Plugging into Multifamily - The Official Blog of AUM

Multi-Housing News - Making Your Mark

Posted by Alison Hoss on Thu, Nov 13, 2014 @ 03:47 PM

Multi-Housing News (MHN) recently reached out to AUM's Dimitri Kapsis for insight regarding benchmarking in our industry. 

Below you will find the article where Kaspis speaks on behalf of AUM and sheds a light onto AUM's experience with benchmarking in multifamily.

 

Making Your Mark

By Joshua Ayers, Senior Editor - Published November, 10 2014

Most operational tasks at multifamily communities strive to maximize efficiency in order to increase the bottom line. The web-based revolution in the past 10 to 15 years has helped these businesses to streamline their operations and as that technology evolves, companies are taking a closer look at, and improving, the ways they are spending money on property utilities through benchmarking.

So what is benchmarking? Putting it simply, benchmarking is the process of taking an entity’s specific set of metrics and measuring or comparing those metrics to the metrics of another entity or the average of metrics of other similar entities. In multifamily—and commercial and industrial buildings as well—an example would be taking the total use of electricity at one building and comparing that usage against other similar buildings, or the average usage of multiple buildings that are similar in stature.

While this might sound relatively simple, there are several factors that make utility benchmarking at multifamily communities and buildings more difficult than their commercial and industrial counterparts, including sub-metering, resident privacy and the willingness of utility companies to cooperate with requests for accurate data. Having the right tools, finding the right benchmarking vendor and being aware of local, state and federal benchmarking efforts can all help companies to build a benchmarking strategy that will help reduce utility costs and increase NOI.

A few vendors and tools

In order to effectively benchmark utilities, a company needs nothing more than a method of collecting, analyzing and storing the data, as well as a way to determine how other similar multifamily properties are consuming in order to track results. An initial gut response might include opening up Microsoft Excel or signing into Google Drive, but, unfortunately, the labor costs for tedious manual data entry for benchmarking would likely outweigh any savings that could be had, and there would be no guarantee that the data could be appropriately analyzed.

“This can be done in spreadsheets, but it is time consuming and tedious, and the analysis required to do it accurately is not as simple as adding up utility bills,” says benchmarking guru Jonathan Braman, vice president of the New York-based benchmarking company BrightPower. “For example, in climates with a lot of heating or cooling needs, building energy consumption varies a lot based on how hot the summer [is] or cold the winter is. If I installed a new efficient boiler before last winter’s polar vortex, I still probably used more gas than the previous winter. I may have used less than I would have with the boiler—but utility bills alone won’t show that.”

BrightPower is just one of many benchmarking companies that have emerged in the multifamily industry. One tool that the company offers its clients is its EnergyScoreCards platform, which automatically fetches data from most large utilities, and then “provides weather-normalized benchmarks at the building, property and portfolio levels,” he notes.

Braman says that the use of EnergyScoreCards has helped long-term clients decrease utility spending since they started using the project, but he also notes that the benchmarking alone isn’t necessarily a cause for energy saving.

That combined with working with BrightPower analysts can help companies sort through the data. If consumption problems are evident, BrightPower engineers and procurement experts help clients work through the problem.

“Benchmarking only helps owners make better decisions and take action to save energy,” he says. “We think of benchmarking as a critical component of energy management, but it must be combined with smart operations and maintenance, behavioral changes, and in some cases, capital improvements, to save energy.”

Another major player in the benchmarking industry is American Utility Management (AUM) Inc., which has been providing energy management solutions to the multifamily industry since 1994.

AUM Chief Energy Officer Dimitris Kapsis says that the most important tool for benchmarking is good data.

“The most essential tools for benchmarking is the availability of the actual comparative data, its integrity and overall size of the comparative group,” he says.

AUM’s primary benchmarking tool, SCORE, utilizes data captured from a state-of-the-art data capture process that checks the data’s integrity, and then provides benchmarking that takes into account geographic region, property type and other property characteristics and their overall utility usage to rate a property’s energy efficiency again similar peer groups.

Kapsis stresses the importance of the data integrity checks, since manual data entry can be flawed, as can data that comes directly from the utility companies.

