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

Multifamily Market Alert - EPA Announces 1-100 ENERGY STAR Score for Multifamily

Posted by Alison Hoss on Tue, Sep 16, 2014 @ 03:01 PM


Multifamily Market Alert

EPA Announces 1-100 ENERGY STAR Score for Multifamily

Today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)  announced the availability of its 1-100 ENERGY STAR score for Multifamily. For two years, EPA has been analyzing energy data received from the Fannie Mae Multifamily Survey and Data Taxonomy Project. Available through ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager®, the score enables owners and managers to compare energy performance of their properties against similar properties nationwide.  It provides valuable information to help prioritize energy efficiency efforts and track improvements. 

AUM Chief Energy Officer Dimitris Kapsis was actively involved in the development of the benchmarks, and the score is an important development in the future of Multifamily energy management.  

As an ENERGY STAR Partner, AUM works on your behalf to ensure that both property characteristics data and energy usage data needed to deliver a score are correctly input into Portfolio Manager.  We will continue collaborating with EPA to make sure the new tool is an effective measure of your energy usage.



Why AUM?
Founded in 1994, AUM is celebrating its 20th anniversary of increasing Multifamily property NOI & RE value through use of its integrated Resident Billing & Energy/Utility Management tools. 

For a no-obligation NOI Analysis & Program Plan that demonstrates what AUM can do to help your bottom line, click below.

No-Obligation NOI Analysis

To learn more about our services click below

AUM Services Overview


Tags: Energy consumption, Multifamily, Energy Efficiency, ENERGY STAR, Benchmarking, EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, Portfolio Manager, Fannie Mae

MARKET ALERT - DC Sets April 1 Deadline for Energy Benchmarking

Posted by James Kenneally on Wed, Jan 30, 2013 @ 02:22 PM

Washington DC ArialDistrict of Columbia publishes final regulations requiring all large private buildings benchmark their energy and water performance annually.


On January 18, 2013, the District Department of the Environment (DDOE) published the final rulemaking for energy benchmarking of private buildings in the D.C. Register (60 DCR 367). This final rule-making puts into execution the District of Columbia Green Building Act (GBA) of 2006, as amended by the Clean and Affordable Energy Act of 2008, requires owners of large buildings in the District to benchmark the energy and water performance of their buildings using US Environmental Protection Agency's Portoflio Manager tool. These laws and pursuant regulations were passed to promote widespread understanding of energy and water use in the District, and to promote resource conservation.

Deadlines for reporting energy and water usage are as follows:

Building Deadline requirements

Do You Need to Comply?

The District of Columbia Sustainable Energy Utility (DCSEU) has established a help center to answer basic questions regarding your requirements for benchmarking and disclosure.  The Most Frequently Asked Questions can be viewed here. The Penalty for non-compliance of this legislation is $100 a day.

As a Multifamily property owner, the whole building square footage is to be taken into consideration when determining whether or not you need to comply, but you only need to report common area utility usage data.

In addition, DDOE has developed several guidance documents, with technical details on what needs to be reported and how, including forms for requesting utility data, and instructions for the adjustments being made to the program for its initial year. The set of guidance documents also include several optional forms for requesting tenant that building owners and managers may find useful.

As your energy management partner, AUM offers expert execution on ensuring your data is properly loaded into EPA's Portfolio Manager and you have successfully reported your information to the DDOE. 

AUM is an EPA Energy Star partner, and is uniquely positioned to ensure your compliance with these guidelines.  Contact us below to find out how we can walk you through the maze of the Washington, DC Guidelines.

Information on Washington, DC Benchmarking and Disclosure Compliance

Tags: Energy consumption, Multifamily, Utilities, Sustainability and Benchmarking, Energy Efficiency, Legislation, EPA Portfolio Manager, ENERGY STAR, Benchmarking, D.C. Green Building Act, Property characteristic survey

Future of Multifamily Energy Benchmarking Discussed in IMT Report

Posted by Michael Miller on Tue, Jan 22, 2013 @ 01:19 PM

Benchamrking your property's energy efficiency.The Institute for Market Transformation(IMT), a Washington, DC-based nonprofit organization promoting energy efficiency, green building and environmental protection in the United States and abroad, recently issued a report, Energy Transparency in the Multifamily Housing Sector.  The report provides a comprehensive look at energy benchmarking policies and their stakeholders.  Energy benchmarking has been a rising topic in the multifamily housing industry since President Obama's Better Buildings Initiative in February, 2011.

