The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced that new multifamily high-rise residential buildings are now eligible to qualify for Energy Star ratings. However, architects who design apartment don’t know if it will mean much for apartment owners and builders.
The EPA says expanding the Energy Star eligibility to such properties will not only help it strengthen energy-efficiency initiatives across the nation, but it can also provide property owners the opportunity to increase the asset value and offer tenants comfortable homes.
The EPA said that “to qualify for Energy Star, new or substantially rehabilitated multifamily high-rise buildings must meet energy-efficiency guidelines set by the EPA and be designed to be at least 15 percent more energy-efficient than buildings that meet the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers energy use standard.”
Qualified buildings should feature energy–efficient improvements such as effective insulation systems, properly sized heating and cooling equipment, tight construction and ducts, Energy Star-qualified lighting and appliances, and high–performance windows.
Right now—developers still are building very few, if any, high-rises. Utilimately, that market will come back. When they do, cost is an issue. “Generally, developers are not offering to commit to an energy standard on their own as renters are not willing to pay a premium,” says Rohit Anand, a principal of Irvine, Calif.–based architectural firm KTGY Group. “When developers go to a green standard, it is because of an entitlement requirement or benefit.”
Other agree that costs takes priority. “We’re very environmentally conscious, but at the same time we want our owner to have a green building in another sense where it makes money,” says Mark Humphreys, CEO of Dallas-based Humphreys & Partners Architects. “If you start with a building that is 65 percent efficient, you can be a green building, but a highly inefficient building as far as the actual energy usage.”
Ultimately, developers who build high-rises could get some benefits from the newly available designation. “I think it will be a nice public relations move for builders, but I don’t think it will affect the way we design things,” says Manny Gonzalez, a principal with KTGY. “Most builders are going pretty green right now anyway.”