Open-Source Solutions for Energy Efficiency in Affordable Housing Construction

Affordable housing stands to gain tremendously from energy conservation and green building efforts, but acquiring the means to precisely measure the efficiency and eco-friendliness of public housing has been very cost-prohibitive. Until now. Andrew Berger of Triple Pundit reports that an East Coast startup is offering an open-source platform for building performance and construction data analytics that will provide developers and property managers the means they need to reduce their buildings’ environmental impact. WegoWise, a Boston-based software company, is leveraging the cloud and high-powered data analytics, rendered from an open-source framework, solve the affordability problem.

On March 10, WegoWise announced the deployment of its software “as the first step in an unprecedented energy efficiency program” taking place in seven U.S. states. The Free State Energy Benchmarking Program, as the project is called, “aims to deliver meaningful efficiency savings to the under-served affordable housing sector through data-driven projects.” The software is designed to track energy and water use, operations expenses, and maintenance costs, which information will allow property owners and builders the information they need to make enhance energy efficiency. WegoWise envisions the FSEBP as “one-stop shop for multifamily affordable housing owners and managers interested in efficiency retrofits.”

Department of Energy’s 2011 Buildings Energy Data Book shows that nearly 41 percent of U.S. energy consumption and 40 percent of domestic carbon dioxide emissions are generated by multifamily residential and commercial buildings. When the water consumption level and garbage generation rates are factored in, the environmental impact stretches much farther. As urbanization intensifies the destruction of free-flowing waterways, and undeveloped watersheds are leveled and built upon, sustainable design becomes increasingly urgent.

A study in 2013 released by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) and CNT Energy reports that “the multifamily housing sector represents a sizable opportunity” for improvements in energy efficiency. The ACEEE estimated $3.4 billion per year could be saved through strategic retrofits in the U.S.’s stock of affordable housing. As of this year, the FSEBP will begin to deliver those savings.

March 31 is the deadline for applying to the program. In addition to the FSEBP, select program participants will be awarded no-cost energy efficiency consulting services from program partners New Ecology and Elevate Energy. Both firms have gained strong reputations for designing and implementing energy efficiency programs in residential and multifamily buildings.

Ed Connelly, president of New Ecology, says that “both energy efficiency programs and the multifamily real estate sector are experiencing unprecedented growth, yet the multifamily market still lags behind the rest of the market in implementing efficiency projects.” Connelly adds that the partnership between WegoWise, New Ecology, and Elevate Energy “solves that conundrum by packaging veteran expertise with advanced technology to deliver hands-on assistance that is affordable, easy to use, and proven to deliver impressive results.”

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