Click here for the Report: Energy Transparency in  the Multifamily Housing Sector

EPACurrently Seattle, Austin, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington, DC, as well as California and Washington have enacted policies for disclosing energy benchmarking information.  These disclosure policies are meant to accomplish energy efficiency initiatives set by state and local governments. But they may also prove to be beneficial to multifamily property owners.  The multifamily housing industry spends approximately $22 billion in energy annually, and with multifamily buildings constructed before building energy codes were put in place, there are many opportunities for energy-efficiency improvements.

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) and CNT Energy noted that cutting electricity usage by 15 percent and gas usage by 30 percent would result in $3.3 billion in utility bill savings annually.   Since 2000, energy costs have increased by 20 percent, which has resulted in decreased affordability for renters.  The rise in energy costs has affected property owners and renters throughout the multifamily housing industry.  Property owners must look for ways to improve their property’s energy efficiency and cut their energy costs.

Benchmarking is an innovative way for property owners to identify energy performance compared to other properties of the same characteristics.  Through energy benchmarking, property owners are able to capture energy consumption data in order to find ways to cut energy usage and reduce expenses.  

Benefits to Benchmarking and Disclosure

The IMT Report notes that, from an overall market perspective, cutting energy costs can increase cash flow and increase competition in the marketplace.  The report states that energy-efficient properties have higher occupancy levels along with higher leasing and sales prices. In cities that are requiring benchmarking and disclosure, Properties must be able to present a Statement of Energy Performance (SEP), in which prospective renters may use for comparison purposes.  In these cities, property managers must be able to explain the rating and potentially explain a difference in an SEP compared to another property to entice the renter. (See:  Understanding your SEP -March 8, 2012).

Many property owners have cited the expense in capital costs necessary to make their properties more energy efficient.  The Harvard University Joint Center for Housing Studies issued a report, America's Rental Housing, Meeting Challenges, Building on Opportunities, in April 2011, noted that the median age of an apartment community was 36 years, and many buildings were constructed before modern energy codes were adopted.  Additionally, existing incentive and rebate programs often overlook multifamily.  But the attitude of financing is changing.  Banks are now seeing benefits for lending for energy efficiency purposes, and property owners can now receive the necessary capital to start energy efficiency initiatives that will increase their property’s value and attract tenants who would spend less on their utility bills.  

Why is multifamily benchmarking so difficult and how is AUM Helping?

As early as our blog in February 2011, we have written that the barriers to energy for multifamily benchmarking are difficult. First, diversity and fragmentation of building type make the design of a common benchmark a very complex undertaking. How can you compare a New York City high-rise to a Florida garden-style apartment property?  Secondly, cities and states are not uniform on how to categorize multifamily. Is the building a commercial space or is it residential?  It is a unique mix of both.

Creating a benchmark is a function of the assets of the property – the property characteristics data, and its energy usage – usage data. AUM has worked in cooperation with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop a standard Data Taxonomy to gather property characteristics in a uniform, meaningful way. (Read our Data Taxonomy White Paper).
Where multifamily is hampered in its efforts to be more energy efficient, and therefore more operationally efficient, is the permission to gather effective usage data. In many instances, multifamily owners cannot legally access the utility bills of the residents due to tenant privacy laws. Without the correct energy usage data, decision-makers lack the data needed to effectively measure energy efficiency initiatives.

Benchmarking for Energy Performance – Fad or Future?

The difficulties in groundbreaking legislation in New York City and Austin have caused evolution to overcome barriers such as access to residential energy usage in Seattle. Additionally, Environmental Protection Agency’s work to gather sufficient data for a true multifamily energy benchmark has been a focus for over a year, and they are now performing data testing to determine appropriate benchmarks. Expectations are the Environmental Protection Agency will have a multifamily benchmark toward the end of 2013.

