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  1. Funding for Energy Improvements Helps Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center Continue Critical Services

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    Chicago Children's Advocacy Center

    Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center (ChicagoCAC) and its partners are the front-line responders in Chicago to reports of child sexual abuse, as well as reports of physical abuse of children under age three. Since opening their doors in 2001, they have served more than 30,000 children.

    Elevate Energy began working with ChicagoCAC in 2015 to identify opportunities for energy efficiency that qualified for incentives from ComEd’s Small Business Energy Savings (SBES) program. Elevate Energy assisted ChicagoCAC in soliciting a contractor proposal for a lighting project which included an SBES incentive to cover almost 40% of the project cost, making the payback period about three years.

    Chicago Children's Advocacy Center

    Unfortunately, when the State of Illinois budget was frozen in 2016, many of ChicagoCAC’s funding streams halted. Nonetheless, the staff and partners at ChicagoCAC continued to offer their services to children in need. While ChicagoCAC leadership was very interested in the lighting project, the organization could not afford the remainder of the project costs that year.

    We continued to work with ChicagoCAC and in 2017 were able to help it obtain grant funds in addition to SBES incentives to cover all project costs and complete the work. ChicagoCAC’s indoor and outdoor lighting has since been converted to LEDs with new controls. The project is estimated to save the nonprofit about $8,450 annually. This decrease in overhead costs allows additional resources to be redirected to fulfilling ChicagoCAC’s crucial mission and to weather future budgetary uncertainty.

    Interested in improving your childcare center or nonprofit facility? Download and share the full case study, visit our website, or contact Dara Reiff at .

  2. Northwestern University’s Path to ENERGY STAR® Partner of the Year

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    Northwestern University Energy EfficiencyCongratulations to Northwestern University, the first university in over a decade to receive this year’s ENERGY STAR® Partner of the Year Award for Energy Management!

    The private research university has a clear commitment to a healthier and more sustainable future through sustainNU, a university-wide program that aims to engage students, faculty, and staff in reducing and eliminating Northwestern’s contribution to climate change.

    This commitment includes a focus on the university’s built environment. Northwestern’s buildings and spaces account for 80 percent of the university’s carbon footprint. sustainNU set a goal to understand the energy performance of all buildings on its Evanston and Chicago campuses and collaborated with Elevate Energy to benchmark energy use from 2012 to 2017.

    We helped sustainNU compile a comprehensive inventory to present a full picture of energy use at all 221 university-owned buildings. Elevator Maria Quiñones helped lead the project. A point she is quick to make is that, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” It’s true. Benchmarking buildings in ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager® has helped Northwestern more accurately manage energy usage, identify buildings in need of improvements, and monitor progress toward their sustainability goals. There are other clear benefits, too.

    Northwestern University Energy EfficiencySet Investment Priorities and Get Recognized

    Benchmarking helps identify energy use outliers to set clearer investment priorities. “The university can identify buildings poor performing buildings and set investment priorities to ensure that buildings are comfortable, healthy, and energy efficient spaces,” Maria said. “They can also identify those buildings performing well and acknowledge the students, faculty, and staff for their sustainable behaviors.”

    Benchmarking also helps validate buildings that have already completed energy efficiency improvements, are designed to green standards, and follow sustainable management practices. Take 66-year-old Kresge Centennial Hall for example, the first building on campus to receive Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council last fall. The original building relied on radiators, window air conditioners, and operable windows to control temperature. Benchmarking the energy use of the property before and after the renovation made it clear that although energy use has increased due to a roughly 10,000 square foot addition and the installation cutting-edge building systems, it is still performing well all while providing a modern, safe, and green work and study environment. Northwestern designs all major renovations like Kresge Centennial Hall and new construction projects to achieve LEED certification. To date, 12 building on campus have achieved this recognition!

