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Submetering for Savings

It’s a beautiful Friday night and you’re out to dinner with four of your best buddies. The restaurant’s ambiance is exquisite and the food is divine. You’re on a budget, so you stick to ordering a delicious appetizer and some tasty soup, while your friends go all in on surf and turf, quaff glasses of the restaurant’s best champagne and devour decadent desserts. The fun and laughter lasts for hours. You’ve had the time of your life—but when the check comes, your friends insist upon dividing it equally among the five of you, despite the fact that your meal cost only a fraction of theirs. Sighing, you hand over your credit card, feeling distinctly taken-advantage-of.

Hopefully you don’t have friends who would pull a stunt like that at a restaurant, or anywhere else. If you’re a resident of a multifamily building where you don’t have direct billing for your utilities however, this scenario is an everyday occurrence. Regardless of what you personally consume, you’re picking up the tab for your neighbor’s water, gas and electric use. Unless you have submetered utilities, that is.

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

Many buildings are still master metered. “In a master metered building, the electricity charges are folded into the monthly maintenance charges (which are sometimes referred to as common area charges),” says Dean Zias, a project manager with the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA), a public benefit corporation that offers objective information and analysis, innovative programs, technical expertise and funding to help New Yorkers increase energy efficiency, save money, use renewable energy and reduce reliance on fossil fuels. “So the electricity costs are treated much like fees for snow removal or grass cutting,” he says.

Zias explains that the building tallies up the total electricity charges—including demand and consumption (kW + kWh)—and divvies up the charges among residents within their maintenance bill. “The charges are divided by either the square footage of the unit, or by the number of shares a cooperator or owner has,” he says. “Apartments at the top of a building, for example, are more desirable, so owners of these units typically have more shares.”

Zias says that the real drawback of billing this way is that there is no incentive for shareholders or unit owners to save energy—the costs are buried among their general maintenance fees. “Most boards only look at maintenance expenses annually,” he says. “At that time, they might decide expenses are too high, and begin looking at ways to make energy efficiency improvements. It’s really a big disconnect in the ability to close the loop and look at electricity costs more often. It’s also hard to get data on in-unit consumption to see where opportunities to save energy and costs can be found.”

An Old Idea

Submetering was introduced in multifamily buildings as far back as the 1920s, but didn’t really become a concept in the property management industry until the 1980s when energy costs and conservation became more of a concern for property owners. Eric Jacobson, director of corporate communications for Quadlogic Controls Corp. in Long Island City explains that submetering was prohibited for a number of years after landlords were found to be gouging rental tenants, but it was re-enabled in the late 1970s.

“Submetering is a highly contentious subject in the building industry,” says Herbert Hirschfeld, PE, a professional engineer and an energy consultant based in Glen Cove. “In a rental building, anything the landlord wants to do, the residents tend to feel the landlord is out to screw them. It’s an adversarial relationship between renters and landlords. The elderly are also sometimes afraid of change. They feel preyed upon by shareholders looking to defeat the measure. Co-ops aren’t as adversarial, but sometimes an existing board will want to submeter the co-op but the next board of directors will take the opposite position. It’s like the Democrats and Republicans.”

Seeking the approval of non-board shareholders or the majority of the residents in a co-op or condo is no longer needed to switch from master metering to submetering. The Public Service Commission (PSC) regulations issued in December 2012 state that the decision to proceed with submetering can now be made by a board unilaterally.

To be clear: submetering is not the same thing as real-time billing, under which consumers pay the actual price for electricity at that moment in time when it’s used (the cost is often applied in 15-minute increments). “This form of billing applies more to the industrial and commercial sectors,” says Zias. “Under real-time pricing, you could be paying up to $80 dollars per kWh, depending upon the time of day and the season (summertime being the highest). Users pay the lowest price for electricity in the evening time, mid-range during dawn and dusk periods, and the highest prices during the day. To protect consumers from high electricity prices, legislation was passed in the1980s forbidding real-time billing for the residential sector, so you won’t see this very often in residential buildings today.”

California Governor Issues Unprecedented Statewide Water Restrictions

ECHO LAKE, Calif. — For the first time in California’s history the entire state will have to abide by strict water restrictions. Governor Jerry Brown announced an executive action Wednesday aimed at reducing water usage by 25 percent across the state.

The order comes as California enters its fourth year of a severe drought that is expected to persist into 2016. Statewide surveyors are seeing a record low snowpack of just six percent of normal. Californians depend on the melting snow to fill rivers and reservoirs, providing a third of the state’s water supply.

“We are standing on dry grass and we should be standing on five feet of snow,” said Brown, during a press briefing at Echo Summit in the Sierra Nevada. “We’re in a historic drought and that demands unprecedented action.”

The execution action calls for replacing 50 million square feet of lawns throughout the state with drought tolerant landscaping; requires campuses, golf courses and other large landscapes to significantly cut water use; and it’ll bar new homes and developments from watering “ornamental” grass on public street medians.

