Seven (7) events that trigger energy efficiency upgrades and resulting savings

There are many discrete financial and regulatory events that may prompt an owner to upgrade a Multifamily building. However, in general, there are a few specific events in a Multifamily building’s Lifecycle when it is typically more cost effective, convenient and efficient to make savings and energy improvements. To maximize effectiveness, retrofit tools, resources and incentives need to be aligned with these “trigger events” so that owners are motivated to incorporate energy efficiency and other savings improvements into their overall portfolio upgrade strategy plans.

Below are the list of the seven (7) most common trigger events. The first five (5) have exitsed for over 20 years. The last two (2) are relatively new:

  1. Tune-up / Spruce-up
  2. Replacement
  3. Unit turnover (make ready)
  4. Retrofit
  5. Rehab
  6. Sale or Buy (Disclosure Laws)
  7. Energy Audit (Disclosure Laws)

All of these are excellent event strategies for energy and savings upgrade projects. The scope varies greatly depending on factors such as the age of the building, its condition, the type of occupancy and occupancy rate, the history of previous improvements, and whether the building is an affordable or a market rate property.


Trigger Event          Scope of Energy Upgrade
Tune-up/ Spruce-up Ongoing maintenance of   mechanical equipment or lower cost, easier-to-implement measures that spruce up a property at time of sale or purchase such as servicing mechanical equipment, repainting common areas, or making landscape and irrigation improvements.
Replacement Replacement of specific central or individual   equipment   that is broken or aging, including water   heaters, boilers, furnaces, air conditioners, appliances,   lighting and irrigation systems.
Unit turnover Unit-specific improvements   made when occupants vacate. Upon   vacancy, it is   common practice to   paint units, replace carpets,   address moisture intrusion and other minor repairs, replace appliances,   and make accessibility improvements.
Retrofit Usually more   limited in scope   than a whole-building rehab, retrofits typically consist of a package of   coordinated improvements   designed to achieve   a specific goal, such as   seismic safety or energy efficiency.
Rehab Building-wide overhaul may include   remodeling common areas, upgrading structural   elements, installing new electrical, plumbing and   mechanical equipment, and   more.
Sale   or Buy The states of California and Washington require energy benchmarking and disclosure to transactional parties at the time of building sale or lease. To improve the Asset value many times retrofit projects have to be undertaken prior to transaction closure.
Energy   Audit Three major U.S. cities – New York, San Francisco, and Boston – have created energy ordinances that pair benchmarking with energy audits and/or building tune-ups (retro-commissioning) every five to 10 years.

Current decision making tends to recognize and capture savings from only one of these event points—typically either replacement or full rehab. Because strategic thinking doesn’t focus on the full spectrum of entry points, owners will typically either carry out limited energy improvements that don’t optimize whole-building performance, or they postpone energy upgrades until they are ready for a full-building rehab, which may entail years of raising funds.

Retrofit and now disclosure tactics that recognize these entry points and tailor their outreach and services to these opportunities will increase their likelihood of success.

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