Sustainable Housing in VA Results in Significant Cost Savings & Environmental Impact

Study Shows EarthCraft Multifamily Residents Could Save a Combined Total of Almost $9 Million and 75 Gigawatt Hours of Energy in 2015

Richmond, VA – February 19, 2015 – EarthCraft Virginia partnered with Housing Virginia and the Virginia Tech Center for Housing Research on a first-of-its-kind study that demonstrates the impact of energy efficient incentives in the construction of affordable rental housing. The new report, The Impact of Energy Efficient Design and Construction on LIHTC Housing in Virginia, was released by Housing Virginia last week. It shows that the average EarthCraft Multifamily apartment reduces monthly energy consumption by 464 kilowatt hours saving $54/month on electricity, which amounts to annual savings of $648 and 5,568 kilowatt hours.

The study is one of the first in the nation to evaluate unit-level electricity consumption in apartments built to exceed efficiency standards. Beginning in 2007, Virginia Housing Development Authority (VHDA) implemented a set of incentives in the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program that encouraged developers and builders to use a recognized third party standard, including EarthCraft Virginia’s EarthCraft Multifamily program. This successful partnership resulted in over 196 developments representing more than 13,500 certified apartments in Virginia. With savings reported in this study at over $600 a year on average, these EarthCraft multifamily dwellings have the potential to save residents almost $9 million in 2015 alone.

“When VHDA made changes to its tax credit program several years ago to encourage green building construction techniques, it created a very positive effect on affordable housing developments in Virginia,” said VHDA Executive Director Susan Dewey. “One of the best results from these changes is that utility bills have been significantly lowered for tenants, thereby improving their quality of life. I am pleased that this study confirms that we are on the right track.”

Virginia was one of the first states to provide these types of incentives in the LIHTC program and has been recognized as a leader by Global Green USA’s annual national performance ranking for green building practices in LIHTC programs scoring an “A-” and leading the Southeast in 2013’s analysis. The effectiveness of energy efficiency and green building achieved by the affordable housing industry demonstrates that high performance housing is within reach for the entire industry.

Bob Adams, the Executive Director of Housing Virginia, noted, “This research definitively proves the value to residents of well-designed and administered standards for highly energy efficient construction. The impact on affordability for lower income families is substantial. Living in one of these apartments means a 10% increase in affordability for a household at 30% of area median income.”

The year-long study conducted by Housing Virginia and the Virginia Tech Center for Housing Research also finds that apartments designed, built and certified with the EarthCraft Multifamily green building program, which includes third party testing and inspection, outperform standard new housing by more than 40% with respect to energy consumption and provide benefits to residents including increased comfort and improved indoor air quality. Developers benefit from third party oversight to ensure field construction meets design specifications, resulting in a building with improved durability and increased occupancy rates.

“From a lenders’, investors’ or property owners’ perspective, investing in durable materials and energy efficiency is great business, whether the utilities are being paid by the resident or the property,” said Bob Newman, President and CEO of Virginia Community Development Corporation. “The reassurance of knowing that a third party is testing and certifying the effectiveness of the energy improvements is a great benefit to the builders, owners and financers that are taking advantage of these cutting edge technologies, materials and equipment.”

The reduced energy consumption reported in this study also translates to environmental savings; according to U.S. Department of Energy, buildings consume 41% of U.S. energy and 73% of U.S. electricity. This study documents an average monthly savings of 464 kilowatt hours per unit, which expanded to account for the 13,536 multifamily dwelling units certified to date, converts to 75 gigawatt hours saved annually. The environmental impact of these potential savings is equivalent to installing 14 wind turbines or providing energy needs for 4,742 homes (according to EPA Equivalencies Calculator).

“This study demonstrates the value of green building implementation through public-private partnerships to achieve monthly utility savings for residents, maximize equity investments, and support sustainable communities,” said K.C. Bleile, Executive Director at EarthCraft Virginia. “Given these results, we can all feel confident about implementing sustainable solutions and the future of housing.”

See the full release here.

See on Housing Virginia’s website.

See Richmond Times Dispatch article.

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