“People should realize we’re in a new era,” said Brown. “The idea of your nice little green grass getting lots of water every day, that’s going to be a thing of the past. We’re not going to change everything overnight but we are in a transition period. People have to realize that in many parts of California, they are living in a desert.”

Atlanta Passes Benchmarking Ordinance

The Atlanta City Council unanimously passed legislation that will use cost-effective energy efficiency opportunities to spur local economic development, create thousands of jobs, improve public health, and reduce the city’s overall environmental footprint, according to the City Energy Project, a national initiative from the Institute for Market Transformation (IMT) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

Under the Atlanta Commercial Buildings Energy Efficiency Ordinance, the city aims to meet these goals by collecting (or “benchmarking”), reporting, and sharing energy use data for the City’s commercial buildings, along with periodic energy audits and potential improvements to existing building equipment and functions (called “retrocomissioning”).

Using these tools, the City projects that the ordinance will drive a 20 percent reduction in commercial energy consumption by the year 2030, spur the creation of more than a thousand jobs annually in the first few years, and cut carbon emissions in half from 2013 levels by 2030.

“Atlanta is paving the way for other cities to take advantage of the significant environmental and economic benefits that come with making city skylines more energy efficient,” said Melissa Wright, Director of the City Energy Project at NRDC. “This ordinance is tailor-made for Atlanta, taking best practices from other cities and refining them to meet local needs. It will not only reduce harmful air pollution that threatens public health, but drive local job-creation, and help the city and local buildings lower their energy bills.”

Buildings currently account for 66 percent of Atlanta’s total energy use. This new ordinance addresses energy use in private and city-owned buildings over 25,000 square feet in size. This includes 2,350 buildings that, as a whole, represent 88 percent of the city’s commercial sector.

“After its citizens, a city’s buildings are its most important assets, and in many cases, it’s shocking how much information about these structures remains unknown. Atlanta’s new ordinance combines four powerful tools that together can provide unparalleled insight into these valuable assets,” said Cliff Majersik, Executive Director of the IMT, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization that is a proponent of building energy benchmarking across the country. “Benchmarking data establishes a baseline as to how a building is currently performing. In conjunction with this information, energy audits and tuning give building owners actionable information on the financial impacts of potential improvements and empower these owners to focus on the most cost-effective options for their building and their business. Providing building performance to the public informs leasing and purchasing decisions; it enables the market to function properly and reward efficient buildings with higher occupancy and faster lease-up.”

Pending Ohio Submetering Legislation

COLUMBUS, OHIO – Apartment submetering conserves natural resources, lowers resident total housing costs and reduces property operating expenses. To preserve the long term viability of the Ohio submetering industry, we believe it is fundamentally important to provide sound consumer protection safeguards while allowing apartment owners to recover all resident utility costs. Recent articles in The Columbus Dispatch raise concerns about the billing practices of a small number of central Ohio submetering companies.

Multifamily Utiltiy urges Ohio lawmakers to enact submetering legislation that incorporates “best billing practices” as specified by the Utility Management and Conservation Association. UMCA is a national trade association representing submetering vendors and equipment suppliers. UMCA best practices state that “the total amount billed to the end-user [apartment resident] does not exceed what is billed by the [utility] provider… [after deducting all late charges, interest, or other penalties owed by the property].” UMCA best practices also state, “Administrative and billing fees should be reasonable. Any billing or administrative fee should be mutually agreed to in writing between client [apartment owner] and end-user [apartment resident]“. Simply stated, charges billed to apartment residents should not exceed actual costs billed by the utility provider to the property (less penalties), plus reasonable administrative fees. In keeping with other state submetering statutes, Multifamily Utility would add common area charges as a deduction from the property utility costs.

Legislation that proposes to establish local single-family residential rates as the basis for billing apartment residents does not conform to UMCA guidelines. Billing apartment residents at the single-family rate will, in aggregate, yield more revenue than the property’s actual costs from the utility provider. This is because the property utility rate is lower than the single-family residential rate. In contrast, UMCA best billing practices result in lower resident bills than the local single-family rate and still allow the property to recover all utility expenses. UMCA guidelines go on to say that entities billing more than actual costs would be subject to regulation.
Again, we urge Ohio lawmakers to enact submetering legislation that conforms to UMCA best billing practices.

USA TODAY Analysis: Nation’s Water Costs Rushing Higher

While most Americans worry about gas and heating oil prices, water rates have surged in the past dozen years, according to a USA TODAY study of 100 municipalities. Prices at least doubled in more than a quarter of the locations and even tripled in a few.

Consumers could easily overlook the steady drip, drip, drip of water rate hikes, yet the cost of this necessity of life has outpaced the percentage increases of some of these other utilities, carving a larger slice of household budgets in the process.

USA TODAY’s study of residential water rates over the past 12 years for large and small water agencies nationwide found that monthly costs doubled for more in 29 localities. The unique look at costs for a diverse mix of water suppliers representing every state and Washington, D.C. found that a resource long taken for granted will continue to become more costly for millions of Americans. Indeed, rates haven’t crested yet because huge costs to upgrade or repair pipes, reservoirs and treatment plants loom nationwide.

