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According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, one in three U.S. households reported challenges in paying energy bills or sustaining adequate heating and cooling in 2015. One in five reported reducing or forgoing necessities such as food or medicine to pay an energy bill. Yet, these households use only a fraction of the energy of wealthier households. In the June 25 Los Angeles Times article “California’s clean energy programs are mainly benefiting the rich, study finds”, author Sammy Roth stated that the average resident of the city of Maywood, which is 98% Latino and has a median household income of $40,000, used only 10% of the electricity of the average Beverly Hills’ 90210 resident!

A majority of our work is in affordable housing focused on disadvantaged communities, and we are especially proud of this role given recent movements including We are the 99% and Black Lives Matter that have exposed some of our country's inequities. It is now well understood that access to safe, affordable, quality housing is fundamental to health, economic and racial equity. Healthcare providers such as Kaiser Permanente are investing in affordable housing to improve the health of its most vulnerable populations and reduce the costs of treating them.

We feel it is our responsibility to do what we can to address inequity and ensure every human has the opportunity to live, learn, work and play in a built environment that nurtures their potential and secures ecological health. In this issue, learn more about some technical challenges with the electrification of multifamily hot water systems, and don't miss Peter Grant's July 28 presentation on our hot water-related research tools.

We hope you are staying healthy and sane during these challenging times and are getting outside to enjoy the lovely sun, fresh air and flowers!

Katy Hollbacher
Principal + Founder, Beyond Efficiency

Multifamily Moving to All-Electric
Interview with Senior Sustainability Engineer, Jennifer Love
by Laken Allen

Why are affordable multifamily clients going all-electric? They are tuned in to the conversation that it is the responsible thing to do with regard to climate change, energy use, and impact. The owners of these buildings are looking for what will make the best, most forward-looking building in the long term, not just the short term.

Affordable housing projects in California have been all-electric on the tenant side for a number of years with heating, air conditioning and appliances. The last hold-out is domestic hot water (DHW) and, in some cases, common laundry facilities. Given the state's stringent energy codes, until recently the technology didn't exist to allow the DHW side of things to go all-electric in these projects. Pushing electrification is a recent shift, and going all-electric is cleaner for the environment and a better direction for the future. Multifamily clients are forward thinking, want to do right by their residents and the planet, and embrace the best environmental choices. 
What are the hurdles and why are multifamily clients hesitant? There is still some hesitation because although the technology for efficient electric water heating in now available for the scale of multifamily projects, there are learning curves for design professionals, installation professionals, etc. to properly engineer and implement heat pump water heater (HPWH) systems. There are costs up front for the design and construction phases due to learning costs that get passed on to the owners. There is nothing inherently making HPWH systems more expensive than gas-based systems, but the unfamiliarity adds cost.

On the operations side, because it is affordable housing, the developers often own these projects for decades and have to pay the operational costs. Trying to predict and understand how the costs might differ from gas-based systems is an understandable concern for owners. 

Another obstacle is that Title 24 energy code compliance is a struggle right now because we still don't have the definition of a code compliant electric-based central domestic hot water system. The code is not currently written in a way to favor these systems, and the software used to model how well a building performs against code can't properly model them. The next code cycle will address it, but everyone is trying to find work arounds right now.
What is Beyond Efficiency's role and why do clients hire us to help? We are energy consultants and the green program certification consultants for our clients. We are helping them navigate the code aspect of all-electric DHW to make sure they are meeting the code compliance targets they need for various funding and green building programs in an atmosphere where the code is not up to date.

We are also helping to facilitate the conversation with designers and contractors by providing them with resources and information about best practices, studies and information. We serve as a resource to bring that information to the team and help estimate operation costs. We do estimation modeling to understand how HPWH systems are going to use energy and how renewables can play a role in offsetting energy use and operating costs. We can also help commission the systems and ensure they are working properly. 
Any advice for multifamily projects considering HPWH for DHW? The technology exists, and the next code cycle will clearly demonstrate that it's the preferred option. So, it's good to get out ahead of that now. Don't let the current void in code deter you. 

It's well known that the impacts of climate change disproportionately impact disadvantaged communities. It's important to play a role in making sure that the buildings that are being designed and built are having the least amount of climate impact possible.