This benchmark, combined with current cities legislative efforts, mean that multifamily will be included in legislation in more and more cities as the future unfolds. As the premier energy management partner to multifamily, AUM will ensure that our clients are prepared for the future, with the ability benchmark in accordance with mandates, and reap the benefits of increased property values due to increased energy efficiency.

Tags: Utility expense Management, Energy budgeting, Utilities, Sustainability and Benchmarking, Capital expense, Energy Efficiency, EPA Portfolio Manager, ENERGY STAR, Benchmarking, D.C. Green Building Act, White paper, EPA, MacArthur Foundation, AUMScore, Better Buildings Initiative, New York City, New York Greener Greater Buildings Plan, Energy audit, NYC Local Law 84, Environmental Protection Agency, IMT

Fannie Mae begins sending Property Surveys for multifamily energy benchmarking

Posted by Michael Miller on Wed, Jul 25, 2012 @ 02:25 PM

Chances are, if you work with Fannie Mae (Fannie) on financing for any of your multifamily properties, you have received a Property Survey recently.  Fannie sent out these surveys to 6,500 randomly selected properties in an effort to gather information on behalf of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for further development of a 1-100 Energy Star benchmark rating.

I have been writing since the inception of this blog  about the importance AND difficulty of developing energy benchmarks for multifamily.  It started with my opinion of President Obama’s Better Buildings Initiative that he proposed in February, 2011 speech at Penn State University (Why President Obama’s Better Buildings Initiative Doesn’t Work For Multifamily). At that time, I noted that multifamily energy benchmarking was difficult due to a number of reasons, most notably:

    • There is not enough information available surrounding the multifamily industry’s energy consumption
    • Facility infrastructure is old and varied.
    • Financial incentives for residents are difficult to establish due to resident/property dynamics.
    • Assessment and benchmarking tools are non-existent in multifamily.

In that same blog, I wrote of what AUM was doing to overcome these obstacles and help multifamily property owners manage their energy expense more efficiently.  Updated from February, 2011, these bullets now show the progress and achievements thus far:

    • Research and development. We developed AUMSCORE energy efficiency benchmarking tool, the only energy efficiency benchmarking tool developed specifically for multifamily.
    • Dialogue, clarification, and education. We continue to work with the EPA and others to deliver a measurement tool that is rooted in multifamily energy factors, not misdirected commercial building factors.  AUM developed the white paper that became the working document for common data taxonomy in multifamily energy benchmarking.  That document was the basis for the Fannie Mae/EPA Property Characteristics Survey that is now being delivered.

Energy efficiency benchmarking makes sense, and cents.  It is the first, crucial step to provide sustainability and operational efficiency that drops right to multifamily’s bottom line.  AUM will continue to be an active participant in any benchmarking and sustainability discussions on Capitol Hill to ensure that these initiatives are thought through and executed correctly.

I will be traveling to Washington, DC in the next few weeks to spend a day on the Hill, visiting with Congressmen and Senators to ensure that multifamily’s interests in energy efficiency and sustainability are heard.  I look forward to providing you an update when I return.

Tags: Energy management, Energy consumption, Conservation, Cost cutting, Energy Efficiency, Legislation, EPA Portfolio Manager, ENERGY STAR, White paper, EPA, MacArthur Foundation, AUMScore, Better Buildings Initiative, President Obama, Regulatory, Data collection, Capitol Hill, Sustainability, Pennsylvania State University

Cities requiring energy benchmarking: Washington, DC and Philadelphia are up next!

Posted by Jeff Peterson on Mon, May 21, 2012 @ 02:59 PM

New York, Austin, Seattle … these cities set the standard for energy efficiency benchmarking using EPA’s Portfolio Manager benchmarking tool. Very soon on the horizon, Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia will also require buildings (including multifamily) to upload their property characteristics and energy usage data into Portfolio Manager for an energy benchmark score, with others to follow soon thereafter. Let’s look at where these two cities are in the process.

Washington, D.C. benchmarking update

As part of the Washington, D.C. Green Building Act of 2006, the Director of the District Department of the Environment (DDOE) proposed to add a new section (Section 3513) entitled “Energy Performance Benchmarking of Privately-Owned Buildings.” This section mandates -- according to a building size and a defined schedule -- owners of privately-owned buildings annually benchmark their buildings using Portfolio Manager, and submit their Statement of Energy Performance to the DDOE. After the second annual filing, the DDOE would make those results available to the public.