In three municipalities — Atlanta, San Francisco and Wilmington, Del. — water costs tripled or more. Monthly costs topped $50 for consumers in Atlanta, Seattle and San Diego who used 1,000 cubic feet of water, a typical residential consumption level in many areas. Officials in the three municipalities and elsewhere, however, say actual consumption is often lower. But conservation efforts counter-intuitively may raise water rates in some localities.

The trend toward higher bills is being driven by:

— The cost of paying off the debt on bonds municipalities issue to fund expensive repairs or upgrades on aging water systems.

— Increases in the cost of electricity, chemicals and fuel used to supply and treat water.

— Compliance with federal government clean-water mandates.

— Rising pension and health care costs for water agency workers.

— Increased security safeguards for water systems since the 9/11 terror attacks.

Higher rates still ahead

The costs continue to rise even though residential water usage dropped sharply nationwide in the past three decades amid conservation efforts.

U.S. water systems will need as much as $1 trillion in infrastructure improvements by 2035 to keep up with drinking water needs, according to a survey of industry experts released in June.

The bond debt needed to fund those projects’ work will be passed on to consumers, including the many Americans struggling with the economic fallout of the great recession.

A virtually irreplaceable resource that Americans rely on for health and daily living “could potentially get more and more expensive,” says John Chevrette, who heads the management consulting arm of Black & Veatch, the firm that conducted the industry survey.

He predicts rate increases of 5% to 15% every few years, saying the cost of water “could take a larger and more significant bite out of otherwise disposable income.”
‘A race against time’

In San Francisco, the monthly cost of 1,000 cubic feet of water jumped nearly 211% since 2001 as the city’s regional water system ended a seven-year rate freeze and began a massive, five-year infrastructure improvement program.

Harlan Kelly Jr., the system’s assistant general manager for infrastructure, says the work was vital because the freeze had left little funding for expanding and strengthening the system that serves more than 30 cities and 2.6 million people in the Bay Area.

A 2002 city economic study warned that the Bay Area would suffer a $30 billion economic hit if an earthquake severely disrupted the water network for two months. The California Division of Safety of Dams delivered an even more immediate warning in 2001, deeming the Calaveras Dam seismically unsafe. That forced the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission to drain the reservoir created by the dam to a third of its normal level, significantly reducing the system’s water storage.

“I think everyone realized this work was needed,” says Kelly. “It’s a race against time. Here in California, it’s not if, it’s when” the next major earthquake will hit.

Consumers have little choice but to pay for infrastructure improvements and repairs to the nation’s often aging water systems, says Scott, the Fitch Ratings executive.

If they don’t, water mains and other parts of the systems “will break, and the breaks will be catastrophic. It would be the equivalent of somebody not replacing their water heater when it is leaking, and then having it fall from the attic and tear up their entire house.”

Municipal water systems typically fund major repairs and other infrastructure work by issuing bonds that are repaid over time. The annual cost of paying off debt servicing those bonds is passed on to consumers in higher rates.

The financial impact is already being felt. Fitch Ratings showed water agencies’ debt per customer rose from $1,012 in 2006 to $1,611 in 2011.

Diane Clausen, a Seattle Public Utilities official, says her agency has outpaced many other municipal water suppliers by working to place protective coverings over reservoirs, building a filtration plant on one major water source and installing an ultraviolet treatment facility on another major source.

“We’ve pretty much done our major capital projects,” says Clausen. “The debt service on those are included in the rates that our customers pay, so the rates for us, we believe, would tend to be higher than the rates for other utilities that aren’t as far along in their infrastructure development.”

Similarly, Atlanta officials say their rates — up 233% since 2001 for monthly usage of 1,000 cubic feet of water — partly result from $1.3 billion in spending to upgrade the city’s water supply system in compliance with federal clean water mandates.

Submeters: You Can’t Manage What You Don’t Measure

Under its Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance (EB:O&M) rating system, the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification system allows as many as three credits for “system-level metering.” These credits, which are available under performance measurement within the Energy and Atmosphere category, mean that nearly 8 percent of the necessary credits for LEED-EB:O&M are associated with metering and/or submetering.

How many times have you thought about applying to a building automation system (BAS) a check metering strategy that monitors kilowatt demand and kilowatt hour consumption? Now compare this total to that of the utility bill. Given the overhead cost of utilities, “check metering” is not only a good strategy but also plants roots for a BAS.

Meanwhile, since sub-metering hit the market, its usage has grown dramatically in functionality and usefulness, providing great value to facility managers’ and owners’ front-line energy data gathering. Considering we’re in an era of rising utility costs and tightening budgets, today’s submeters are coming out of the electrical room on to the factory floor and into building lobbies to give those who “need to know” a clear look at actual energy usage.

