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Scaling the ‘Transition Zero’ Deep Energy Efficiency Retrofit Model in Low Income Housing Across Global Markets

August 22, 2017

This thesis analyzes the economic and political feasibility of net zero energy renovations[1] in existing low income housing worldwide through case studies in Europe, the Americas and Asia. Deep energy efficiency retrofits are of vital interest to governments and the financial and real estate sectors for the following reasons:

  • First, while conventional wisdom acknowledges the practicality of low to medium energy retrofits in commercial real estate, it assumes that deep energy efficiency retrofits (35 – 50 percent energy reduction) for affordable housing are unachievable.

  • Second, low income housing affects the quality of life of millions of people and significant reductions in energy costs will positively impact tenants’ lives.

  • Third, governments and financial institutions invest significant capital into this market worldwide and need to apply their investment most efficiently and achieve the highest social returns.

  • Finally, buildings account for approximately 1/3 of GHG emissions, and reductions in energy use contribute significantly to climate change mitigation.

The central research question is thus: Are deep energy efficiency retrofits feasible for low income housing under different global conditions? To answer this question I will analyze in depth the "Transition Zero" energy efficiency model developed by Energiesprong in the European Union. Further, I will examine the practicality of applying this model with a representative sample of properties across different market types, geographic locations, and cultural conditions in the UK, Poland, U.S., Curacao, China and Bangladesh.

I argue that a lack of thorough energy data and financial analysis has hampered energy efficiency retrofits in affordable housing. Through performing measurement and verification (M&V) of each case study using the International Performance Measurement and Verification Protocol (IPMVP), I will test the concept that net zero energy in low-income housing is a sound financial investment. M&V activities will include:

  • Perform an EnergyPlus energy model

  • Complete an investment-grade ASHRAE Level II energy audit and retro-commissioning

  • Complete a financial analysis, determining return on investment, payback period, savings to investment ratio and lifecycle savings through examining pre- and post-retrofit energy and cost data

  • Conduct quantitative and qualitative interviews with key stakeholders

Ultimately, I aim to develop a scalable model that can be deployed by governments and investors worldwide to transform this segment of the existing building market, while simultaneously helping to achieve sustainability goals for all stakeholders.

 

[1] Energy consumption does not exceed production. Achieved in existing buildings by deep energy efficiency retrofits coupled with installed on-site renewable energy systems.

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