“It could be a situation where we have some data entry issues such as fat fingering, or we even have data issues coming from the utility, because unlike the popular consensus, utilities make mistakes and sometimes [they] make big mistakes,” he says.

Once the data is validated and entered into the system, AUM’s system monitors the data for anything that is out of trend, including utility usage.”

“It’s pretty straight forward. We put some variances in place up or down, and if they break through those barriers that we manually set into the system then the system notifies us,” he says. “We look into it as to if it’s a legit variance. If it is, we let it go through the system and the client receives a notification. From there, either themselves or with our help, we can work on fixing the issue.”

Kapsis referenced an AUM Energy Management client with a portfolio of more than 100 properties that was able to identify conservation opportunities through benchmarking efforts that led to $400,000 in annual savings with a ROI in just 13 months.

NWP, which offers benchmarking through its analytics portfolio, offers a product called ScoreCard, which allows clients to rank a property within a portfolio to see how it is doing against its peers.

ScoreCard also takes into account factors such as weather normalization, and benchmarks several utilities both individually and combined.

“You can look at gas, electric and then a combined gas and electric,” says Chris Dorando, product manager for NWP’s Utility Smart product line. “So for instance, if you’re a property that has electric heating and you want to know how that property is performing against other properties in the area that have gas heating, we normalize that so that you can actually make a comparison.”

NWP also works with clients that use the EPA Energy Star Portfolio Manager, which anonymously tracks whole-building energy and water consumption data that can be used for benchmarking.

All three energy management and consulting companies, BrightPower, AUM and NWP, are service and product provider (SSP) partners through the Energy Star Portfolio Manager program. According to Energy Star, SSP partners “have demonstrated their expertise and achievements by meeting strict Energy Star program requirements for benchmarking customer buildings using Portfolio Manager and gaining Energy Star certification for buildings.”

Challenges and the future

Utility benchmarking has been around since the 1990s, but was primarily restricted to more commercial buildings, where whole-building consumption data is easier to acquire and track.

Even though an assortment of industry suppliers have assisted EPA in creating and improving the Portfolio Manager, whole-building data remains one of the biggest challenges for multifamily due to property complexity and the various types of metering structures set up at those properties.

“The main difference between the rest of the industry and multifamily, especially when we’re talking about commercial or retail, is that each individual unit-—an individual unit could be a retail shop or an entire office building—tends to have central metering for electric, gas and water. So, when we capture the data, we know what the entire unit is using on a per-month, quarterly and annual basis.”

This type of cumulative data makes a platform like Portfolio Manager easy to use and compare to other similar properties by type and region.

With multifamily, however, properties can range from garden-style, to high-rise buildings and beyond, with each of those different types of buildings. Utilities across the spectrum can be measured across the entire property, such as water, which tends to be measured by whole-building, combined with utilities such as gas and electric, that are measured in either entire building or individual apartments or somewhere in between.

“To be able to compare apples to apples for a particular property, it’s not just location and type of property, it’s also what type of metering they have in place. And, not just for one type of utility, it could have a diversity of metering types depending on what utility you’re looking at … that was the difficulty that the EPA had up until recently and they still do.”

Currently, whole building data can only be acquired from utilities that have willingly agreed to provide the information in good faith or that have been mandated by
cities to provide the information, with the first option being subject to a variety of
data discrepancies.

“Benchmarking laws in several cities have also helped owners and vendors to improve the process and greatly expand the number of properties benchmarking,” BrightPower’s Braman says.

Kapsis, who notes that owners are gravitating toward individual metering for gas and electric as residents demand more control over factors like individual unit climate settings and knowing their own utility usage, is in agreement that the availability of whole-building data will help with benchmarking.

“As a result of those mandates, we will be able to capture whole-building data,” he says.

Dorando believes that the mandate trend is not going to fade away anytime soon.

“As those urban areas like Seattle and New York and Washington D.C. [and] Chicago start to roll out, I think you’ll start to see a lot more of that happen across the country,” he says. “Other communities will start to follow that. It’s something that’s going to be happening, and it’s something that we help our clients with. It’s pretty cutting edge at this time. I think it’s going to be a valuable tool for the property owners because they’ll be able to really improve their properties.”