Through the District of Columbia Register Vol.58 No. 42 dated October 21, 2011, it is the belief of the DDOE (and AUM) that energy use has significant impact on a building’s operations budget, costs that are borne by building owners and their tenants. Energy inefficiency means additional lease costs, and the loss of dollars that affect the bottom line of building owners, tenants, and investors.

The D.C. Green Building Act initially required public buildings of 10,000 square feet or larger to benchmark using Portfolio Manager beginning Fiscal Year 2009. Section 3513 lays out the schedule for privately-owned buildings to begin benchmarking. These proposed rules were open for public comment in October 2011, which resulted in extensive comments from stakeholders. As such, the DDOE is now seeking further public input before formally re-proposing the regulations.

It can be assumed that as the proposed deadlines shown below are in the current timeframe, the DDOE will close this final comment period and finalize their rules quickly. Until then, no action is required even though many of these dates have passed. Below is a brief summary of the rules and how they impact building owners.

Private building deadlines for benchmarking using Portfolio Manager:

    • >200,000 sq. ft. = 2010
    • >150,000 sq. ft. = 2011
    • >100,000 sq. ft. = 2012
    • >50,000 sq. ft. = 2013

By February of each year, owners must request tenant energy and water data. Request letters are available from the DDOE.

    • Non-residential tenants MUST report data
    • Residential data is voluntary

By April 1 of each year, owners must complete benchmarking using EPA Portfolio Manager and authorize the release of the resulting report to the District. When an owner does not have whole building data:

    • Non-residential shall use partial data including any tenant data they receive
    • Residential shall

        • If >10 percent tenant data received, extrapolate to whole building using a prescribed mathematical formula
        • If <10 percent tenant data received, use only whole building data and/or common area data

Reporting requirements are only to the District at this time, meaning owners do not have to share data to anyone other than the District.

Penalty for non-compliance: $100/day

The process for uploading data and other considerations: Currently, the only way for a building owner to input energy data is through a manual process. Furthermore, this process relies on data presented from individual tenants in buildings that are not master-metered. The DDOE is aware of this situation and has a future goal to have the utility providers upload aggregated, whole building data. It is known that this will require extensive work with the Public Utility Commission to accomplish, and as such, is not being pursued at this time.

If you would like more information on the Washington, D.C. legislation, visit the DDOE’s website for important energy benchmarking updates. Following review of these rules, any interested party should submitted comments as soon as possible even though the DDOE has not set a deadline for such open period.  AUM will keep you posted as to the progress and when the rules are made final.

Philadelphia benchmarking update

The City of Philadelphia has inquired to several regulatory bodies, including the EPA, on the process of requiring energy efficiency benchmarking from public and private buildings. Currently under discussion within city regulatory bodies, the legislation has yet to be made public.

AUM is actively engaged in representing multifamily property owners to ensure that these regulations are not overly cumbersome, and that the parties that are in any jurisdiction understand the complexity of multifamily, and take that complexity into consideration. We will continue to keep you informed on any legislation that affects your bottom line with respect to energy management.

Tags: Energy management, Energy consumption, Multifamily, Legal and Regulatory, Energy Efficiency, Legislation, EPA Portfolio Manager, ENERGY STAR, Benchmarking, D.C. Green Building Act, EPA, Seattle, Data analysis, Data collection, New York

Data Taxonomy at Work in Multifamily: What Can Owners Expect?

Posted by Michael Miller on Tue, Apr 17, 2012 @ 03:05 PM

As we continue our focus on data taxonomy in multifamily energy management, I want to highlight specifically the data taxonomy points and how they are now being used by Portfolio Manager and others to capture multifamily data for energy efficiency measurement.



Our own Dimitris Kapsis, Chief Energy Officer of AUM, penned what essentially became the definitive document that would provide guidance for property owners, managers, and other entities using EPA’s Portfolio Manager to consistently track energy performance for multifamily properties. That white paper, “Guidance and Data Quality Standards in Multifamily,” establishes base data taxonomy for entities planning to share multifamily property and energy data.



