New Bedford Housing Authority’s Energy Performance Report
Energy consumption and environmental building design are critical issues in the Public Housing sector. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) spends over $4 billion each year on utilities more than 10% of its budget. It is for this reason that HUD enacted a widespread Energy Action Plan designed to upgrade all existing housing developments across the nation to find ways to incorporate new technologies aimed at increasing energy efficiency, reducing utility costs, and producing less harmful byproducts in the environment. Energy efficiency, building optimization, and switching to cleaner energy sources will substantially reduce our utility expenses, reduce CO2 emissions and improve the longevity of our buildings. Infrastructure renovations, electrical and building shell upgrades, and renewable energy-producing installations are being funded because of the federal and state governments commitment to job growth, resource conservation, building performance, and environmental responsibility.
The Seeds of Progress
New Bedford Housing Authority currently manages 48 developments, totaling 2,535 Public Housing units; 1,652 which are Federal units and 883 are State units.
The Housing Authority receives its funding from tenant rents as well as a rental subsidy from the Federal and State government. This revenue is used to support our developments, including paying 100% of all utility costs. With a serious reduction in subsidy and government cutbacks resulting from sequestration, it was imperative the Housing Authority take whatever means possible to reduce our energy costs. Our aggressive approach to our many energy-related costs has breathed new life into the Authority’s finances helping to create a more sustainable operation.
Under encouragement from HUD, New Bedford Housing Authority explored approaches to improving its infrastructure through a more cost effective energy program. Beginning in 2011, New Bedford Housing Authority initiated energy audits for all its buildings to assess the needs for water, gas, electrical and weatherization opportunities. Through federal and state funds emanating from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Low Income Multi-Family Program, Block Community Development Grants, and various State agencies, multiple grants were awarded to the Authority for an ambitious cost-effective, Energy Performance Programs aimed at greater energy efficiency for all its housing developments. Amazingly, most of the energy improvements described below were done at little or no cost to the Housing Authority. These are the largest energy-efficiency projects in the organization’s seventy-five (75) year history.
Analysis of our Developments
The Housing Authority began the process by having energy audits completed as a first step to determine what energy conservation measures needed to be made.
As a result of these upgrades, from 2011 to 2012, our State developments have reduced electrical costs by 9% (6.2% decrease in consumption) and natural gas costs by 13% (12.9% decrease in gas consumption), saving over $284,000. The Federal developments reduced their electricity costs by 17% (9.8% decrease in consumption) and 13% less gas (10.8% decrease in consumption) in 2012, a savings of almost $882,000. The following are examples of the types of energy improvements made in some of the developments.
The Low Income Multi-Family (LIMF) Retrofit Program provides cost-effective energy efficiency improvements that benefit public housing authorities and non-profit owners State wide. The improvements include efficiency upgrades for buildings with high energy consumption, such as space heaters and hot water systems, air sealing and insulation of building envelopes, lighting and appliances. The program is designed to minimize administration expenses and to economically reap the most energy savings, therefore, it funds only those projects that meet a cost-effectiveness test. This program is administered through the Low-Income Affordability Network (LEAN).
The LIMF Program supplied and installed at no cost to the Authority interior light bulbs (compact florescent lights- CFL) in tenant-owned light fixtures. A total of 9,699 were installed at a material cost of $47,331. More importantly, CFL bulbs use about 75% less energy than standard incandescent bulbs and they last up to ten times longer. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that if every American changed just one incandescent bulb to a CFL, it would save enough energy to light 3 million homes a year, save more than $600 million in annual energy costs and prevent greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to about 800,000 cars.
The LIMF Program also provided new apartment hallway light fixtures with CFL lights at Adams Street and Caroline Street. These new light fixtures are more energy efficient and more attractive. A total of 78 fixtures were replaced for a material cost of $1,716.
Buildings with common interior hallways and offices received new energy efficient light fixtures and bulbs that are controlled by motion sensors. The fixtures operate at a low stand-by level, with full light output instantly with any motion. These were installed in hallways at Tripp Towers- Hotel Apartments, Boa Vista, Hillside Court- including stairways, and Adams Street. They were also installed in all offices and office hallways at Boa Vista, Tripp Towers and the Hotel Apartments. This work was also completed with funding from the LIMF Program. The cost for these light fixtures was $83,241 at Tripp Towers, $25,187 at the Hotel Apartments, $51,885 at Boa Vista; $6,048 at Adams Street and Hillside Court was $2,574 for a total of $168,935.
