Energy Star has announced a new program focusing on multifamily residential high-rise buildings. According to the program website, this new designation for multifamily high-rises (dubbed “MFHR”) is intended for “new or substantially renovated” buildings. Energy Star aims to incorporate energy efficient design elements such as high-performance insulation and windows, efficient HVAC equipment, and Energy Star rated appliances into these new residential spaces. These elements not only minimize the building’s energy consumption, they also create a comfortable (and less costly) environment for tenants. The EPA highlights the ability of high-efficiency design and properly-installed systems and insulation to ensure temperatures and indoor air quality stay optimal despite temperature and weather shifts. Especially in a climate with significant seasonal changes like, say, autumn in Chicago, an energy efficient high-rise is designed to keep energy usage and costs to a minimum while keeping its tenants warm in the winter and cool in the summer. The EPA also stresses the significant role that energy efficient buildings play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The MFHR program builds on Energy Star’s existing “New Homes” program, available for new single-family homes and units in low-rise buildings. Existing multifamily residential buildings can also pursue an Energy Star rating through the existing building program. Across the board, rating and certification systems such as Energy Star and LEED are diversifying their offerings, an acknowledgement of the distinct energy usage characteristics and operating requirements for residential buildings. With the advent of LEED for Homes and LEED for Neighborhood Development, the new Energy Star MFHR label, and increasingly detailed space types available in Energy Star’s Portfolio Manager, buildings are getting more specialized treatment. Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) also announced a $25 million pilot program to spur energy efficiency projects in multi-family residential buildings.
The more nuanced space designations, program requirements, and resource investment will encourage sustainable design and building operations that are distinct to the needs of the space. In this case, meeting requirements of programs such as LEED ND, LEED for Homes, or Energy Star for multifamily high-rise will mean that sustainable practices and energy efficiency requirements represent the building as not just a building, but a place where people live. For energy efficiency and sustainability advocates, not to mention tenants in favor of clean air and lower electric bills—this is excellent news.