To the certification-conscious owner LEED might be a bit of a stretch, so recommending application for Entergy Star might be a better alternative. The Energy Star rating still offers “bragging rights” because the building owner joins a team of 75,000+ buildings in the United States that are characterized for implementing efficiencies. These buildings provide fertile ground for submetering-based performance assessment through:

• Data collection and management

• Establishing performance baselines

• Auditing and analyzing energy patterns and trends

• Normalizing energy data for fair and accurate comparisons.

Don’t forget to thank Al Gore for inventing the Internet! The World Wide Web enables energy monitoring and data presentment anywhere. Visual enhancements through dashboards make it easy for executives to see the impact of kilowatt hours, kilowatts, peak demand, power factor, and other energy measurements that are registered in real time and with good historical reference.

Likewise, the sustainability-conscious client can also graphically monitor a building’s carbon footprint” with dashboard software. Facility managers can graph a building’s carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, and nitrous oxide emissions. These observed levels keep everyone thinking “green.”

The facility world is undergoing dramatic changes, and they’re all being driven by the need to save energy in an effort to keep reducing operating costs. Similarly, building managers will be overwhelmed by the array of energy programs now proliferating, and the ways that sub-meters and automatic meter readings can help them measure, verify, and report compliance with corporate energy objectives.

It all comes down to the old adage, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure!”

Government Issues Building Energy And Water Submetering Report

A new interagency report recommends systematic consideration of new metering technologies that can yield up-to-date, finely grained snapshots of energy and water usage in commercial and residential buildings to guide efficiency improvements and capture the advantages of a modernized electric power grid.

While the return on investment (ROI) for these monitoring and measurement technologies—or submeters—depends on specific energy-efficiency strategies that may vary by climate, building type, and other factors, “numerous case studies provide evidence that the ROI can be significant,” concludes the report, Submetering of Building Energy and Water Usage: Analysis and Recommendations of the Subcommittee on Buildings Technology Research and Development. “Further, submetering provides the necessary infrastructure for more advanced conservation and efficiency techniques.”

The report is a product of the Buildings Technology Research and Development Subcommittee of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC), a cabinet-level council that is the principal means within the executive branch to coordinate science and technology policy across the diverse entities that make up the federal research and development enterprise. The subcommittee is currently co-chaired by Roland Risser, manager of the Buildings Technologies Program at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and William Grosshandler, deputy director of the Engineering Laboratory at the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

The report notes that devices to monitor and measure resource use can be deployed at successively finer levels of resolution, from individual buildings and rooms in a complex down to specific building systems or water and electrical outlets. As compared with one-time, large-scale audits of energy or water use, submetering provides specific, real-time information that can be used to pinpoint variations in performance, optimize automated building systems, and encourage building managers and occupants to adopt energy-conserving behaviors. Each of these potential outcomes can dramatically improve building performance and lead to reduced resource consumption.

Commercial and residential buildings consume vast amounts of energy, water, and material resources. In fact, U.S. buildings account for more than 40 percent of total U.S. energy consumption, including 72 percent of electricity use. If current trends continue, buildings worldwide will be the largest consumer of global energy by 2025. By 2050, buildings are likely to use as much energy as the transportation and industrial sectors combined.

Formally, submetering is the installation of metering devices to measure actual energy or water consumption at points beyond the primary utility meter on a campus or building. Submetering allows building owners to monitor energy or water usage for individual tenants, departments, pieces of equipment or other loads to account for their specific usage. Submetering technologies enable building owners to optimize design and retrofit strategies to energy and water management procedures more efficient and effective.

“Submetering is essential to getting the best performance out of buildings—both new and old,” said DOE’s Risser. “By providing designers, building managers and occupants with more information about their energy use, submetering helps improve building efficiency, which reduces energy waste and saves money for families and businesses,”

Shyam Sunder, director of NIST’s Engineering Laboratory and former subcommittee co-chair who led the report’s development added: “This report provides the basics that building owners need to make the most of these ‘smart’ energy-measuring technologies—to help them weigh benefits and costs and to determine which applications at what scale will work best for them.”

The NSTC report provides an overview of the key elements of submetering and associated energy management systems to foster understanding of associated benefits and complexities. It documents the current state of submetering and provides relevant case studies and preliminary findings relating to submetering system costs and ROI. The report also addresses gaps, challenges and barriers to widespread acceptance along with descriptive candidate areas where additional development or progress is required. It also surveys policy options for changing current buildings-sector practices.

The report responds to provisions in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct 2005, Public Law No. 109-58) and the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EIS Act 2007, Public Law No. 110-140) to enhance federal R&D that could enable more efficient and higher performance of residential and commercial buildings. The report also will assist federal building owners in meeting energy and water conservation and reporting requirements set forth in Presidential Executive Order 13514, “Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance.”

Multifamily Utility Company adds over 5,000 units to it’s submetering and billing services. The two private portfolios consist of multifamily buildings with 50 to 200 units each.

It is estimated that these properties will reduce their water consumption by 15% to 40% within the next two months. With the continued water shortages in California and Nevada and the continual utility rate increases the owners of these properties are looking forward to the significant benefits submetering and billing.