As this whole-building data becomes more accessible to vendors and their clients, more research and evidence on the effectiveness of benchmarking will become available to owners and operators.

“People used to say, rightly at the time, that there were no good databases of multifamily energy and water use data, so no one knew what was good or bad,” Braman says. “Now we know.”


Tags: Energy management, Multifamily, Utilities, Submetering, ENERGY STAR, Benchmarking, Data analysis, Data capture

Utilities are Installing Smart Meters; But Who Owns the Data?

Posted by Alison Hoss on Wed, Sep 24, 2014 @ 11:16 AM

 

Over the past few months, we’ve all been inundated with reports on the new Apple iPhone 6 release and all of the new features it has to offer.  It got me to think about all the data that travels through the air, across phone lines and over the internet; and about all the new devices that are being used to gather and send all the data.   The Internet of Everything (IoE) phenomenon, which is the next big wave of how people and things connect to the internet, is growing exponentially.  IoE applications (often Machine-2-Machine applications) include: smart meters, video surveillance, smart cars, package tracking chips, chipped pets and livestock, and digital health monitors.  Today, there are over 2.9 Billion M2M connections and they are projected to grow to 7.3B by 2018. 

But what about the business aspect of all these new devices and resulting data: 

1)    Who Owns the Data? 

2)    Who has Rights to transform the data into valued information?

In the utility world, these are hot topics.  Recently in Chicago, ComEd installed 425,000 smart meters as part of its $2.6B grid-modernization project; that number of smart meters is planned to grow to over 4 million meters.  The list of companies wanting access to the data is almost as long as the number of meters themselves, but no data is flowing.  No one is able to see the benefits of energy efficiency as a result of the new energy information gathered via the smart meters.  Why?  Because regulators are still determining who owns the data (the utility or the customer) and how data is to be released in order to comply with privacy laws.

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has established  the “Green Button” as the standard for smart meter data access by customers.  Green Button is a good start.  However, the local utility is the only one who presents the energy data to the customer and only in the format or manner that the utility chooses.  In order to enable the markets to develop products and services around smart meter data, rules must be established to enable easier access to the data for enterprising business as well as property managers like you.

At AUM, we are fortunate to gather all of the utility data from your invoices as a part of our invoice processing service.  On the AUM Advanced Analytics Platform, clients get instant access to their information via a myriad of on-line reports, a first-glance Performance Dashboard with data drill-down capabilities, and other self-serve Ad Hoc Reporting Tools.  

But the next generation of data coming from smart meters has yet to be made easily available to customers and energy solution providers.  AUM’s question to you is:  How should AUM advocate on your behalf to ensure the data is most accessible to you?  What is the best solution to gather your residents’ utility data?  Do you want to access your residents’ usage data in order to help them become more efficient (and enable your properties to become more energy efficient)?

 

Tags: Energy procurement, Multifamily, Utilities, Submetering, utility expense recovery, Energy Efficiency, Data analysis, Data collection, Data capture, energy expenses, analytics

Roger Dow Leads Spirited First Session at NAA in Boston!

Posted by Dave Carpenter on Thu, Jun 28, 2012 @ 02:51 PM

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What an inspiring first session at the National Apartment Association Education Conference and Expo in Boston (@NAAEduConf)!  Roger Dow, president and chief executive officer of the U.S. Travel Association, and former Marriott executive, gave an uplifting pep talk to a packed room!

Roger's talk centered around empowering people to make the difference in any organization.  Using companies like Harley-Davidson as an example of creating enthusiasm within an organization, he talked about ensuring that every employee believes they make a difference.  did you know that Harley-Davidson actually encourages their employees to get Harley-Davidson Tattoos!?!?  I'm thinking of giving employee incentives for the most creative AUM multifamily energy efficiency tattoos.  Perhaps one of our valued colleagues will even get the AUM Score energy efficiency benchmarking logo tattooed!


