By Jessica Fiur, News Editor
Newtown Square, Pa.—Balfour Beatty Communities LLC, a subsidiary of Balfour Beatty Capital Group Inc. and a Public-Private Partnership developer of property management company for military housing, has been selected for a Smart Grid Data Access Award from the Department of Energy through its property management division, Balfour Beatty Military Housing Management LLC. The award will fund the “Switch 4 Good” program, which is an initiative aimed at helping residents in military family housing better manager their energy usage.
Historically, military families living on base were not responsible for utility costs, which resulted in high energy consumption. Recently, military branches have partnered with private groups, such as Balfour Beatty Communities, to enact utility programs that transfer utility costs to residents to encourage them to reduce energy usage.
According to Tabitha Crawford, senior vice president of sustainability and innovation at Balfour Beatty Communities Group, there are three ways to encourage less energy usage.
“The first method includes putting an extra savings statement in the monthly notice military families receive from the electric company,” Crawford tells MHN. “The second approach includes providing community incentives for the local school, so if they met the energy-usage goals, the school would get $1,000 at the end of three months. The third method involves working with people online or sending them texts, because we’ll be able to get real-time information from their actual consumption through 15 minute intervals.”
The most successful program will be considered for expansion throughout Balfour Beatty Communities’ privatized military housing locations across the United States.
Though some have protested the program, Crawford says that most families have already benefited.
“It’s been an interesting journey with [military families] being billed for the first time,” she says. “From a policy perspective, it’s something new and something that creates concern, but overall we’ve found that a third of residents are consuming above the average and have to pay something out of their pockets, a third are largely unaffected and don’t have to pay, and a third are getting refunds. So just as many people are benefitting financially from the program.”
Silicon Valley-based WattzOn Inc. will provide energy consumption expertise and software for the pilot program. WattzOn’s initial program with Balfour Beatty Communities yielded an 18 percent average energy savings across 40 homes. Yardi will serve as the Switch 4 Good program smart technology provider, having recently acquired ista North America’s Multifamily Services Group.
In the end, there are many advantages of the Switch 4 Good program.
“Our goal is to save military families money, but also to reduce our carbon footprint overall,” Crawford says.