Recalculating Solar Savings

Ten years ago, seeing a solar electric system on a building was noteworthy. Now they’re popping up everywhere. Lower cost is obviously a big driver of this solar surge; photovoltaic (or PV) system costs have dropped 50-70% in the past 10-15 years. Over the past decade, SWA has helped developers and owners install PV systems on hundreds of buildings. The systems are reliable, they have no moving parts, and they will convert sunlight to electricity for decades.

The cost effectiveness of PV, however, is not always clear. In fact, SWA has seen a concerning trend where the cost benefits of PV are exaggerated. Although costs vary with region and application, installed costs of PV are usually $3,000 – $6,000 per kWSTC.

Then there are incentives, including two key federal programs:

Photovoltaic Panels

  • 30% Federal tax credit
  • Accelerated depreciation (for businesses)

Other incentives vary greatly from region to region:

  • State, local, and utility rebates or credits
  • Sale of Renewable Energy Credits (RECs)

The Database for State Incentives for Renewable Energy (dsireusa.org) has a good summary of these regional incentives. Federal and regional incentives can easily lower PV system costs by 50% — often more.

The final piece in assessing cost effectiveness of PV is the electricity savings. With PV generating electricity for your building, you’ll obviously be paying less to the utility. But how much less? Read more

Fannie Mae Favors Green Multifamily

Fannie Mae recently reinforced their commitment to growing the green multifamily sector with the announcement of a reduction in interest rates for mortgage loans used to finance properties certified through a recognized green building rating system. There’s detailed information available on their website, but here’s a simple breakdown of the initiative using the 5 W’s:

Who: Fannie Mae Multifamily borrowers, developers, designers, and occupants

What: 10 basis point reduction in mortgage loans for multifamily properties certified through a recognized green building rating system (LEED, ENERGY STAR®, Enterprise Green Communities, etc.)

Where: Multifamily projects nationwide

When: Immediate implementation. Through existing green initiatives, Fannie Mae has already financed $130 million in Green Loans to properties with a Green Building certification

Why: Strengthens market for high-performance building design; Reduces financial risk for property owners; Raises property value with high performance upgrades

Visit the overview page for detailed information on Fannie Mae’s entire portfolio of Green Initiatives

What We’re Looking Forward to at Building Energy Boston ’15

Building Energy BostonBoston has been making national headlines a lot this winter, mainly due to the #snowpocalypse that they’ve been enduring.

Never fear, the first sign of spring is about to appear in Beantown! NESEA’s Building Energy Conference is just around the corner on March 3-5, bringing experts from around the country to share their knowledge about new trends and innovative solutions within the realm of building science and renewable energy.

Road? Where we're going, we don't need roads.

Boston digs out in time for Building Energy 2015

We’re sure it will rejuvenate and reinvigorate Bostonians and all Northeasterners alike. Note: Northeasterners like the people, not northeasters like the storm, just to be clear.

As with most of the Building Energy Conferences, there will be many speakers from SWA there to lead workshops and sessions about improving the efficiency of buildings and their systems (You can read more about that here). Today though, we want to talk about the other presenters and topics that we’re excited to see!

Here are a few of our recommendations that we can’t wait to check out:

  • We have been preaching about addressing building resiliency and energy efficiency, want to hear it from another trusted voice? Attend Alex Wilson’s session Putting Attention Where it is Needed Most – Building Resiliency In Multifamily Affordable Housing.  March 4, 11am – 12:30 pm
  • Codes are raising the bar, owners are seeing the benefits of building more efficient housing and more owners are addressing energy use at the time of capital upgrades and refi, all great news. The next wave we will see is the increase in multifamily Passive House construction and renovation using techniques where possible. Want to know how to incorporate passive house to your next project, you can talk to SWA’s Lois Arena, and you can also hear it from Katrin Klingenberg at her session The Building Science of multifamily Passive House. March 4, 4pm – 5:30 pm
  • Water makes up a sizable portion of utility bills, we recommend attending Reinventing the Water Grid Part 1: Science, Behavior and Dollars. Water reduction strategies and monitoring can save money and reduce operations and maintenance costs through leak detection. We will be attending this session to reinforce what we are recommending and to see if there are new applicable techniques or recommendations we can incorporate into our projects. March 5, 10:30am – 12pm

To attend Building Energy 2015 in Boston, register here. We look forward to seeing everyone there!