So what creates an enthusiastic company?  Roger spoke of four basic tenants:

    • Quality
    • Trust
    • Value
    • Relationships - with vendors, suppliers, and customers

At AUM, we aim to be THE Energy Management partner to the multifamily industry.  As we continue to to provide the tools to make multifamily energy management easier, faster, and most importantly, more effective for property owners, we hope that you find our products, AND OUR PEOPLE, provide the Quality, Value, and Trust that you seek in an energy and utility management partner!

Stop by booth 761 here at NAA and check out our new AUM Advanced Analytics tool, the most comprhenive energy expense reporting tool in multifamily!

If you can't stop by, follow us on Twitter (@AUM_Chicago) for the latest on multifamily energy management!

Tags: Energy cost, Utility expense Management, Energy management, Multifamily, Bill Processing, Resident Billing, Energy services, Sustainability and Benchmarking, Benchmarking, AUMScore, Data analysis, Data collection, Data capture, Business Intelligence, NAA, Press coverage, NAA Education Conference & Exposition

BUSINESS ANALYTICS – BUSINESS INTELLIGENCE TECHNOLOGY APPLIED TO YOUR BUSINESS

Posted by Bob Malpasuto on Fri, Jun 15, 2012 @ 02:54 PM

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In my last Blog, Big Data to Information – The Art of Business Intelligence, I discussed a common definition of Business Intelligence and the three layers that make up a comprehensive Business Intelligence Platform:  The Data Layer, the Analysis Layer, and the Presentation layer.  After the explanation of these layers, we focused on the Data Layer . . . the accumulation and storage of the data collected for a business.

Now, let’s turn our attention to the Analysis Layer of the BI Platform.  Many in the BI space have dubbed this layer with a relatively new term – Business Analytics.  BA is an advanced discipline within BI, where the data is analyzed and reports and/or dashboards are designed to guide the user to real actionable items, specifically for their business.

I learned long ago that reports have little meaning if they don't produce actionable results.  How do you combine all of your disparate databases into a single reporting engine?  In multifamily, many Property Management Systems attempt to tie together occupancy, rent information and financial data into one system.  And while these systems do an admirable job of collecting and stratifying the data (yes- the DATA LAYER), they cannot analyze the data – ergo turn it into ACTIONABLE INFORMATION for disparate departments.  Property managers want to see occupancy.  Energy Managers in a Property Owner’s corporate office want to review energy and utility usage, and the financial departments want occupancy, rent, and energy expenses quantified and bucketed into General Ledger codes to explain the whole financial picture.  In order to go to the next level and realize the true power of BI, you need to include BA capabilities into your system.

Now, there is no magic BA button that Multifamily Property Owners can push that will automatically generate these action items and guide you to greater prosperity. It's a complex system that requires three essential elements:

  1.  An information system that contains a technological element used to collect, store, and deliver information (BI);
  2. Human competencies: someone must be able to retrieve data and deliver it as information in a front-end system, and analysts must know how to generate knowledge targeted toward specific decision-making processes; and
  3. The information system must contain specific business processes that make use of the information or the new knowledge to guide the user to intuitively ask for the information the way they need it and present simply so the particular user can take action based on his/her needs.

BA is delivering the right decision support to the right people at the right time.

AUM has a large number of Multifamily Energy and Utility Management experts. They are responsible for analyzing Multifamily energy expense data and creating reports and dashboards designed to assist you, our valued client.  YOU can take action to make your properties more energy efficient, reduce expenses, and improve your bottom line.

Tags: Energy cost, Utility expense Management, Energy management, Multifamily, Utilities, Utility bills, Sustainability and Benchmarking, AUMScore, Data analysis, Data collection, Data capture, Business Intelligence, NAA

Using Big Data Technology in Multifamily to Save on Energy and Utility Expenses

Posted by Bob Malpasuto on Mon, Jun 04, 2012 @ 02:56 PM

In today’s business environment, an immense amount of information and data is being created and stored creating large databases of information. This concept, called Big Data, has emerged in many of today’s industries.

The concept of Big Data is to create a high velocity and high efficiency way of capturing, storing and analyzing high volume of data that many businesses today handle. Terabytes upon terabytes of data generated each day will overload the conventional software systems that are used to store, manage and analyze the data. Since the amount of data is too large and is moving too fast for the processing capacity of today’s technology, companies are looking towards big data technologies to produce information that can be acted upon real-time.

