For over 15 years, we have been providing specific services to affordable housing builders and developers across the State of Florida. There are a few specific cases where our services have been requested after construction has been completed, COd and residents moved in; while assisting in finding the sources of the issues, we strongly felt we had to be part of the solution before it gets this far.
Brainstorming with our team and the many cases we reviewed, we realized that some of the issues derived from projects having specifications for “energy efficiency” in the design and construction process, however, the building’s performance did not equate to the specifications. Why? The buildings were not inspected for the quality of the energy efficiency components working as a system (regardless of a green building certification).
We have found air intrusion and bad insulation installation, A/C systems underperforming due to these issues =the results= mold, high electric bills and tons of frustration for anyone involved.
We connected with many lenders and organizations at the Florida Housing Conference in 2019 and after very engaging conversations, we realized that specifications for energy efficiency were the main element everyone talked about as “if it is written in the plans, must be efficient right?” however, the quality of the work and installations for these systems to work accordingly was missing from the processes. There were no inspections (asides municipal inspections that are minimum Florida Building Code) made by a third party for the efficiency of the buildings.
If the project does not require a green building certification by the lender or funding source, there is no requirement for quality inspection and testing of the systems as designed. Is this a best practice? The answer is No. How do we measure the true efficiency of a building without metrics? How does the builder/developer cover this liability?
While this may not be the case for every organization, we have been curious due to the remediation processes we have assisted.
Beyond Tax Credits; Impacting the Bottom Line for Developers, Holding Companies and their Users
Energy costs can contribute substantially to the overall financial burden of housing, and can make housing unaffordable for many families.
Households across the nation spend more than $160 billion on energy to heat, cool, light and live in their homes each year, and residential energy consumption accounts for more than 20 percent of the nation’s total energy consumption (U.S. EPA). These energy costs contribute to the overall financial burden of housing, and can make housing unaffordable for many families; an estimated 30% + of a household income is spent on housing costs.
Improving energy efficiency in housing can help make homes more affordable by reducing the energy cost burden on low-income households. Approaching efficiency improvements from a comprehensive, whole house, systems perspective can generate other energy, environmental, and economic benefits for the local community and region, such as increased employment and reduced demand for federal assistance program resources. Combining energy efficiency improvements and green building techniques, while taking an approach that views housing as integrated with surrounding land uses, can help maximize these benefits.
Users benefit by lowering their utility bills and being in a healthy living environment; and holding companies benefit from the life cycle of the building, lower callbacks, operating costs, and increase the optimal use of any installed systems.
Energy-Efficient Tax Credits; a Big Winner for the Project
In addition to the variety of benefits for the residents of the projects, there is another great benefit, 45L tax credit. This tax credit consists of $2000 per unit for owner-occupied or rental dwelling buildings that meet certain energy-saving standards.
Who is eligible for the 45L tax credit?
The qualified contractor is the only person who can claim this tax credit. He is usually the developer, builder, or homeowner of the building. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to have a free assessment of your project for energy-efficient tax credits.
Energy Efficiency in Green Affordable Housing
To improve energy efficiency in affordable housing, local governments, Community Redevelopment Agencies, and financial institutions, should work with affordable housing developers to encourage energy efficiency in new affordable housing through independent green building certifications; benefiting the users, developers and holding companies, certifications are a great accountability measure to ensure the ROI of the project.
In addition to enhancing a home’s environmental profile, incorporating energy efficiency can improve the cost-effectiveness of green building. Because of this, energy efficiency is often considered first in green building design. To incorporate, document and have a measuring standard to work in favor of developers and users, the efficiency of the building should not be just specified but tested; green building program certifications, energy modeling, and independent energy testing have this advantage.
In addition to energy efficiency, environmental features, including water efficiency, recycling, and site sustainability are key to the successful development of affordable housing.
Design and Construction Costs
While the general knowledge is that sustainable/energy-efficient development is more expensive, the truth of the matter is that that expense can be reduced through simple green building design. Building green does not have to cost as much as some people fear it might.
In the past, an energy-efficient building might cost as much as ten to fifteen percent more over the cost of building. Modern materials, construction technology, and methods have made it more affordable to build sustainably. Most of these measures are offset by financing incentives, the recipe is to specify and test the building.
While the difference does still exists between green construction and traditional methods, the gap is nowhere near as much as many believe.
Green buildings have a distinct advantage when it comes to operating costs since they reduce costs through design practices, inspections, testing, and certifications. Over the long run, green buildings see less water and electricity usage compared with their traditionally constructed counterparts. This equates to a large payback and can cause a building owner to recoup the minor additional cost of construction through savings from water and energy.
The operating cost savings for a green building will directly impact its users.
Let’s make affordable housing, really affordable to operate; independent testing and green building certifications directly impact the financial bottom line of the residents, the users we are trying to help when we encourage, support, and provide the right elements for the construction of affordable housing.
The undeniable power of sustainable construction.
Learn more about the benefit of testing your project and obtaining green building certifications by connecting with our team at email@example.com or calling 239-949-2405.
Diana Giraldo is the Business Development Director at E3 Building Sciences, she has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Architecture and Urban Design and Master of Science in Management. Diana developed and managed the green building affordable housing program for the City of Fort Myers from 2007-2014. As a green building expert, she has been involved in several development projects, recognized by the Urban Land Institute as a “Sustainable Trailblazer”, and awarded a leadership award for “Building America Partnership for Improved Residential Construction” by the Florida Solar Energy Center in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy.
(Sources: Environmental Protection Agency -EPA, Energy Efficiency in Affordable Housing Study (2016), Department of Energy -DOE, Building America Program (2014)).