 The paper highlights:

    • New and revised attributes on multifamily space type that clarify and define property attributes and the type of data expected by Portfolio Manager.
    • Data standards to ensure consistency in data entry.
    • New attributes for meter configuration to enable users to select from a pick list of different energy uses.
    • Revised consumption data upload guidance with multiple scenarios for varying data availabilities.

This document allows the ENERGY STAR program to better reflect multifamily energy usage as more and more jurisdictions require that measurement. If these cities and states are dictating Portfolio Manager as the measuring tool of choice, we better make sure that you can get a proper benchmark on your energy usage at a property, not just a compliance tool with a cost.

Some of these revisions and attributes were adopted in November 2011, and there are more to come. Portfolio Manager is expected to have a complete revision of its multifamily benchmark in September 2012. This revision, coupled with future legislation from cities and states, will eventually make measuring multifamily energy efficiency the rule rather than the exception.

Just as important, an energy efficiency benchmark for multifamily property owners may soon be required by entities other than cities and states. Fannie Mae is currently working with the EPA to gather information on at least 1,500 of the properties it currently finances. Can this become the model for more and more lenders or entities with interests in multifamily? Absolutely!

We have said time and time again that measuring energy efficiency at multifamily properties is a complex undertaking. It takes people like us, who are in it 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to continue to work on YOUR behalf as government agencies look for energy efficiency strategies.

If you would like to learn more about “Guidance on Data Quality Standards in Multifamily,” drop me a line at We want to hear your concerns as we continue to represent you at the energy efficiency table in Washington, D.C.

Tags: Energy management, Energy consumption, Multifamily, Sustainability and Benchmarking, Energy Efficiency, Legislation, EPA Portfolio Manager, ENERGY STAR, Benchmarking, White paper, EPA, New York Greener Greater Buildings Plan, Data analysis, Data collection

Data taxonomy and what it means to multifamily

Posted by Michael Miller on Fri, Mar 23, 2012 @ 03:05 PM


Last week, I talked about AUM’s efforts in Washington, D.C. working with big agencies such as the EPA, HUD, Fannie Mae, and others to understand the complexity of benchmarking multifamily properties. The mix of commercial (or common area) space and residential (individual apartment units) space, as well as the wide array of building characteristics found across multifamily properties, continues to make effective benchmarking a difficult task for the industry.

When measuring energy efficiency, whether it be commercial, residential, or multifamily (or whatever market you want to measure), the reigning axiom is that “data is king.” But right now, the lack of a standardized energy benchmarking process for the multifamily industry makes it difficult to know what data to collect and what to do with it. And without the right information, how can multifamily property owners make informed decisions on energy efficiency initiatives to do what’s best for their properties? The industry needs to make a collective decision about what data is needed and how it is going to be interpreted.

The powers that be on Capitol Hill understand the importance of the data, and have been working to establish a common data taxonomy to be used to calculate energy efficiency. Is creating this data taxonomy difficult? Yes. Imagine a table of people speaking different languages trying to solve the same problem.

Just last week during the NAHMA panel discussion, Chrissa Pagitsas, the Green Initiatives Program Manager Multifamily Risk, Fannie Mae, noted the challenges that come with each agency’s differing views and interpretation of the same data. It can be something as simple as the interpretation of how the standard square footage of an apartment is calculated, which is necessary for any benchmarking of properties. We need a common language, a common set of standards, to move forward.

The Data Taxonomy work group, funded by the MacArthur Foundation, has been hard at work attacking the data conundrum. The group brings many players to the table (from government agencies and the White House to energy consultants, mortgage lenders, and AUM!) to find a solution. From our discussion, a common data taxonomy was established to begin taking an objective look at energy efficiency in multifamily.

While it is still challenging to gather property characteristics and usage data for 12 months (even for residents), the common data traits requested will be uniform across many agencies. This is a step in the right direction as we look for a way to effectively benchmark energy use for the multifamily industry.

As a multifamily property owner, you will be required to gather this information and load it into EPA’s Portfolio Manager, the most widely accepted tool for energy efficiency management currently required in many of the mandates being set forth by municipalities. While the number of cities requiring energy efficiency benchmarking is small, it is growing, and you need to be prepared.