Submetering Your Building’s Electricity

– Paying for What You Use

Some multifamily buildings have direct metering—the utility owns each apartment’s meter, and each resident pays directly to the utility based on an individual utility rate. Others don’t have electric metering of individual units—the entire building is charged as a whole. This is known as master metering.

Most master-metered buildings were built in the 1950s and ‘60s, when electrical costs were low. The building management charges the individual units either based on the apartment’s size or the number of shares the unit owners have in the co-op.

But let’s say there are two one-bedroom apartments next to each other, one owned by an elderly woman who rarely even turns on her TV set, the other by a young couple with two computers, two window air conditioners, a heavily-used TV, a DVD, a cell-phone charger and more. Is it fair that both would be charged the same amount for electric usage?

And from management’s point of view, master metering can lead to problems when electric costs go up, or when enough of the unit owners or shareholders start to buy super-powerful air conditioners or heaters.

In response to all these problems, more and more buildings with master metering are beginning to switch their electricity usage to submetering, which allows management to bill each unit individually while getting one bill of its own.

Of course, in every situation, people tend to pay more or less based on seasonal factors—for example, many, if not most, apartment residents pay a larger bill in the summer when they’re running their individual air-conditioning units. But with submetering, users will see more of a difference in their electric bills based on usage.

Herbert Hirschfeld, P.E., an energy consultant in Glen Cove, says, “If you’re a unit owner not paying for electricity, there’s no incentives for you to purchase energy-efficient air conditioners or refrigerators or use lower-wattage light bulbs, and no reason not to run your air conditioner continuously from Memorial Day to Labor Day.”

The Public Service Commission (PSC) allows a master-metered building to convert to submetering by installing meters (or submeters) to measure electricity in the individual apartments, according to Hirschfeld’s website.

The utility company still charges the building at a bulk rate based on the master meter, but the building itself bills each apartment in proportion to its actual usage.

The PSC also allows a directly metered building to convert to submetering by installing a master meter and changing the individual meters to submeters, says the site. This helps such buildings obtain the utility’s bulk rate.

And it may be of particular interest to some readers that the PSC allows conversion to submetering not only in co-op and condo buildings with total unit ownership, but also in those with a mix of owners and tenants (typically buildings that were converted from rentals).

Greg Carlson, executive director of the Federation of New York Housing Cooperatives & Condominiums (FNYHC), says his organization has been advocating the use of submetering in master-metered buildings since the mid-1970s. “It has long been established that by submetering, a building’s electrical usage is reduced by 15 to 25 percent. By going to submetering, it is not only green, it is fair to the residents who will pay for the amount of their usage.”

And that’s not all, Carlson says. With a “smart meter,” he says, a resident can tie his meter to a computer program that will let him know when he is using electricity and how much it can cost him.”

Lewis Kwit, president of Energy Investment Systems, further explains, “You can save by using electricity when capacity is abundant, and refrain when capacity is strained and prices are higher. For example, it’s better to turn on your dishwasher before you go to bed and not during the day. Maybe it’s better to not answer e-mails until nine or 10 o’clock, rather than answer them in the middle of a heat wave at four in the afternoon.”

Lewis Kwit, president of Energy Investment Systems, further explains, “You can save by using electricity when capacity is abundant, and refrain when capacity is strained and prices are higher. For example, it’s better to turn on your dishwasher before you go to bed and not during the day. Maybe it’s better to not answer e-mails until nine or 10 o’clock, rather than answer them in the middle of a heat wave at four in the afternoon.”

Some Nuts And Bolts – The way the submeters are installed depends on the design of the apartment building. For example, says Jerry Fund, president of Automatic Meter Reading Corporation, in some older buildings you have electric distribution closets in the basements from which wiring runs directly into the apartments. There, technicians have to go into each apartment and attach the meter there.

“But in most buildings,’ he says, “you have a distribution panel every third floor with a circuit breaker, and the wiring goes from that distribution box down the hall to each apartment. In that case, we can put the meter in that electric closet very simply, hardly even turning off the power.”

Time-Sensitive Pricing – Many people describe one type of billing method that results from submetering as real-time pricing, or real-time billing. “In real-time pricing,” says Carlson, “residents can take advantage and reduce their electrical costs.

Others prefer to use different terms—for example, Hirschfeld prefers the terms time-sensitive pricing or time of use pricing In this type of billing, the apartment itself is billed differently during peak (most expensive), “shoulder,” and non-peak hours.

As an example of submetering with time-of-use pricing, his website gives the example of Georgetown Mews, a co-op complex in Queens containing 37 two-story buildings. The complex installed its submetering system in 2007, implemented shadow billing (straight per-kWh billing, but telling the shareholders what they would pay under time of use pricing to get them used to the idea) in 2008, and then, in late 2008, initiated time-of-use pricing with a three-tier scale: peak usage (most expensive), shoulder and off-peak.

As a result, says Hirschfeld, the buildings’ electric usage during the 12 billing periods up to July 2010 was reduced by 20.89 percent of the adjusted electrical usage and an associated cost avoidance of 20.95 percent. Analysis also determined an adjusted reduction in belling demand of 20.16 percent.

