Tenant Engagement Models for Energy Conservation

This project addresses the need for comprehensive research in tenant engagement strategies and best practices that was identified as a key issue by partners involved in the ALERT project. (Please see Partners for Change Workshop) This report summarizes extensive research in understanding tenant engagement by cataloging existing practices and identifying key benefits. This summary is intended to guide the creation of scalable models to be used for the development of more engaged and sustainable communities.

Read the Final Report (PDF)

Summary

Over half a million Torontonians live in Toronto's 1200 older high-rise apartment buildings. These buildings, due to their age, are typically inefficient and large consumers of energy for their cooling and heating needs. As such, major building system upgrades are recommended to improve energy efficiency and reduce utility costs and greenhouse gas emissions. While the benefits of a deep physical retrofit are well understood as a business case, the idea of gaining additional savings through the engagement of tenants is highly underestimated. Physical retrofits are capital intensive making cost a barrier for many landlords interested in improving their assets whereas a well-designed tenant engagement strategy introduces tremendous opportunity for building a healthier and more resilient community and has long-term benefits that extend beyond initial energy saving goals.

This report summarizes extensive research in understanding tenant engagement by cataloging existing practices and identifying key benefits. Essentially, this summary is intended to guide the creation of scalable models to be used for the development of more engaged and sustainable communities.

Preliminary evidence suggests that focusing on tenant engagement and behaviour change can significantly increase the energy savings in multifamily buildings. A 2010 report by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) found that typically these savings can be between 4 and12 percent. Several US cities and municipalities such as Chicago, Baltimore, Rochester, Denver, Albany, and Charlotte adopted neighborhood energy challenges in order to incentivize energy savings in their communities. Resident engagement included education on simple steps individuals could take to reduce energy usage and how these steps result in lower utility bills for families and property owners, and a smaller carbon footprint for the city.

Through several low-cost activities and measures, including information campaigns, incentives, and social interaction programs such as games, outreach events, and face-to-face discussions, the cities noted above have surpassed their goal of reducing electricity, gas, and water usage by 5-10%. The 7 properties involved in the Chicago Neighbourhood Energy Challenge (CNEC) achieved savings across all three categories – 5% on electricity, 10% on gas, and 45% on water – and $54,000 in savings on utility bills, an average of $110 in savings per family (City of Chicago, 2014). Through the CNEC process, over 750 residents were engaged.

In our research we also identified numerous successful initiatives in the Greater Toronto Area. However, lack of systematic collection, measurement and analysis of comprehensive quantitative data remains a limiting factor in developing a robust business for any tenant engagement program. Imagine My City would like to work with building owners to confirm and better understand the costs and benefits of tenant engagement. With the resulting information our goal is to establish a comprehensive strategy to enable tenant engagement, resulting in energy savings, for every apartment building in Toronto and the wider Greater Toronto Area.

News

November 2015

Imagine My City and Ryerson University receive Mitacs funding.

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