    This brings up another benefit: Benchmarking buildings in ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager® makes it simple to apply for and receive recognition for existing high performing buildings year after year through ENERGY STAR® certification. For Northwestern, this is an easy first step in implementing their strategic sustainability plan.

    Northwestern University Energy Efficiency

    Automate and Engage

    The project will enable the university to implement an automated Energy Management Information System (EMIS) this year to integrate and centralize utility data, an update that typically cuts energy use by 10 to 20 percent according to the U.S. Department of Energy. The system will be used to log and track energy efficiency improvements and to measure and verify savings.

    There’s also an education and engagement benefit. Through EMIS, energy use data will be accessible via a central web platform. The university can create outward-facing dashboards that can be displayed in campus buildings to encourage occupants to take action to reduce energy and water usage and track the impact of their efforts.

    Northwestern University Energy Efficiency

    Support (or Start) a Sustainability Plan

    This project is a key component of Northwestern’s commitment to lead the way toward a greener, healthier, and more sustainable future. Motivations among other colleges and universities might range from meeting local energy benchmarking ordinance requirements, to participating in national programs like the Better Buildings Challenge, to achieving internal sustainability goals or creating a healthy and safe environment — or, all of the above. Sustainability and climate plans typically encompass transportation, water, waste, purchasing, and other areas. But, Maria says, “We also need to understand how energy is used so that we work on the right buildings. Understanding and addressing energy consumption often results in some of the largest achievable impacts.”

    Northwestern University is one large step closer to its goal of reducing energy consumption by 20 percent by 2020. Next up for sustainNU is to do for water and waste what it did for energy use. “They have a holistic commitment to sustainability, paving the path for other institutions to also eliminate their contribution to climate change”” Maria said.

    Please join us in congratulating Northwestern University and sustainNU for their leadership in campus energy management. Are you interested in learning more about what your college or university can do? Get in touch with us at 773-269-4037 or .

     

  3. What Better Data Can Do For Multifamily Buildings

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    Kimberly Loewen Multifamily BuildingsBi-monthly magazine retrofit just published an article from Elevator Kimberly Loewen about how our Chicago segmentation analysis improves energy efficiency programs that serve a huge but hard-to-reach multifamily market. Here’s a preview of the story, which you can find in their March-April issue!

    There is a clear connection between our environment and our buildings. Efforts to mitigate climate change must focus on the built environment, which uses the most energy and produces the most carbon emissions of any sector. In particular, multifamily buildings—defined as residential buildings with two or more units—need attention.

    “We’re no strangers to the unique set of challenges that multifamily buildings present,” says Anne Evens, CEO of Elevate Energy. “A multifamily building can have several different types of utility service within the same building. There are numerous ownership models. And many cities don’t have data about what their multifamily housing stock is like.”

    Retrofit magazine multifamily buildings Until recently, energy-efficiency programs have rarely been tailored to the specific needs of a multifamily building. This is all changing, in part, because we have better data. The story in retrofit centers on a “segmentation analysis” we did in partnership with the national Energy Efficiency for All initiative, in which we constructed a database of 143,000 multifamily buildings in Chicago and segmented them based on age, size and other traits to better understand the city’s multifamily sector.

    “The takeaway from the segmentation analysis is that program implementers have to really understand the market they serve to be able to identify opportunities to better align and customize energy-efficiency services to buildings’ and owners’ needs,” Evens explains.

    The story of the segmentation analysis is about how data can inform better program design and be leveraged to motivate building owners. It’s also about what you can with data in your city. Read the full account in the March-April issue of retrofit Magazine, available online or in print via a free magazine subscription.

  4. Start Seeing More Solar Homes

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    The inventory of homes with solar energy is growing. The number of households with solar photovoltaic (PV) systems in the U.S. is expected to surpass one million this year. By 2020, this number is expected to reach four million. Yet, for many real estate professionals, solar remains a new frontier.

    Not so for Michael Brannon, a REALTOR® at Coldwell Banker Bain in the state of Washington. He recently completed an online course, Selling the Sun: Establishing Value for Solar Homes from Elevate Energy and the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative.