Physical Concerns – Some buildings are easier to convert to submetering than others due to physical reasons. In some buildings that haven’t had new electrical wiring since the World War II era, often have aluminum rather than copper writing and can’t handle heavy loads, says Fund, “installing submetering is virtually impossible without rewiring the building.”

Still, say professionals, if there’s a will, there’s a way.

Hirschfeld says, “I’ve looked at hundreds, if not thousands, of buildings since 1980, and there was only one building complex I can remember where submetering was impossible because of the unusual manner in which it was wired.

Generally speaking, in 99 percent of all master-metered buildings, it can be done,” he says.

More Examples – If you’re looking for examples of multifamily buildings where submetering has been installed and is working, there are quite a few others. Just some of these are Jefferson Towers, Waterside Plaza, Penn South, Columbus Park Towers, Gotham and West Village Houses in Manhattan; Fresh Meadows, Greenpark Essex and Greenpark Sussex in Queens; Trump Village (Sections One and Two) and Cadman Plaza North in Brooklyn; and Noble Mansion in the Bronx. These examples were given by Hirschfeld and Kwit; there are many more.

How long does it take most residents of submetered buildings to see the financial benefits of submetering? Much of that is up to the unit owners and what action they will be willing to take to reduce energy use. If a unit owner has been overcharged for electricity on a regular basis, then they will begin to see the difference immediately.

Rule of Thumb, and Incentives – By how much does submetering usually reduce owners’ monthly electric costs? Kwit answers that the rule of thumb is 15 to 20 percent, and it can be substantially higher.

For the board and management, there are government incentives for the process. For example, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) earlier this year released its Energy Reduction in Master Metered Buildings (ERMM) Program. The program is available for master-metered multifamily buildings with more than five units where tenants currently don’t pay for their electric usage. The ERMM program provides up to 50 percent of the cost of installing submeters as well as incentives for related energy-efficient appliances. Still, there are very stringent eligibility requirements that may limit a particular master-metered building from participation in the ERMM program.

According to Ryan Moore, NYSERDA project manager, the ERMM program is available for any building or board that wants to lower its energy costs by installing advanced submetering, or Energy Star efficient appliances and lighting. The program he said applies to all market rate co-op and condo buildings and provides up to 50 percent of the cost of installing advanced submeters. Buildings can receive $250 per meter, and $1,500 per master meter. Installing Energy Star appliances, like a refrigerator, is worth $18 each in incentives, with various air conditioning units, a $16-$19 payback, and lighting fixtures, $15 each. An Energy Star commercial clothes washer is eligible for a $365 incentive.

Shareholders in a master-metered co-op must approve entrance into the program by a majority or 51 percent vote, Moore explained.

“It can greatly help reduce your energy costs,” says Moore. “We normally see 15 to 18 percent in actual energy reduction.”

The program is due to expire December 31, 2011, but is likely to be extended. You can find out about the program on RMM.aspx

A Few Common Questions – Here are some answers to common questions, by the way: Submetering does count as a capital improvement, and under submetering, individual apartment owners can’t choose their own power suppliers. Remember, one power supply still comes into the entire building.

While management itself can change the electricity provider for a building, this has nothing to do with submetering one way or the other. The utility or ESCO [energy service company] has nothing to do with the submetering process.

Now that we know about submetering electricity, can other utilities, such as gas, also be submetered?

If you look at the web, it’s clear that in some places, submetering for water, and water costs, is a reality. A company called American Water and Energy Savers advertises it for various types of buildings, including multi-family residential, although the “success stories” they give are from the South and Southwest, not from our area.

If you look at the web, it’s clear that in some places, submetering for water, and water costs, is a reality.

“In the New York marketplace,” says Hirschfeld, “if people refer to submetering, 99 percent of the time it’s electricity. In New York high-rises in particular, it’s impossible to submeter water.” Kwit predicts that submetering of water will grow in the future.

Selling the Idea to Residents – So now you know some of the nuts and bolts of submetering. However, there’s another factor, especially in condos and co-ops: the human factor.

“Doing the project is the easy part,” says Carlson of FNYHC. “Selling it to the residents is the much harder part. You have to analyze the demographics of the residents in the building. Do you have rent-regulated residents [like many co-ops that converted from rentals and still have rental tenants]? If so, you should have a plan to deal with that situation.

“Once you put the demographics of the residents together, you make a plan accordingly. This is like a political campaign,” says Carlson. You need shareholder/owner consent before starting a submetering project.

Multifamily Utility Starts Submetering and Billing Two New Private Multifamily Portfolios

Multifamily Utility Company adds over 5,000 units to it’s submetering and billing services. The two private portfolios consist of multifamily buildings with 50 to 200 units each.

It is estimated that these properties will reduce their water consumption by 15% to 40% within the next two months. With the continued water shortages in California and Nevada and the continual utility rate increases the owners of these properties are looking forward to the significant benefits submetering and billing.