All existing high pressure sodium exterior lights were replaced with new Light Emitting Diode (LED) fixtures. A total of 668 exterior lights at a cost of $246,942 were replaced in the Federal developments and 266 lights at a cost of $98,154 at the State sites. The cost of each fixture was $369.00 and a total of 934 were installed for a material cost of $344,646. These lights were also supplied and installed through the LIMF Program.
The LIMF Program also provided the in-kind services and materials at the following developments.
Blue Meadows is a 150-unit State development which completed $549,956 in energy-saving measures. Over $484,000 was allocated for weatherization upgrades, including door and window weather-stripping; door sweeps; insulation of walls, basement and attic areas; air sealing for all compromised spaces within the buildings; clothes dryer transition ducts were replaced and installation of bathroom fans in a select number of bathrooms. More than $51,000 was spent on electrical upgrades for energy-efficient lighting in all the apartments and exterior areas. In addition, twenty-eight (28) Frigidaire Energy Star-certified refrigerators were installed at a cost of $14,956.
Annual electrical usage at Blue Meadows decreased by nearly 6% between 2011 and 2012; simultaneously, annual gas usage decreased by 9.9% during this period. Figures comparing before and after completion of the upgrades show a 12.2% decrease in electrical usage between December 2011 and December 2012, and an overall 11.5% decrease between January 2011 and 2013, significant decreases as a result of these improvements.
Tripp Towers is a 202 unit State development that underwent over $184,000 in energy improvements. Just in excess of $119,000 went to electrical upgrades for energy-efficient lighting in all apartments, hallways, bathrooms, common areas, stairways and exterior areas and $64,875 was spent on the installation of one hundred and twenty five (125) new Frigidaire energy-efficient refrigerators. This was the largest electrical retrofit of all our State developments.
Annually, the upgrades have produced a 19.1% decrease in electrical usage at Tripp Towers.
Electrical consumption for the month of August, the height of summer and cooling loads, showed a 16% decrease in usage between 2011 and 2012. Calculations from January to May show a 35.7% decrease in electrical usage between 2011 and 2013.
Tripp Towers, New Bedford Hotel and Boa Vista
These buildings are three high-rises in the city servicing an elderly/disabled clientele. In order to reduce our utility costs at these developments, cogeneration plants were installed in each of the buildings under energy performance contracts where the savings are used to re-pay the cost of installation. Cogeneration, often referred to as Combined Heat and Power (CHP), is the use of a heat engine to simultaneously generate electricity and useful heat. In the production of electricity, some energy must be discarded as waste heat; however in cogeneration this thermal energy is put to use. In the case of Boa Vista, the system generates enough electricity as a byproduct from the heating system so that we have only purchased electricity for three months since February 2011.
Twenty-one (21) buildings consisting of one hundred (100) units were completed with over $637,000 in upgrades. With this monetary allotment, the Authority was able to update interior and exterior lighting, weather-strip all doors and windows, reseal and insulate attics and basements, install additional wall and hydronic pipe insulation, and repair damage from water and moisture accumulation. In addition, three (3) high-efficiency condensing gas boilers were installed to service eighteen (18) units, each with a 96.4% efficiency rating. Gas usage for 2011 was 8.2 million BTU’s, while 2012 had consumption at 7.2 million BTU’s, a 12.6% decrease post-installation.
In regards to the electrical consumption, the retrofits resulted in a 5.1% decrease in annual usage between 2011 and 2012. Calculations also determined a 9.95% reduction in usage between the months of January and May for 2011 and 2013.
This 200-unit, Federal development underwent more than $375,000 in retrofits. Over $335,000 was allocated for extensive weatherization upgrades which included increased insulation in the walls and attic space, heavy sealing for repairing air leakage at multiple levels and compromised spaces, and upgrades to the ventilation and duct systems. The building also received $39,650 in electrical upgrades to energy-efficient lighting for all apartments, hallways, stairways, common areas and exterior areas of the buildings.
