In July of 2018, ICAST (the International Center for Appropriate and Sustainable Technology), a Colorado based 501(c)(3) nonprofit, was awarded a grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to reduce carbon emissions in Weld County, Colorado. ICAST provides clean energy solutions to multifamily affordable housing (MFAH) that can reduce carbon emissions. With the help of the CDPHE funds, ICAST has installed energy efficiency upgrades in 782 low-to-moderate income (LMI) households throughout Weld County, and plans to upgrade several hundred more LMI households in the coming months.
The green retrofit projects ICAST performs include energy efficiency upgrades to LED lighting, low-flow water devices, and HVAC systems. Additionally, building “shell” measures such as insulation, and energy management solutions such as smart thermostats are implemented. ICAST also installs solar systems to reduce fossil fuel consumption and carbon emissions. These upgrades are an extremely cost-effective way to increase building sustainability and reduce harmful emissions, while allowing tenants to maintaining daily activities. To date, ICAST upgrades have reduced CO2 emissions by 10.6 million lbs. and water use by 15.5 million gal. over the life of the upgrades. The improvements have not only resulted in lower utility bills, but have also made homes more comfortable, safe and healthy for the tenants, while increasing the value of the property for the owners.
One property in particular, the Island Grove Village Apartments in Greeley, CO, has experienced positive impacts from work ICAST completed only two months ago. The apartment complex is participating in the US Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge (DOE-BBC) to reduce site-wide water and energy consumption by 20% by 2024, and called on ICAST to help them reach their goal. Marie Gutierrez, the Island Grove Village Property Manager, said “Many of the residents expressed support for the project, and have commented on the new showerheads and the amount of water and money that will be saved by the upgrades.” Marie also describes how the energy conservation initiatives has led to additional funds becoming available for their continued efforts to improve the property and the quality of the resident’s lives. An increased budget will allow them to reach their DOE-BBC goal of 20% energy reduction before 2024, and maybe even surpass it.
To help complete the Weld projects, ICAST has engaged with local youth groups to recruit students for paid apprenticeship training. The groups receive online and classroom education opportunities on green building, and gain on-the-job training by helping ICAST staff with installation of energy efficiency measures. These projects are a way for them to gain practical skills that can help them gain future employment in the multifamily and green building industry. With the help of these youth workers, ICAST is on pace to exceed its CDPHE grant goals.
ICAST hopes that over time, all the MFAH properties this CDPHE grant has helped will experience financial, environmental and social benefits like they already have at Island Grove Village. The cost savings can be invested back into the properties to preserve their sustainability and affordability, all while lowering carbon emissions. This is especially important in Weld County, where residents have increased concerns about air quality.