Lindenguild Hall: A Contemporary Approach to PV in Green Affordable Housing

Written by Katie Schwamb

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Katie Schwamb, one of the project’s contributing sustainability consultants

The Lantern Organization’s Lindenguild Hall is a 104-unit multifamily residential project that provides permanent shelter for under-served populations in the Bronx. On-site supportive service programming, open-use learning and activity rooms, and outdoor leisure space provide an enriched living experience for tenants. Contributing to the programmatic requirements of both LEED® for Homes™ and NYSERDA’s Multifamily Performance Program (MPP), the building’s sustainable and energy-efficient design features include high-efficiency boilers, a high-performance envelope assembly, low-emission finishes, low-flow plumbing fixtures, and a water-efficient landscaping and irrigation system. While all of these design elements contribute synergistically to high-performance operation, there is one feature that distinguishes Lindenguild Hall from many other affordable and supportive housing projects in New York…its extensive photovoltaic (PV) array.

Lindenguild Hall - Green Affordable Housing

Lindenguild Hall – Green Affordable Housing

Located on the building’s high-albedo roof, this 66-module solar electric array captures energy to help power lighting, heating, and cooling systems within the building’s common spaces, while reducing overall demand on the city’s electrical grid. An advanced feature of Lindenguild Hall’s PV system is its capacity for online monitoring, which provides building managers with real-time results, including metrics for solar generation in kW (kilowatts) and the overall kWh (kilowatt-hours) generated to date. Availability of this data enables management to assess the positive impact of renewable energy systems on their building’s performance. Long-term implications of alternative energy production on building stock include reduced life-cycle cost and protection against municipal energy uncertainties. Though less quantifiable , installation of innovative green technology adds momentum to standardizing sustainability in affordable housing design.

Lindenguild Hall - Solar Array for Green Affordable Housing

Lindenguild Hall – Solar Array

Lantern Organization, a not-for-profit housing developer and service provider, operates by actively addressing housing needs and offering social initiatives to strengthen disadvantaged NYC communities. SWA’s Residential Green and Multifamily New Construction groups helped Lindenguild Hall navigate the LEED for Homes program and secure NYSERDA MPP incentive funds. Committed to delivering the greatest benefit to their residents, Lantern acknowledges the added value of incorporating green building features into their affordable projects. Increased energy efficiency and improved indoor air quality potentially translate to lower energy cost burden and decreased susceptibility to disease for low-income populations.

HUD’s 2015 IAH Graduate Student Design Competition: SWA Supported

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HUD’s 2015 Innovation in Affordable Housing student design and planning competition has hit full stride. Building on its successful inaugural run in 2014, this year’s competition has university representation from over 20 states. Strategic teams of 3-5 graduate students and a faculty advisor, primarily from architecture, urban planning, real estate, business, and environmental engineering programs, are challenged with redesigning a 300-unit senior housing property for the Houma-Terrebonne Housing Authority (HTHA). Competitors will craft actionable solutions that consider economic, social, and ecologic issues unique to the region’s affordable senior housing sector. Successful projects will address needs of senior residents (quality of life), site and building codes, finance strategies (incl. leveraging partnerships), integrated energy efficiency technology, and community connectivity. Following a rigorous review process, select finalists will travel to Houma, LA in March for a site-visit intended to prepare competitors for refining their final submission. The winning entry will be chosen by a judging panel of industry thought-leaders, and awarded $20,000 at a ceremony in Washington, DC ($10,000 to the runner-up).

Steven Winter Associates, Inc. (SWA) recognizes the critical need for global availability of quality, affordable housing. Our support of HUD’s competition will advance studies in this emerging market by initiating a new generation of student-professionals into the industry. SWA fulfilled a lead role in competition development, outlining the competitive structure, project submission requirements and guidelines, and final judging criteria. Additionally, SWA spearheaded all marketing efforts for the competition, including a robust registration outreach campaign consisting of email blasts, phone communication, social media, and direct mailing. Work on the IAH competition demonstrates the firm’s continued support of student and professional competitions, adding to past programming efforts with the SBIC’s Beyond Green™ High Performance Building Awards and the Housing Authority of Norwalk’s Affordable Housing Design Competition. The firm’s involvement reinforces SWA’s commitment to progressing innovation in high performance building practices, and validates SWA’s reputation as an industry authority on sustainable multifamily building science.

Visit the the #IAH2015 website here: bit.ly/IAH2015