Big Data can be structured or unstructured and come in different data forms such as audio, video or text files. Big data technologies first must have the space to store the extreme amounts of data. Then they must “link” the data so that it is relevant to the user and easy to work with. This requires the technology to sort and reference each data point which is sent in for processing. This way of processing the high amounts of data can be applied to many different fields in business to find trends and increase efficiency. In the retail industry, Wal-Mart collects data from its millions of retail sales. These data points are then put into databases, which are estimated to be about 2,500 terabytes. Big Data technology takes the data from these sales and puts it into a format for Wal-Mart employees to be used to monitor specific customer trends then inquire how to market items more efficiently using the data gathered.

Big Data technologies can separate businesses in terms of how well they know their customers and the data being generated. At AUM, we use data collected off of every energy and utility invoice so property owners can be well-informed of their expense and usage. Just one invoice contains approximately 75 firm and derived data points, such as usage, expense, and daily effective rates, that should be used to manage multifamily energy spend, be it financially or operationally.

If each property received 40 bills a month, that’s 3,000 separate pieces of data. Over 50 properties there are 150,000 data points for the month. Annually that is 1.8 MILLION DATA POINTS for a multifamily owner of 50 properties.

Big data technology can be made simple for property owners, allowing them to interact with their data and understand its meaning. Understanding utility usage and expense each month is crucial for property owners, as well as their residents, and knowing this information can help owners manage their utilities more efficiently. For a company like AUM, our ability to share real-time data and information with clients saves them money, and allows them to focus on filling their properties with residents.

Be sure to stay posted to this blog as we apply our own “Big Data” initiatives to multifamily and share our experiences with you.

Tags: Energy cost, Energy management, Energy budgeting, Utilities, Utility bills, Cost cutting, Bill Processing, Utility bill payment, Data analysis, Data collection, Data capture, Big Data

Cities are getting smarter about multifamily energy efficiency benchmarking, and you've got to be ready

Posted by Michael Miller on Thu, May 17, 2012 @ 02:59 PM

More and more cities are enacting legislation requiring energy efficiency benchmarking through EPA’s Portfolio Manager, and they are including multifamily in the legislation specifically. New York City LL84 and Seattle City Ordinance 123226 are requiring that multifamily submit their property characteristic data and utility usage data (the past 12 months of utility bills- both for common area and separate apartment units).

As we’ve discussed previously, the mix of commercial and residential usage in multifamily properties makes gathering this information difficult, if not impossible. There are several reasons for this difficulty:

  1. Apartment unit utility bills are considered individual residences to a utility provider. Even though a property is responsible for gathering the information, in many instances a utility provider will only release this information to the apartment resident who is the utility customer of record. The resident must then remember to give the information to the property for submission to Portfolio Manager.
  2. Portfolio Manager requires 12 consecutive months of utility usage, but the average turnover rate on a multifamily property is 40 percent. Each time an apartment unit turns over, the utility provider generates a new account number. So the ability to gather 12 consecutive months of data, resident release notwithstanding, is just a little better than 50 percent proposition.


When New York City officials enacted Local Law 84 and included multifamily properties as part of the legislation, AUM elevated these issues through discussion and the public comment process that is integral to any legislation. New York City addressed the issue of partial resident data through a complicated estimation formula that could be used in place of the actual resident data. Is this estimation an accurate depiction of the total usage for a resident over 12 months? As energy management experts that deal with millions of specific data points every month on behalf of our multifamily clients, our thoughts are that estimations do not portray an accurate energy efficiency benchmark for the multifamily industry.

Additionally, while NYC officials acknowledged the difficulty of gathering resident utility data, the onus was on the property owner to alert the resident to request the information from the utility to get the bills and then turn those bills over to the property to enter into Portfolio Manager. This reminds me of the nursery rhyme “This is the House That Jack Built.” This is the cat that ate the rat that ate the malt that lay in the house that Jack built …

Being a pioneer is a difficult proposition. But being a pioneer allows other to learn from your actions. Cities have seen what New York City did, learned from its actions, and are being smarter with respect to gathering the necessary information.

