Benchmarking: Greening a Community and Saving Money

Working together, residents, building managers, energy efficiency experts and Seattle City Light have instituted energy, water and waste conservation actions at the one million square foot Horizon House retirement community that are saving tens of thousands of dollars on energy bills each year and avoiding tons of waste that could have ended up in landfills.
Photo of Horizon House retirement community.

Horizon House

The Horizon House retirement community takes conservation seriously.

Many of the 595 residents grew up in the depression era and know a thing or two about making every penny count. That ethic helped guide the community to become the greenest retirement home in the state.

Working together, residents, building managers, energy efficiency experts and Seattle City Light have instituted energy, water and waste conservation actions at the one million square foot complex that are saving tens of thousands of dollars on energy bills each year and avoiding tons of waste that could have ended up in landfills.

Photo of Horizon House Resident Council President Jeannette KahlenbergA key part of the community’s conservation practice is keeping a close eye on its energy consumption using the U.S. EPA’s free energy benchmarking tool — ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager.

Benchmarking helps building managers pinpoint energy-saving opportunities and compare Horizon House’s energy use with other retirement communities to make sure it continues to perform efficiently. Horizon House is on track to become an ENERGY STAR-certified residential complex in 2013, after working to improve its score more than five points in two years. This places the community in the top 25th percentile for energy performance among U.S. senior living facilities.

Horizon House had its work cut out for them when they first set out to benchmark the retirement community as required by the City’s energy benchmarking and reporting ordinance. The complex was constructed in four phases over more than 50 years, and has more than 160 individual energy and water meters.

Building managers used a Resource Conservation Manager who worked closely with Seattle City Light to make benchmarking work for their unique community. The community was benchmarked successfully in April 2011 — a full year ahead of the city’s first deadline. Building managers say benchmarking helped them take a more comprehensive look at how resources were being used and opened up a wealth of new savings opportunities — critical for a complex that typically expends $1 million each year on energy, water and waste combined.

Photo of Horizon House CEO Bob AndersonThe energy saving measures at Horizon House include heating and cooling (HVAC) upgrades in common areas, a major upgrade of more than 300 lighting fixtures and installation of occupancy sensors in stairwells, parking garages, offices and community spaces. These improvements are now saving more than 220,000 kilowatt-hours per year, enough electricity to power 22 homes for a year.

Seattle City Light provided $43,500 in energy efficiency rebates to support those improvements, which created a 16 month payback for Horizon House’s investment based on their energy bill savings.

Residents and staff at Horizon House contribute to the community’s conservation achievements. The resident Conservation Committee and staff Green Team act as “Conservation Coaches” to educate the community and help residents identify ways to save energy and cut waste in their homes. Simple changes such as taking shorter showers, turning off lights when not in use, and making slight adjustments to the thermostat can translate into real energy savings. Since the start of the coaching program, Horizon House has achieved a 50 percent waste reduction facility-wide, and decreased natural gas use by 12 percent — saving over $20,000 annually on energy bills.

Owners of all commercial and multifamily buildings 20,000 sq. ft. or larger are required to annually benchmark and report energy performance to the City of Seattle.

Visit the City of Seattle website to learn more about the city’s benchmarking policy and how to comply: www.seattle.gov/energybenchmarking.

Questions? Email EnergyBenchmarking@seattle.gov or call (206) 727-8484.