Ensuring Central HPWH System Success
With the help of Beyond Efficiency
by Peter Grant

Central heat pump water heating (HPWH) systems are the cutting edge in all-electric multifamily buildings in California. These systems promise to significantly lower carbon emissions of buildings while reducing energy costs and providing the same satisfactory hot water delivery performance as gas systems. Accordingly, the California Energy Commission (CEC) has partnered with consultant Ecotope to create Title 24 prescriptive and performance compliance options enabling further market penetration. The groundwork is set for this to become a mainstream technology!

At the same time, central HPWH systems are fairly new in the market. New technologies inherently mean the professionals working on them have less experience (you can’t have 30 years experience with a three year old technology!) which creates more opportunity for mistakes. There may be issues with the design, installation, or operation of the system. And, if you’ve just paid to get a new central HPWH system, those mistakes turn into higher energy costs and lower hot water delivery performance for you. We’ve even seen one example in the industry where a (not commissioned) heat pump never engaged and the system was forced to provide all heating with the electric resistance elements. This issue cost the owner over $5,000 per year. Yikes!

Beyond Efficiency is here to help. We perform design review, commissioning, and measurement and verification services on these systems so you can be certain that you’re getting the performance you paid for. Potential benefits include:
  • Certainty: Engineers and contractors aren’t as familiar with HPWHs as they are with older technologies. This can lead to design and installation mistakes. Our services will help ensure that the system is designed and operating correctly and delivering the promised benefits.
  • Energy Cost Savings: Installation mistakes cost you money. The previous example of a poorly installed system costing $5,000 extra per year is not the only one. By working with the contractor to support and verify successful installations, we can help you avoid these expenses and ensure you’re getting the savings you paid for.
  • High Performance: Those installation mistakes lead to poor hot water delivery. An improperly installed system can’t provide as much hot water and may deliver cold showers. Correcting these mistakes will provide your occupants the hot water they need.
  • Knowledge: Many installers of central HPWH systems want to know how much they’re benefiting. Are they saving money each year compared to a gas system? How much are they reducing their carbon emissions? How much of their hot water comes from renewable sources? We’ll use monitoring data on your system, your energy prices, and data from CAISO to run our calculations and answer these questions for you.

Noteworthy Events

We'll be presenting, attending, or wishing we were there

Building the Future We Want

June 23-July 28, 2020
Every Tuesday, 12 pm MT Online
Beyond Efficiency kicked off the 'Building the Future We Want' webinar series on Tuesday, June 23 with a presentation on High Performance Building in Mountain Climates (watch it here). The series will continue every Tuesday at noon MT with various presenters and topics. Registration for each webinar is individually listed below.

July 21st
Reducing Construction Site Waste with Toby Grohne and Carrie Bell (TKG Construction and Teton County Waste)

July 28th
Passive House and Low Carbon Design with Lindsey Love and Lindsay Schack (Love | Schack Architecture)


July 23, 2020
The Health Effects From Gas Stoves, Online
The Building Decarbonization Coalition presents this webinar focused on the published report 'Health Effects from Gas Stove Pollution.' Join lead authors Andee Krasner from Physicians for Social Responsibility and Brady Seals from the Rocky Mountain Institute to discuss the findings of the study, highlights of action being taken to protect public health from gas stove pollution and recommendations for policymakers, healthcare organizations, individuals and researchers. Register here.

Peter Grant to present at ACEEE's Virtual Hot Water Forum

July 21-22 + 28-29, 2020

ACEEE Virtual Hot Water Forum, Online
Beyond Efficiency's Peter Grant will be presenting on our new hot water draw profile tools and consulting capabilities at this virtual conference. His presentation is part of session SS12 "How Do Humans Use Hot Water" and will be live Tuesday, July 28 from 11AM-12PM Pacific.

The Forum will focus on the smartest, most cost-effective ways to improve the efficiency of hot water systems and the intersection between hot water systems and issues including equity and decarbonization.

July 24, 2020
Engineered Timber Housing, 10 am MT Online
Join Holzraum System LLC, a leader in high performance wooden building envelope design, engineering, and off-site manufacturing, for their webcast on Modernizing the Construction Industry. Guests and architects Peter Rose (FAIA, FRAIC) and Florian Meier (MS) will chat with Holzraum System LLC cofounders Ilka Cassidy and Steve Hessler about engineered timber construction, modularization, and mass timer strategies. Other topics covered will include modernizing the how and where of housing construction, why mass timber construction can be a large win for the environment, how other industries approach productivity through engineering and a history of home prefabrication. Register for the webcast here.

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