Seattle recognized the importance of collecting the necessary data, and took the prerequisite steps to enable the gathering of resident utility usage data. Early on, the city worked with various groups, including the utility providers (Puget Sound Energy, Seattle City Light, and Seattle Steam), so that the providers could upload the information directly to Portfolio Manager once properties complete the necessary documents.

As little as a year ago, cities were hesitant to require energy efficiency benchmarking for multifamily. As they continue to learn from each other, more and more cities will begin requiring benchmarking. As your energy management partner, AUM will continue to make it as easy as possible for you to be compliant in this environment, saving you time and money as you benchmark and become more energy efficient.

Tags: Energy management, Multifamily, Legal and Regulatory, Energy Efficiency, EPA Portfolio Manager, Benchmarking, Property characteristic survey, EPA, New York City, Regulatory, Seattle, Data analysis, Data collection, Data capture

Gathering data with property characteristics surveys

Posted by Michael Miller on Mon, Apr 23, 2012 @ 03:00 PM

Over the past three weeks we have been discussing data taxonomy in multifamily. What started as a work group on Capitol Hill is now a full-fledged multifamily energy benchmarking initiative.

We have made it our mission to help the multifamily industry understand what it takes to establish an accurate energy benchmark for multifamily properties. It takes a lot of information (data is king!) to make it happen, but if done correctly, energy efficiency benchmarking will provide multifamily property owners the roadmap to improving their net operating income (NOI). Here are some of the educational resources we have provided to you so far:

 

  1.  AUM’s white paper on effective multifamily energy benchmarking.
  2. A roadmap to understanding Portfolio Manager’s Statement of Energy Performance (SEP), the document currently provided to multifamily owners (the SEP is NOT a 1-100 benchmark).
  3. An in-depth guide to data quality standards in multifamily that takes into consideration all of the data points necessary to generate an energy efficiency benchmark.

Today, it’s time to focus on how data taxonomy is put to work to generate accurate energy efficiency scores.

An energy efficiency score is a combination of property characteristics data and energy usage data. To gather energy usage data, entities such as the EPA seek historical utility bills from properties (for use in Portfolio Manager). Whether it is a water bill, electric bill, or natural gas bill, all of the pertinent information is readily available.

Gathering property characteristics data in multifamily is much more complex than gathering usage data. In order to take into consideration the unique property attributes for the many different property types, benchmarking entities utilize the data taxonomy established through the MacArthur Foundation working group (in which AUM was an active participant). The data is gathered through a property characteristics survey.

The property characteristics survey attempts to gather all of the necessary information in an organized fashion by asking questions about the building’s history and the amount and setup of energy and water usage on the property. Here are just a few of the unique property characteristics that need to be taken into consideration to generate a benchmark score:

    • Type of building construction
    • Number of dishwashers
    • Spas or hot tubs on property
    • Number of bedrooms
    • Number of laundry hookups – in unit or common
    • Swimming pools on property
    • Gross floor area
    • Percent of square footage devoted to individual units

 

As we mentioned previously, other companies beyond the EPA and AUM are asking for this information to assist Portfolio Manager. Soon, Fannie Mae will be sending out their property characteristics survey to over 5,000 of the properties it finances. And cities like New York, Seattle, and Austin are requiring multifamily property owners to gather this information as part of their sustainability initiatives.

AUM is committed to your energy efficiency. We will continue to make sure that the powers that be in Washington understand the complexity of multifamily as it pertains to sustainability. We will also be there to walk you through the maze of information required to accomplish two objectives: be compliant in cities and states that require you to submit your information to Portfolio Manager; and help you use the data gathered to drive your bottom line through increased energy efficiency.