Prior to the retrofits, Presidential Heights consumed 80,924 kWh of electricity in January 2012 and post-completion shows that in January 2013, the development consumed 74,996 kWh, a 7.3% decrease in usage.
Gas usage, from January through March 2011 at Presidential Heights consumed 7.8 million BTU’s and in comparison, from January through March 2013, the development consumed 7.3 million BTU’s. Gas consumption reduced by 6.7% post-retrofit.
This 300-unit, Federal development underwent more than $663,000 in retrofits. Over $593,000 was allocated for extensive weatherization upgrades which included increased insulation in the walls and attic space, heavy sealing for repairing air leakage at multiple levels and compromised spaces, and upgrades to the ventilation and duct systems. The building also received $70,000 in electrical upgrades to energy-efficient lighting for all apartments, hallways, stairways, common areas, and exterior areas of the buildings.
This 200-unit, Federal development underwent more than $374,000 in retrofits. Over $342,000 was allocated for extensive weatherization upgrades which included increased insulation in the walls and attic space, heavy sealing for repairing air leakage at multiple levels and compromised spaces, and upgrades to the ventilation and duct systems. The building also received $32,000 in electrical upgrades to energy-efficient lighting for all apartments, hallways, stairways, common areas, and exterior areas of the buildings.
Brickenwood weatherization work was not completed until May 2013 and Westlawn in March 2013 so comparison figures are incomplete.
Harwich Manor is a series of three (3) building, thirty (30) unit Federal facility which received over $48,700 in electrical and weatherization upgrades. Doors and windows were weather-stripped; the attics, basements, and walls received increased insulation; ventilation ducts were upgraded or repaired; sealing methods were applied for reducing air leakage; new energy-efficient lighting fixtures and fluorescent bulbs were installed in tenant’s apartments, restrooms, building hallways and common areas; new exterior building and walkway lights were added for increased security and vision, and brand new high-efficiency gas boilers and solar water heaters were installed. This solar heating system is a closed loop glycol system in that it circulates glycol through the thirty (30) plate collectors on the roof which absorbs heat from the sun. As it circulates, the glycol passes through a heat exchanger in an insulated 950 gallon storage tank where it is used to heat hot water. By pre-heating the water, a solar hot water system reduces the amount of fossil fuel needed to create hot water for domestic use.
Recordings before the auditing and retrofitting placed the average natural gas usage in BTU’s per square foot for its three (3) buildings at 12,136 for January 2011 and 10,052 for January 2012. These numbers were decreased to an average of 7,588 BTU’s per square foot in January 2013. This represents a 24.5% decrease between successive years and a 37.5% decrease in usage over two years.
Church Street I
NBHA’s Church St. I is a four (4) duplex, eight (8) unit development. This development underwent over $34,600 in weatherization upgrades including door replacement; attic, walls, and basement insulation; installation of aerators; increased bathroom ventilation and replacement of dryer ducts. In addition, $57,480 in ARRA funding was spent for the installation of four (4) high-efficiency condensing gas boilers, complete with increased controls for regulation and tenant access. Before the upgrades, the average natural gas use in BTU’s per square foot for each of the four (4) buildings was 10,159 in January 2011 and 9,412 in January 2012. By January 2013, the average BTU usage was 5,426, a 46.6% decrease in usage over 2 years.
Church St. II and Loftus Street
Thanks to funding from the Low Income Energy Affordability Network (LEAN), the Housing Authority recently purchased and installed three (3) ultra-efficient micro-CHP systems for two (2) duplex buildings on Church St. and one duplex on Loftus Street. Church Street II is a two-duplex, four (4) unit development that received two micro-cogeneration units and Loftus Street received one micro-cogeneration unit. This project was funded in total by LEAN at a total cost of $105,000. These new units replaced inefficient furnaces that were twenty-four (24) years old.
The cogeneration units are ECR freewatt Micro-CHP systems, and this particular model won the 2011 EPA Energy Star Emerging Technology Award. These micro-CHP systems operate at 90% efficiency and can reduce the buildingís annual environmental impact by 3 tons of CO2 emissions.