    “Your eyesight focuses on what your mind’s eye is focused on, like when you’re shopping for a particular type of car and then all of a sudden you see that model everywhere,” Michael said. “Well, now I see so many houses that have solar panel installations, whereas before they didn’t seem to register.”

    Michael, a U.S. Navy Veteran, has been with Coldwell Banker Bain for three years. “I help real people buy and sell homes and I especially love being able to serve the military, both active and fellow veterans,” he said.

    Michael heard of the course through the National Association of REALTORS® and was compelled to sign up because he believes we can reduce our impact on the earth. “I want to be a part of promoting alternative energy sources,” he said.

    Selling the Sun answers the most common questions surrounding this growing inventory of homes, including:

    • A review of the core components of the system and an explanation of how they work together to create electricity
    • Tips for listing homes that showcase the benefits of solar installations
    • Current financing options available to help homeowners fund a solar installation

    Get Solar Smart for a Market Edge

    The result? Agents who complete the course can communicate the value of solar installations to homeowners and lenders. They’ll also know what questions to ask, how PV solar installations affect the sale of a home, and how to identify installations on a multiple listing service.

    Selling the Sun Establishing Value for Solar Homes“I believe in continuing education and as a professional, it is your responsibility to increase one’s knowledge level,” Michael said.

    “Mainly, I’ve gained confidence that I understand the steps needed to better evaluate a home with a solar power installation, not only for helping people sell their home, but it increases my value to help someone buy a home that has a preexisting system,” Michael said.

    There’s a clear environmental impact, too. Once solar PV installations are consistently and accurately valued and investment increases, so too will growth of clean energy nationwide—something we’re particularly excited about at Elevate Energy.

    Resources for More Information

    Solar for Real Estate Professionals from GW Solar Institute on Vimeo.

  5. Building a More Diverse and Equitable Solar Contractor Sector in Illinois

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    Contractor Accelerator JobsThrough the monumental Illinois Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA), our state has committed to an expansion of existing utility energy efficiency programs with an emphasis on community solar and job training. A key outcome of FEJA is that it will spur a clean energy economy—investments in renewable energy will create wealth opportunities in our state and new jobs for capable solar contractors.

    But how do we ensure that this clean energy economy is equitable and that communities of color and economically disadvantaged households can access this pipeline of solar work? For too long, these groups have been locked out of many of these benefits.

    To help answer this question, ComEd has awarded four organizations (Elevate Energy, Illinois Central College, OAI, Inc., and the Safer Foundation) a total of $3 million to train diverse people in Illinois for careers in the solar industry. Together, the group will develop a solar pipeline initiative to train individuals from priority groups, including: people who have graduated out of the Illinois foster care system; returning individuals from incarceration or people with a criminal record; and minority or low-income communities that are disproportionately impacted by environmental hazards.

    “We are driven by an ambitious but achievable goal to leverage the nation’s transition to a clean energy economy in order to bring energy cost savings and clean energy jobs to underserved communities,” said Anne Evens, CEO of Elevate Energy. “Together, we can significantly mitigate the climate crisis while improving the economic health of our communities.”

    Contractor Accelerator JobsFor Elevate Energy’s part, we are working with Millennium Solar Electric, Lutheran Social Services, and Safer Foundation, and a host of community partners to train priority individuals in solar installation and develop five to ten minority-, women-, disadvantaged-, and veteran-owned (M/W/D/VBE) businesses. We will increase their access to this pipeline through training and support, access to utility projects, and industry associations. Elevate Energy will provide overall program management and will focus on a contractor accelerator program in northern Illinois. Millennium Solar Electric will focus on solar installation training in the Chicago area and Lutheran Social Services will focus on employment skills and solar training in southern Illinois with support from GRID Alternatives.

