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Record Temperatures Threat to Elderly, but Housing Authorities Have a Solution in Reach

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November 05, 2012

Record Temperatures Threat to Elderly, but Housing Authorities Have a Solution in Reach


You might have heard the news: The National Oceanic (News - Alert) and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) reported that July of this year was the hottest month on record for the contiguous U.S. (since record keeping began in 1895). When the heat intensifies around the country during the summer months, most of us don’t think twice about cranking up the air conditioning in efforts to stay cool. But for many, the convenience of climate control isn’t so simple. No doubt you’re familiar with stories of the elderly succumbing to the effects of severe temperatures, the threat for which has grown as our summers seem to become more extreme each year.

Due to a variety of financial and familial circumstances, many of our country’s senior citizens reside in public housing (they are just one demographic making up the 1.2 million total households living in public housing nationwide). While residents’ safety and comfort is always a priority for housing authorities, the reality is that costs for services to maintain and upgrade equipment such as HVAC systems public housing facilities for millions of tenants are on the rise – just as costs are rising for private homeowners and everyone else. However, thanks to a growing awareness around sustainability and energy efficiency, many public entities are now able to take advantage of programs that offer a variety of energy savings and other benefits for public housing residents.

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For example, a few years ago, Constellation, an Exelon company, helped to retrofit some of the Trenton Housing Authority’s (THA) buildings in New Jersey to be more energy-efficient by installing new windows, refrigerators, showerheads, and proper insulation. These initial, simple changes are helping the THA realize $10.3 million in energy savings for the phase 1 project, which is now being utilized to partially fund the installation of additional conservation measures and upgrades for a second phase of work including, most importantly, central air conditioning in three large senior housing buildings in Trenton.

“Housing authorities need to be innovative if they want to fund projects to improve both the conditions and performance of their aging buildings – many of which are home to a growing aging community,” said Herb Brown, executive director, Trenton Housing Authority. “We’re saving money, the residents receive convenient upgrades, and it’s not costing taxpayers anything extra to make these improvements,” he added.

The “innovation” Brown references is an energy performance contract, a public-private partnership that enables a local government entity to make budget-neutral improvements without upfront capital expenses.  With HUD’s requirements for physical needs assessments and energy audits – all positive efforts toward achieving sustainability – energy performance contracting is becoming an even more valuable tool for housing authorities looking to fund energy efficiency improvements and save utility costs. More importantly, tenants – elderly and otherwise – are recipients of upgrades that make their living conditions safe, comfortable and more environmentally friendly - especially as we continue to see the mercury rise around the country.

Mike is responsible for overseeing the development and implementation of Constellation’s sustainable product offerings, including renewable generation, energy efficiency, demand response and greenhouse gas reduction strategies. In addition, Mike leads the company’s growing solar power business and a dedicated commercial solar sales team focused on the rapid deployment of customer-sited solar installations.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

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