And beginning this fall, again with the assistance of LEAN, the Authority will continue with an aggressive $534.000 weatherization project at Satellite Village, Dottin Place, Shawmut Village, Bay Village, Sawyer Park, and our South First Street development.
In 2011, the Housing Authority began an aggressive recycling program by installing over two-hundred and fifteen (215) large paper and plastic recycling totes throughout our developments. Through a comprehensive education program, the tenants have overwhelmingly adopted the recycling program thereby reducing enormously waste into the city landfill.
Photovoltaic Solar Panel Systems Yield Substantial Profits and Savings
Beginning in 2010, the New Bedford Housing Authority sought out the option of utilizing renewable energy for its developments. The prospect of producing our own energy and greatly reducing the amount of electricity purchased from our energy provider was too great to ignore. Two Capital Fund Recovery Competition (CFRC) grants, completely separate from the multi-development energy retrofit program grants, were awarded to New Bedford Housing Authority by HUD under the promise of advancing energy-efficient green communities. The grants were issued with the mandate that our renewable energy systems would produce between 25% and 35% savings in electricity consumption.
Twenty-four (24) photovoltaic (PV) solar panel systems were installed, at two of our largest federal developments, Westlawn and Bay Village. The Housing Authority was awarded two separate grants in the amount of $1.5 million for the twelve PV systems at Bay Village and over $986,000 was awarded to install PV systems on twelve buildings at Westlawn. In addition, the Housing Authority received rebates of nearly $44,000 from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center under their Commonwealth Solar Rebate Program for these installations. This rebate was used to install another PV system at the Westlawn development. All of the PV systems are paid in full and all the saving generated comes directly back to the Housing Authority and “ultimately” the tax payer.
All materials for this project, including the solar panels, inverters, and data monitoring systems were produced or assembled in the United States as required by The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The PV systems were engineered and constructed by companies located in Massachusetts. The project put Americans to work positions with twenty (20) full-time positions related to the installation, including six (6) from New Bedford and the remainder coming from nearby towns in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
In 2012, the twelve systems at Bay Village generated over 171,000 kWh of electricity saving the Housing Authority over $32,000 in electricity costs. This system produced 35% of the total electricity used at these twelve buildings and over 19% of the total electricity used throughout the entire Bay Village development.
In 2012, the twelve systems at Westlawn generated over 129,000 kWh of electricity saving the Authority over $21,000 in electricity costs. This accounts for the system producing 54% of the total electricity used at these twelve buildings and nearly 13% of the total electricity used throughout the entire Westlawn development. This more than doubles the percentage the Housing Authority had guaranteed to HUD as part of the grant.
The twenty-four PV solar panel systems at Westlawn and Bay Village Developments reduced CO2 emissions by nearly 212 tons in 2012. It would take approximately 5,000 trees ten years to absorb that much CO2 from our environment. New Bedford Housing Authority both met and exceeded HUDs maximum percentages of annual energy reduction. In addition, our PV systems are eligible to receive Solar Renewable Energy Certificates which will accumulate and be sold as we continue to produce our own electricity.
New Bedford Housing Authority has undergone a crucial transformation over the past two years. We have achieved a great deal of success modernizing our developments through the integration of optimal energy performance and green community initiatives into all operations. Responsible actions have turned our facilities and housing developments into healthier, more stable buildings and have reduced our carbon footprint in the environment. We have stayed on the forefront of public housing energy efficiencies through our various energy savings contracts, bulk energy purchasing agreements, co-generation and mini co-generation systems, solar hot water, and our new photo voltaic systems. The millions of dollars invested into these developments have delivered higher value, cost-effective housing facilities that consume less energy and produce less waste, maximize comfort levels, and enhance quality of life for all our tenants.
All components of our energy performance contract meet HUDs criteria under its national energy strategy for improving low-income housing consumption rates. In addition, we have succeeded in incorporating renewable energy and cogeneration into many of our developments which has not only decreased our emissions, but has reduced our reliance on energy providers as well. The energy-saving upgrades and infrastructure renovations are generating long-term benefits for all our tenants, employees, and invested stakeholders. We hope the future will bring more financial opportunities for expanding our renewable and co-generative capacities for our other developments.