    Right now, we are working with an extended team of partners, including Faith in Place, Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, and Blacks in Green to recruit the first cohort of people to receive technical solar installing training, which we hope to launch in April or May.

    We are honored and inspired to work with such a dream team, and the larger community, to help train diverse contractor businesses and individuals for solar careers. It is of critical importance that we increase access to and participation in the benefits of the growing clean energy economy in Illinois.

    Stay tuned and follow the story this year on social media.

  6. 2017 Was a Big Year for Elevate Energy: Our New Annual Report Tells the Story

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    Last year was big. We expanded our impact to serve families in Illinois and nationally and we hit some major milestones along the way. Check out our annual report (and its slick, new digital format!) for some of our greatest stories and moments. We look forward to bringing the benefits of energy efficiency to even more communities in the years to come. Here’s a preview:

    The theme of this 10-year-old birthday party was $27 million in savings!

    Ameren Illinois Power Smart Pricing and ComEd’s Hourly Pricing programs turned 10! We helped bring them into the world a decade ago and administer the programs today. Together, the programs have saved more than 50,000 participants $27 million on their energy bills.

    Mike Quigley Visits Multifamily BuildingWe champion practical solutions to problems. So does U.S. Representative Mike Quigley.

    We helped building owner Jim Saccone retrofit his 19-unit building in Chicago, creating healthier, cozier homes for his tenants and reducing his operating costs. We invited U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley to tour Jim’s building to see how supporting clean energy programs can preserve healthy, affordable housing and create local jobs.

    We connect housing and health to help people meet a basic need: to breathe easier.

    Elevate Energy installed ventilation systems in 45 homes as part of a two-year study with the Illinois Institute of Technology. Poor indoor air quality can trigger asthma attacks and lead to repeated emergency room visits. Ventilation systems help circulate indoor air more efficiently, creating energy cost savings in addition to health benefits.

    Energy Education Challenge IllinoisWe pit communities against one another, in a good way.

    We organized the Energy Education Challenge, where three central Illinois towns—Mason City, Petersburg, and Virden—competed over the course of six months to learn how to conserve energy and motivate their friends and neighbors to do the same. Throughout the challenge, almost 90 events were held and over 9,000 participants total were educated on ways to save energy.

    We’re teaching the real estate industry how to sell the sun.

    With support from the U.S. Department of Energy, we developed an online course for real estate agents, appraisers, and regulators to learn how to properly value residential solar systems in growing real estate listings.

    Lower Utility Bills, More Playtime

    Energy Efficient Childcare Center

    Our nonprofit buildings program helps mission-oriented organizations dedicate more money to their services and less to utility bills. We facilitated free efficiency upgrades for Chicago Commons, a social services organization serving Chicago families for more than 120 years. Simple lighting upgrades at a childcare center in Humboldt Park and an adult services center on the south side are expected to save the organization $8,631 on electricity annually.

    We’re proud of the work we did last year and we’re inspired to do even more this year. Please check out our annual report, and stay tuned for updates in 2018!

  7. Who Won the Energy Education Challenge in Illinois: Mason City, Petersburg, or Virden?

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    Congratulations to Virden, Illinois, the winner of $22,000 in the Energy Education Challenge! The aim of the challenge was to inspire residents in three communities to educate their friends and neighbors on how to reduce energy use.

    “We’re thrilled we won first place in the challenge, this means a lot to our community. I would like to thank everybody who had anything to do with our success,” said Virden Mayor George Murphy.

    As part of the challenge, Virden held nearly 30 energy-related events with more than 1,200 total participants.

    Virden Alderman Chris Dodd was an enthusiastic participant in the challenge. “It turned out to be a great competition, everyone in the community came together,” Dodd said. “We pulled together and had a lot of support.”

    Mason City and Petersburg each also won $14,000. The six-month challenge ended late last year and awarded a total of $50,000 across the communities thanks to the support of the Illinois Science & Energy Innovation Foundation (ISEIF).

