Over 34 million American renters, or about one-third of all households, reside in multifamily rental housing. These properties tend to be older structures, with many built in the 1970s or earlier, as new multifamily development has dropped from long-term historical averages of roughly one quarter to one third of all new housing constructed to only about 10%-15% since 1990.
The great majority of all existing multifamily rental properties were built before the adoption of statewide energy building codes beginning around 1980. Not surprisingly, many of these older buildings are energy inefficient. There is a growing awareness in the industry that efforts to reduce energy and water consumption throughout multifamily should be directed at these existing properties given the modest pace of new construction and the potential for substantial energy savings through retrofit. Understanding the operating histories of these existing properties – how they use energy and water – is an important element of designing retrofit protocols and setting strong, appropriate standards for reduced utility consumption.
The primary purpose of this paper is to identify the major utility usage databases currently in use or being developed for privately-owned multifamily rental housing, both market-rate and affordable. We have also explored how these databases and associated analytic tools interact (or do not interact) with the simulation models most commonly used to predict multifamily energy usage for retrofits, as well as the intersection of national green building standards and usage data. Finally, we have surveyed opinions on the desirability, feasibility, and key obstacles to creating a more conducive environment for the collection, use, and leveraging of multifamily utility usage data.