Next week we will take a deeper dive into the specifics of multifamily data taxonomy. Until then, start thinking about how you capture your data so that you can be ready to hit the ground running when mandatory energy efficiency benchmarking comes to your city.

Tags: Energy management, Multifamily, Sustainability and Benchmarking, Energy Efficiency, EPA Portfolio Manager, ENERGY STAR, Benchmarking, EPA, MacArthur Foundation, Data analysis, Data collection, HUD, NAHMA

Seattle gives property owners more time to comply with energy benchmarking ordinances

Posted by Jeff Peterson on Tue, Mar 20, 2012 @ 03:06 PM

We have an update for you on the Seattle energy benchmarking requirements. The city has announced a grace period so property owners have more time to comply with the ordinance and report their buildings’ energy usage. The change comes in response to public feedback that additional assistance and time is needed to comply.

Property owners now have until Oct. 1, 2012 to comply with the new requirements. These requirements apply to buildings 10,000 square feet or greater, including multifamily buildings of five or more units. In the future, the annual deadline will be April 1.

Seattle is currently evaluating the program and is considering staggered reporting deadlines based on building size. AUM is in direct contact with the city and we’ll pass along updates as soon as they are made available.

Check out our previous post for details about the original benchmarking and reporting ordinance. We’ve also put together a summary you can use as a quick reference guide to make sure your property is preparing for compliance with the new energy guidelines. Check out the document below, and as always, feel free to contact us if you have any questions.


GRACE PERIOD: Seattle extends deadline for energy benchmarking requirement

Tags: Energy management, Market alert, Multifamily, Sustainability and Benchmarking, Legal and Regulatory, Legislation, EPA Portfolio Manager, ENERGY STAR, Benchmarking, EPA, Regulatory, Seattle, Commercial

Statement of Energy Performance: What it is, and what it means

Posted by Michael Miller on Thu, Mar 08, 2012 @ 03:07 PM

We recently blogged about Seattle’s new energy benchmarking and reporting requirements for multifamily. One of those requirements is that multifamily properties in Seattle must submit property characteristics and energy usage to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). We wanted to drill down further into what the EPA does with this information.

Any property that submits their energy data for an Energy Star Rating receives a Statement of Energy Performance (SEP) that provides the energy usage measurements of a property. What the SEP does NOT do is tell property owners and residents how energy efficient the building is. However, the City of Seattle is requiring property owners to make the SEP available to residents or prospective residents upon request. This can create confusion if the document is mistaken for an energy efficiency rating and wrongly compared to another property's SEP. If this inaccurate comparison is not addressed, property owners may lose prospective residents.

As you can see, there is some confusion about what exactly an SEP is and what to do with the information it provides, so we wanted to explain it to you here in greater detail.

The SEP can be difficult to read. If you’ve ever seen one, you probably know what I’m talking about. Or maybe you had no idea it existed until you read this post. To help decipher the document, we set out to offer the context we felt was missing from a standard SEP.

We took some time to decode it so property managers can easily understand the data and be able to educate their residents about the contents of the SEP.

Below you will find a sample SEP you would receive from the EPA, overlaid with our roadmap to understanding the statement. You’ll see what is included in a typical SEP, what the numbers mean, and how it applies to multifamily properties. Here’s a breakdown of what we cover:

    • Site Energy Use Summary
    • Energy Intensity
    • Emissions
    • What’s not accounted for on the SEP? Multifamily property characteristics not considered when generating the SEP.

An important takeaway: The SEP does not distinguish between property types, amenities, or populations, so keep in mind that it does not offer a complete comparison of energy efficiency for the multifamily industry.

As energy documents go for multifamily, the SEP will not allow you to truly understand your energy efficiency and identify areas of improvement (aka savings). If you want to know more about how you can reduce your energy costs through a true multifamily energy efficiency benchmark, AUM's white paper, “Multifamily Energy Benchmarking for Reduced Energy Expense,” is also available for your review.

Take a look and let us know what you think about the SEP and if you would like to see any other pieces explained.


Tags: Energy management, Multifamily, Sustainability and Benchmarking, Legal and Regulatory, Energy Efficiency, Legislation, ENERGY STAR, Benchmarking, EPA, Regulatory, Seattle, Commercial