Guest Blog: Multifamily Living, Multiple Choices

To get a sense of how residents in the Northwest ...

By Christopher Frye, Senior Manager, NEEA

To get a sense of how residents in the Northwest use energy in their multifamily homes and how units are constructed across the region, Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA) recently studied residents’ habits based on a random and representative sample of 230 buildings and 552 units in the Northwest.

The results of the study, “Residential Building Stock Assessment: Multifamily Characteristics and Energy Use,” will help guide the region’s utilities and energy efficiency organizations to identify opportunities for energy efficiency programs.

The study will also help guide the development of efficiency resources to meet the region’s future energy requirements.

However, from a builder, developer or multifamily executive standpoint, there are some interesting metrics and facts gleaned from the study that illustrate the energy use patterns of individual units, the size of structures, how multifamily homes are built and what appliances and technologies are used to heat and cool the buildings.

Here are some of the interesting results of the study that I’d like to share with you:

  • About 6 percent of all multifamily buildings include more than three stories, and less than 1 percent of the buildings are high-rise (more than six stories); 18 percent of all units in the sector are in buildings more than three stories in height.
  • About 87 percent of all primary heating is electric, and 80 percent of all heating is supplied by electric resistance zonal heat. Thirteen percent of all multifamily buildings use gas as primary heating, and half of those use a central heating system. Ninety percent of all central heating systems use natural gas as their heating source.
  • About 30 percent of multifamily buildings have some type of cooling system in some or all units, but less than 1 percent has a central cooling system.
  • About 11 percent of the sector has central domestic hot water (DHW) systems. Seventy-five percent of these systems are heated with natural gas; the remainder use electricity.
  • About 80 percent of common area lighting consists of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and linear fluorescent lighting and has an overall lighting power density (LPD) of 0.68 Watts per square foot (W/sq.ft.), and 40 percent of common area lighting is on continuously (no control system).
  • About 28 percent of all multifamily buildings have pools, 85 percent of which are outside and seasonal. Twenty-one percent of the buildings have spas, 67 percent of which are interior and used year-round.
  • About 93 percent of all units use electric heat as their primary heating. More than 90 percent of those units use zonal electric heating either permanently mounted or portable.
  • About 25 percent of units have cooling; 85 percent of those systems are zonal window or wall air conditioning units.

I encourage you to read the study. It’s an interesting read on how residents—and maybe even some of your customers—are using energy in their homes and what features they might be looking for.

As multifamily construction continues to grow and prosper, residents will also increasingly be asking for more energy-efficient technologies and products in the future, not only in the Northwest but across the nation.

Christopher Frye is senior manager, market research and evaluation at NEEA.