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DOE Partners on Zero-Carbon Retrofits for the Multifamily Building Sector

The US Department of Energy (DOE) and the California Energy Commission (CEC) announced a collaboration with the Rocky Mountain Institute to catalyze the development of a speedy and scalable process for zero-carbon retrofits in the multifamily home sector through the RMI’s REALIZE initiative, which aims to produce zero carbon retrofits for residential buildings.

Supported by a $500,000 DOE Building America award and $7.2 million CEC Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) grant, the three-year collaboration spans across California, Minnesota and Massachusetts to develop pilot projects—totaling approximately 500,000 square feet—in multifamily buildings to demonstrate an industrialized approach to conducting zero-emissions retrofits.

In addition, RMI, DOE, CEC and other market facilitation actors, such as New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s RetrofitNY program, are working together to develop scaling mechanisms designed to mobilize and organize the supply chain and kickstart a market for integrated retrofit systems. Six pilots are slated for development in RetrofitNY’s program.

America’s 125 million residential units account for approximately 20% of the country’s total carbon emissions, but only roughly 12,500 of these units (0.01%) are operating at net zero energy, according to the Net Zero Energy Coalition’s 2017 inventory. Progress continues to be hindered in large part by the disaggregation of both supply and demand?today, every retrofit is a custom job, involving significant time, complexity and cost, according to RMI.

REALIZE is combining demand aggregation and supply chain coordination to deploy high-quality, prefabricated mass-scale retrofit packages that are easy to install and are financed through utility cost savings. The approach was inspired by an innovative market facilitator from Europe known as Energiesprong that has successfully organized more than 100,000 units of affordable multifamily retrofit demand. REALIZE is working with its partners to adapt the Energiesprong approach to the US market. Energiesprong is an official strategic partner on both the DOE and CEC efforts.

The DOE Building America research funding supports pilot projects to develop a cost-effective approach for retrofit solution implementation, and to provide the industry with a compelling case study for prefabricated retrofits that achieve net-zero ready status. The CEC grant supports 300,000 square feet of demonstration projects for disadvantaged communities across the state while organizing the California manufacturing, energy services and contractor markets to provide zero-emissions retrofits at scale.

RMI and partners—including Association for Energy Affordability, University of California Davis, California Housing Partnership Corporation, City of San Francisco, Prospect Silicon Valley, Integral Group, David Baker Architecture and Stone Associates—are working together to streamline financing, permitting and installation to create turnkey, net-zero retrofit solutions in California.

REALIZE’s strategic set of activities include:

Demand Generation and Aggregation: Working with building owners to map out a plan to achieve cost-effective zero-over-time retrofitsacross their portfolios, while harnessing the power of group purchasing across portfolios to improve manufacturers’ product offerings and reduce pricing.

Product Development: Engaging market- and public-sector allies to bring factory-constructed building panels (including windows and doors) and integrated mechanical system packages (heating, cooling, hot water, ventilation, solar energy inverter and integrated system controls) to market in order to quickly and effectively retrofit and decarbonize buildings.

Project Design and Implementation: Facilitating projects by bringing together real estate owners and managers, project development and implementation companies, financiers, contractors and workers.

Streamlined Financing: Coordinating a range of standardized approaches and products that are suitable to a variety of building owner needs, we will collaborate with housing finance agencies, banks, community development finance institutions, and other financial organizations to enable more retrofits to be fit into mortgage and other energy and water project financing tools in the market.

Inclusive Economy: Partnering with the Emerald Cities Collaborative and local entities to recruit and provide capacity-building services to minority, veteran and women contractors, connecting them to project opportunities and labor, preparing them to take on bigger and more complex projects.

The 4th Annual Environmental Leader & Energy Manager Conference takes place May 13 – 15, 2019 in Denver. Learn more here.


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