NYC Building Owners Approaching Energy Benchmarking Deadline

Under a recently enacted law aimed at increasing awareness of building energy performance, the owners of New York City’s largest buildings will be required to report energy benchmarking data to the city on Aug. 1.

The law, which is expected to affect approximately 16,000 properties in the city, requires the owners of commercial and multifamily properties that measure greater than 50,000 square feet to benchmark the energy performance of their buildings each year using ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager, a free benchmarking tool created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The buildings that are being targeted — those of 50,000 square feet or more — comprise half of the city’s floor space and almost 50 percent of its total energy consumption, according to city estimates. Buildings account for an estimated 80 percent of New York City’s carbon emissions, a substantially higher level than in other cities due to the sheer number and density of buildings in the city.

After receiving benchmarking submissions from owners, the city plans to begin posting benchmarking information for commercial buildings on a public web site next year. Energy benchmarking information for large multifamily buildings will be phased in during 2013.

Going forward, building owners will be required to submit updated benchmarking information to the city each May. More than 1.6 billion square feet in the New York metropolitan area has been ENERGY STAR benchmarked in the 10 years since EPA began the program for commercial buildings, according to 2010 data from EPA.

The law is part of New York City’s Greener, Greater Buildings Plan, a package of new requirements and initiatives to increase the energy efficiency of New York City’s existing building stock. Supported by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the legislative components of the package were enacted in late 2009 and include benchmarking and disclosure, energy audits and retro-commissioning, lighting upgrades, sub metering and energy code improvements.

The Urban Green Council, a nonprofit environmental organization, has created a compliance checklist designed to help building owners comply with the city’s energy benchmarking law.

The city has already benchmarked thousands of municipal buildings and will make that information public this fall. Other jurisdictions with similar benchmarking and disclosure laws include Seattle, Austin, San Francisco, Washington, DC, and the states of California and Washington.

SD City, County Split Over Water Submeters


Legislation addressing the accuracy of submeters to gauge water use in apartments has divided the San Diego City Council and county board of supervisors.

But the local delegation has united behind the city, joining the full Senate in approving a measure that would allow submeters to be approved at national laboratories rather than being inspected by the county sealer.

As part of a drive to squeeze more savings, the city of San Diego is demanding more submeters in new construction of apartments, condominiums and certain businesses. The county sees it as a consumer protection issue.

“Assuring the accuracy of weights and measures is the core mission of the county sealer,” county lobbyist Jonathan Clay wrote in a letter urging lawmakers to oppose Senate Bill 744.

“Consumers have no means to determine if their water submeter is accurate or not,” he continued. As a result, Clay added, manufacturers would be left to “essentially self-certify” that the submeters are accurate.

But the city of San Diego has been lobbying for the bill, carried by Sen. Mark Wyland, R-Solana Beach.

Roger Bailey. the city’s director of public utilities, said in a letter that it’s been “challenging” to implement the city’s new submetering mandate for new construction. One reason is makers and suppliers have been reluctant to serve the California market.

“Under current state regulation, a submeter manufacturer may be held criminally responsible if his or her product does not pass inspection — even before it is installed,” Bailey told senators in his letter.

Allowing the manufacturer to check the submeter for accuracy would encourage distribution and help San Diego — and the state — continue aggressive water-saving directives, he wrote.

“Given the elevating costs and limited supply of water, the need for water conservation in San Diego is clear,” Bailey added.

Wyland, in his floor statement, noted the “tenuous” water supply and how installing submeters could encourage savings of up to 30 percent.

“If we are going to be serious about our water conservation goals, then submeters must be part of the equation and available to builders and consumers,” Wyland said.

The 28-8 vote on Tuesday June 1st sent the bill to the Assembly.

Submetering Key to Adobe’s Latest LEED Platinum Rating

While LEED Platinum ratings are still relatively rare for green buildings, design software developer Adobe Systems not only has earned one of them — it just scored its ninth.

Platinum is the highest designation that someone can claim for a building under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) initiative. The latest one being claimed by Adobe is under the Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance system; it covers the Adobe building in Seattle, which is a 164,000-square-foot single-tenant building.

Mike Gilmore, Adobe’s facility manager, said one critical element of Adobe’s ability to earn the Platinum rating was its decision to submeter the electricity usage in the building. That is significant because Adobe doesn’t own the building for which it received the rating, but it undertook the building management system that allowed this anyway and added 30 submeters. “We had no visibility into how much electricity we were using … So we picked where we knew the heaviest loads would be,” Gilmore said.

Incidentally, it IS harder to submeter a multitenant building, but Adobe did manage to do it for its building in Sydney, Australia, which helped it better manage electricity consumption there, too.

Other factors helping for the rating were the installation of new software to allow energy usage monitoring and the replacement of building lighting controls and incandescent light bulbs, which has helped with an 18.5 percent reduction in electricity usage. Adobe has also added EvapoTranspiration technology that allows Adobe to better control water consumption. (There has been a 59 percent reduction in water usage for irrigation needs since that technology was installed.)

