Since 1972, Homeowners Rehab Inc. (HRI) has been creating and supporting mixed-income communities. It currently owns and manages about 1,100 rental apartments in 70 buildings, and that’s a lot of water and energy usage to monitor.
Utilities can account for up to two-fifths of a building’s operating budget. So Cambridge, Mass.–based HRI jumped at the chance to be an early tester of an analytic tool that evaluates a building’s efficiency, detects potential problems, and tracks the performance of improvements.
This software was developed three years ago by a Boston-based company called WegoWise (“Wego” stands for water, energy, gas, and oil). HRI’s buildings are among the 12,000 with 180,000 apartment units that WegoWise has amassed in its database. “Our product allows property managers to use data to drive decisions about multifamily buildings,” says Dan Teague, WegoWise’s director of business development.
Beverly Craig, an energy capital planner for HRI, notes that the builder used WegoWise’s software to assess the lighting in a common area of a building complex in Auburn, Mass. After retrofitting that space with more efficient lighting, HRI is now saving $6,800 per year in energy costs. Craig also notes that the tool helps HRI spot problems before they escalate, such as “condensing boilers that aren’t in condensing mode.” HRI pays WegoWise $5 per building per month on buildings where it’s paying for the heat (about half of them).
WegoWise is a subsidiary of New Ecology, which specializes in sustainable community-based development. It recently introduced an analytic tool for auditing energy use in single-family homes, and it has about 1,000 houses in its database. Among that tool’s users is the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative (GHHI), a Baltimore-based nonprofit that focuses on eliminating home-based environmental health hazards.
“We see energy as a health component,” says Ruth Anne Norton, GHHI’s executive director. GHHI is marrying WegoWise data to data from utility companies and occupants’ Medicaid records to determine if weatherization is having a positive effect on reducing energy and health costs. As of February, GHHI had 190 Baltimore housing units in the system and planned to add units in Buffalo, N.Y., and Providence, R.I. WegoWise’s next move will be to score buildings’ efficiency for lenders and investors seeking to mitigate their risks.
Learn more about markets featured in this article: Boston, MA.