Tags: Energy management, Multifamily, Cost cutting, Sustainability and Benchmarking, Energy Efficiency, EPA Portfolio Manager, Benchmarking, Property characteristic survey, EPA, MacArthur Foundation, Data analysis, Data collection, Data capture

NYC benchmarking legislation explained at IREM symposium

Posted by Dimitris Kapsis on Tue, May 03, 2011 @ 03:46 PM

Blogpic53New York's new energy benchmarking legislation has many multifamily property owners confused. Recognizing this, IREM (Institute of Real Estate Management) pulled together a panel for this year's IREM Asset Management Symposium dubbed Benchmarking Performance: Analysis and Action by the Numbers.

The panel answered the top questions multifamily property owners are asking about energy benchmarking. Why is benchmarking important for multifamily owners? How can property owners overcome challenges associated with benchmarking? What data is most important when establishing benchmarks? And how can New York's multifamily property owners ensure they're in compliance with new benchmarking legislation?

I was asked to join the discussion to provide insight into the kinds of things property owners can do to ensure their benchmarks are accurate. The full panel consisted of:

    • Andrew Wallace, Esq., LEED GA, Buildings Department Project Manager
    • And myself, Dimitris Kapsis, Vice President, Energy Management Solutions for AUM

Listen to our conversation to learn what the panel had to say about some of the most common questions multifamily property owners have about energy benchmarking. Do you have a question that wasn't answered? Just leave it in a comment here.

Tags: US Energy Group, Sustainability and Benchmarking, Benchmarking, New York City, Data analysis, Data capture, Institute of Real Estate Management, IREM, LEED

Why experts matter in the field of utility management

Posted by Dave Carpenter on Mon, Jan 03, 2011 @ 04:05 PM

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I was just rereading the bio I wrote for this blog, and the fourth sentence made my head spin. I wrote: “I’m the resident expert in all areas of utility bill payment, system interface, and data exchange, as well as submetering, Web and custom reporting, vacant cost recovery, benchmarking, and utility bill data capture and analysis.”

The list of things I claim to be an expert in has gotten rather long. Yes, those are all things I do well. Quiz me on the growing importance of benchmarking for national multifamily owners and I will ace the test. But it got me thinking about the idea of expertise. Do clients care that I'm an encyclopedia of utility topics?

The whole concept of expertise can be discussed in many different ways. But for the purposes of this conversation, let's take a look at the two things that can make someone an expert:

  1. Deep, factual knowledge
  2. Practical experience

Talking the talk. People whose expertise mainly revolves around facts will be able to regurgitate a sometimes alarming amount of information about a given topic. Armed with this type of expertise, they can provide a lot of value by simply passing information on to others.

Walking the walk. But extensive, practical experience in a given field creates a unique type of expert. Experience forces the person who knows all the facts to see them in a new way. A true expert drives their subject matter to a new, better place by using their knowledge creatively.

So what kind of experts are we at AUM? Encyclopedias, or something more useful?

The way we work here has made it impossible NOT to be the latter. Because rather than backing employees into one area of energy management we train them to be masters of them all. And really, it’s the only way to do it. Each facet of the utility world is so interwoven that to understand and specialize in just one piece of it wouldn’t get you far.

We have many multifamily clients that have just one in-house energy manager. That’s right, one energy manager for thousands of multifamily units throughout the country. This one manager has to deal with multiple energy providers and multiple accounts for just one property. They’re charged with developing the most effective operational efficiency for each property's energy usage and spend.

How are they to know whether the rate being charged for properties is good or bad? Are they measuring those rates against market standards or checking that the rates being billed are even correct? The complexity of energy rates and the balance between energy rate management and energy usage management is a task that requires more experience than one person, working on one portfolio, could possibly have. In most cases it takes the combined expertise of a team of people to get the job done right.

At AUM we’ve spent 15 years developing deep, factual knowledge in multifamily energy services. But to us and to our clients, the key is the collective experience of our people. It makes it possible for us to provide more value than any one person ever could. My posts here will focus on how that unique expertise helps our multifamily owners find dollars in their energy spend that they never knew were slipping through the cracks.

So, that was a long answer to a short question. But the bottom line is that yes, AUM doesn’t just talk the talk, we walk the walk.

Tags: Energy management, Energy rates, Multifamily, Utility bill payment, Submetering, Benchmarking, Data analysis, Data capture, Vacant cost recovery, Reporting, Data exchange