Apartment high rises have always presented a challenge for the Department of Energy when trying to apply the Energy Star label. The program covered commercial and industrial buildings, where building owners provide at least 12 consecutive month’s energy data into its portfolio manager product. On the residential side, DOE uses a modeling approach to rate buildings based on the projected performance of their components. There are two different methods, indeed.

The residential program covered single family homes, low rise multifamily units and manufacturered homes, but not high-rise apartments. But with the multifamily building increasing (though high-rise construction is only at the beginning stages of recovery), DOE introduced Energy Star labeling for high rises a couple of weeks ago.

When it came time to marketrate multifamily mid- and high-rises, DOE didn’t have a portfolio manager program in place (though that could come down the road), so it went to the modeling approach.

Ted Leopkey, Energy Star Multifamily High Rise Program Manager, says that developers can find out how to get in the Energy Star program at its website (http://www.energystar.gov/). Partnering with Energy Star is free for a developer. There are two main ways an apartment high-rise builder can earn Energy Star labeling.

“We offer a prescriptive approach where we say here are the measures you can put into this building,” Leopkey says. “If you meet or exceed them, you are eligible to earn the Energy Star. We also have a modeling approach whereby you can earn 15 percent above ASHRAE 90.7. If you don’t want a prescriptive approach, you can make tradeoffs in your building. As long as that building models out to be at than ASHRAE 90.7, you’re eligible to earn the Energy Star.”

In 2005, DOE ran a pilot with 25 high-rise multifamily building going through the Energy Star process. It found that hard costs went up about two percent to meet the standard at that time. That said, a lot of the buildings participating were in New York, where it’s more expensive to build.

Leopkey claims the reward is worth the cost though. On the affordable side, he says Energy Star could help developers meet energy efficient program requirements. On the conventional side, he says, being Energy Star offers assurance a building is truly energy efficient.

“We are ensuring that the measures are put into specification and done so properly, Leopkey says. “We have testing and verification processes to show compartmentalization of the units to make sure they’re not leaky and that tenants aren’t uncomfortable.”

And that’s ultimately something developers can market. They can say: “The unit you’re renting is Energy Star. Not only will it cheaper to operate, but you’ll also be more comfortable your space,” Leopkey says.