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La Niña’s Expected Impacts Call For Smart Multifamily Solutions


The saying “everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it" does not hold true for multifamily owners, who are responsible for ensuring their residents stay comfortable and connected regardless of what Mother Nature throws at them.

And it looks like she is set to throw something big this winter. 

La Niña, a periodic climate event that stems from lower equatorial Pacific Ocean water temperatures and which influences weather trends around the globe, is expected to make its presence felt this winter. Certain U.S. regions — the Northwest, Central Plains, Great Lakes and far interior Northeast — could experience lower temperatures, according to forecasts, while other regions, such as the South, could experience warmer and dryer conditions, emphasizing the need for smarter water management.  

From an energy supply standpoint, the country may not be ready for La Niña. Real estate smart technology platform provider RealPage said in a fourth-quarter report the major winter storm that hit Texas in February depleted the nation’s supply of excess natural gas.

“We have been playing catch-up since then,” said Dimitris Kapsis, vice president of energy management for RealPage Utility Management. “Natural gas prices and, in turn, electric prices have skyrocketed, and even though we have had some strong storage injections recently, our current natural gas inventory is well below the five-year average.” 

RealPage’s conclusion? La Niña or no Niña, higher energy prices are here to stay and building owners must now plan to manage impacts on their budgets while keeping residents comfortable.

Aside from putting on a thicker sweater, what can multifamily managers do this winter — or at any time — to control their energy costs and keep residents comfortable? Smart apartment technologies can be an answer, but first an owner needs to take a step back to assess their building’s performance.

“A good first step is to get a better handle of your current utility spend,” Kapsis said. “You should also perform an audit of each building's energy infrastructure, usage and demand to see where improvements could be made. Plus, benchmarking will help your multifamily properties comply with mandated energy-efficiency requirements.”

Utility benchmarking requires establishing a baseline for a building’s historical energy, water and waste usage. The baseline is then compared using standardized metrics, such as those provided by the Environmental Protection Agency through ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager, to identify opportunities for improvement.

On-site audits will identify operational improvements, retrofit and replacement opportunities to lighting, HVAC, boilers, plumbing fixtures, temperature controls and more. Finally, a custom plan will be created to help the building track and manage its energy savings and return on investment.

Kapsis said RealPage has helped clients achieve significant energy savings through benchmarking.

“The good news is that whether you are trying to make your building as energy-efficient as possible to meet mandated energy standards or planning for the impacts of an event like La Niña, smart technologies can bring a level of efficiency to energy management that was unimaginable just a few years ago,” Kapsis said.

Smart tools provided by RealPage and its STRATIS IoT division include smart energy software as a service that delivers actual, real-time and whole-building energy insights. The integrated systems also enable residents and property staff to monitor and control their lighting and thermostats from anywhere, regardless of whether a unit is occupied or not. It also optimizes common area energy consumption and demand spikes. 

“If you can gather and analyze energy and water usage data from apartment units and common areas in near real time, you will identify issues faster that are costing owners money and making residents uncomfortable,” Kapsis said. “We’ve found faulty equipment to fix or replace and improved inefficient operational procedures to cut costs and energy waste. You just have to know what to look for and focus on what will deliver results for everyone.”

Smart Energy control can be integrated with other STRATIS smart building systems, he noted. These include tools to help residents and building managers securely control building access and improve water and waste management and to more quickly detect leaks and divert more waste from landfills.

“STRATIS smart devices can turn any multifamily property into an intelligent building, which is something residents will appreciate during La Niña or whatever the weather,” Kapsis said. “Residents can even set up a geofence that will activate their customized smart apartment when they come into range of the property, ensuring the most efficient and comfortable — and less costly — use of heating and cooling resources.”

This article was produced in collaboration between Studio B and STRATIS. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.

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