Mike Bangs, director of global facility operations for Adobe, which is based in San Jose, Calif., says that the company’s goal isn’t necessarily to be “greener.” Rather, it is “to operate buildings as effectively as possible within the boundaries of our responsibilities as officers of the company.”

Aside from the Seattle facility, other Adobe buildings that are LEED Platinum include the Adobe headquarters buildings in San Jose and its building in San Francisco. Indeed, the San Jose buildings were just recertified in 2010. (LEED ratings are not permanent, because buildings change over time.)

Multifamily Utility Starts Submetering and Billing 18 New Properties on April 1st, 2010

With an emphasis on conservation and cost savings Multifamily Utility has seen continuing interest in its submetering and customized RUBS billing products and services.

These 18 new properties are located throughout the United States and vary in size from 3 units to 150 units. At these properties Multifamily Utility implemented both submetering systems for water, gas and/or electric and customized RUBS billing for a variety of utilities.

Georgia Lawmakers Approve Water Bill Which Includes Mandatory Submetering Rule for New Construction

The Georgia General Assembly overwhelmingly passed comprehensive water conservation legislation Wednesday, handing Gov. Sonny Perdue a major victory.

Identical versions of the bill cleared the Senate unanimously and won approval in the House 166-5.

The legislation requires all newly constructed buildings to include “high-efficiency” plumbing fixtures by the middle of 2012. Also, all multi-tenant buildings will have to feature “submetering” to allow each tenant’s water use to be measured.

San Diego Could Require Multifamily Water Meters

San Diego is poised to set a regional water conservation benchmark by forcing developers of new multifamily and mixed-use complexes to install water meters for each unit.

The City Council takes up a proposed ordinance tomorrow after months of fine-tuning. The proposal is widely expected to pass, creating what several water experts said would be a first in the county. It would require submetering for new complexes with three or more units and in cases when an entire interior drinking water system is replaced for a complex with three or more homes.

Multifamily homes account for 44 percent of the housing units in San Diego, and the number of units is expected to grow by 120,000 to 346,000 over the next two decades.

Studies show that renters cut their water use by 15 percent to 39 percent if they are made to pay for the amount they use instead of having their water charges folded into their overall monthly bill.

The vote was postponed from March 9th to April 5th due to improper public notice. Check back for more updates.

Multifamily Utility Company Appoints Paul Marquez as Vice-President

SAN DIEGO, CA—(BUSINESS WIRE) Multifamily Utility Company, Inc. announced today the appointment of Paul Marquez as its Vice-President in order to offer a broader spectrum of products and services.

Multifamily Utility Adds Spanish Resident Customer Service

With a focus on customer and resident customer service Multifamily Utility Company takes their customer service up a notch by adding Spanish resident customer service.

Multifamily Utility hopes with this addition we will be able to better serve our Spanish speaking residents to address account questions and assist with payments over the phone without delay.

California’s Multifamily Property Owners Encouraged to Update Utility Submeters

Submetering compliance in California is a complex issue with serious implications for property owners and managers. While water submetering creates an equitable environment for renters with significant returns for the property owner, it is estimated that as many as 75% of existing meter installations throughout California may be in violation of one or more Weights and Measures and/or state law requirements – and are at risk of receiving violation notices.

California Weights and Measures regulations require that water submeters must be:

•Type approved
•Tested and sealed before installation, and
•Visible to the consumer and enforcement personnel without the use of aid of any kind.
•Installed by registered service technicians

“Prior to the installation of any submetering devices, the device must first be submitted to the local California Weights & Measures agency for meter testing and certification to ensure the submitted devices are California-type approved. Any person or corporation that installs or repairs submeters in the state of California must register as a service agency with the Secretary of Food and Agriculture,” explains Dennis Johannes, Assistant Director of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, Division of Measurement Standards in Sacramento.

Until now, making necessary corrections has been complicated and costly due to a lack of effective California type-approved solutions. Submetering service providers have been anxious to resolve the compliance issues in order to protect their clients from fines and violations. One such service provider is Multifamily Utility Company. Multifamily Utility Company has engaged in relationship building with Weights and Measures to achieve the shared goal of bringing our clients into compliance with applicable requirements. Over the past 2 years, Weights and Measures has dramatically increased its enforcement activities regarding water submeter installations and billing from those meters, and we are working with our customers to eliminate uncertainty and exposure to legal actions of all types.”

One approved solution which may protect property managers includes the installation of remote counters. Remote counters ensure that meters are visible to consumers without additional aid. A small selection of hardware manufacturing companies have submitted remote counters to Weights and Measures for type approval testing, and those approvals are in various stages of development. Existing relationships with these hardware manufactures enables ista North America to offer them to their California customers on a timeline that is agreeable to regulating entities and may avoid the majority of existing potential violations.


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Multifamily Utility Company provides Utility Billing services to all fifty states. We stay up to date with Utility Billing regulations to ensure proper setup and a seamless, error free implementation. Find out the current utility regulations in your state. LEARN MORE

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Account Managers work directly with the property to assist with billing and training.
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