiency and helped POAH move closer to its goals of reducing energy and water consumption across its portfolio by 20 percent by 2020,” HUD said, noting that the building’s operating expenses fell by more than $20,000 per year.