    In total, more than 9,000 people attended nearly 90 energy-related events across the three communities! That’s more than the total population of the three towns combined (based on 2016 population statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau). To inspire a deeper level of involvement and learning, residents were encouraged to attend multiple events throughout the challenge, from house parties to community meetings.

    Prizes were also awarded to the most involved organizations in each community, including Virden Knights of Columbus and Virden Area Chamber of Commerce, Petersburg Merchants and Petersburg Chamber of Commerce, and Mason City Rotary and the Mason City Christian Church Manna Project.

    The Energy Education Challenge Keeps on Giving

    While Virden took the top prize, all three communities are winners. Elevate Energy facilitated the challenge to help residents understand the concepts of energy efficiency and connect these concepts to real and tangible benefits, like saving money. When people make this connection and have a clear sense of what they can do, they are more inspired to take action—like enrolling in bill savings programs or investing in improvements to their home—and to share this knowledge with others.

    Tina Williamson, a field organizer with Elevate Energy, spent a lot time with residents in Petersburg and Mason City and said that the impact doesn’t end with the challenge.

    “They were passionate about the issues and continue to work with me to learn from the information and make changes,” Williamson said. Elevate Energy is currently planning more energy events at the request of residents (including some upcoming energy house parties) long after the challenge has ended. “The competition was an amazing introduction but they see the positive benefits of continuing this work,” she said.

    Next up, Elevate Energy will facilitate a year-long challenge in new Illinois communities with the support of ISEIF.

    Want to learn more about hosting an Energy Education Challenge in your community? We can help! Get in touch with us today.

     

     

  8. Making Motor City Multifamily Housing More Affordable

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    Here’s what we know, and we know it well: When we invest in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and healthy housing improvements in affordable multifamily buildings, we stabilize operating costs, decrease energy use, and provide residents with a higher quality of life.

    Detroit knows this, too. Along with Elevate Energy, the Detroit Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) recently implemented a Multifamily Green Initiative (MGI) to help owners of occupied affordable multifamily properties in underdeveloped areas of Detroit make these important investments in their buildings.

    One MGI participant, Develop Detroit, is currently working to improve buildings at University Meadows in Woodbridge and at Marwood Apartments in the North End. Develop Detroit, a part of the Housing Partnership Network, is a mission-based developer with a goal to build vibrant communities through a focus on stabilizing Detroit’s historical neighborhoods and burgeoning business district.

    At the same time, Develop Detroit also recognized an all-too-common challenge: A lack of capacity and dedicated staff to evaluate their options and incorporate energy efficiency into project planning. Enter Elevate Energy, LISC, and what we all know well.

    • Laying the Ground Work: Through the Green Asset Management Planning process, we helped Develop Detroit fully articulate the value of energy efficiency investments to both their bottom line and for the tenants of their properties.
    • Savings Potential: We also conducted energy assessments for Develop Detroit’s selected properties, identifying energy efficiency, water efficiency, and solar installation options that could produce up to 47 percent savings.
    • Assistance and Action: During construction planning, we encouraged all developers to utilize BuildingClean.Org to select healthy and local building material. University Meadows was approved for financing utilizing four percent Low Income Housing Tax Credits for water and energy efficiency improvements, and a 120 KW solar system will begin construction in spring 2018.
    • Results: Through the MGI initiative, Develop Detroit is dedicated to finding ways to incorporate all aspects of green building, including energy and water efficiency and solar, in future projects.

    We look forward to continued progress from the entire MGI cohort, which includes Develop Detroit, Bridging Communities, U-SNAP-BAC, and the Preservation of Affordable Housing.

     

     

  9. Cold Hard Truths Lead to Congressional Building Tour

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    “The winter never skips Chicago.” Even with average winter temperatures in Chicago up three degrees compared to 50 years ago, building owner Jim Saccone speaks a cold hard truth.

    In Chicago, three out of four people reside in multifamily buildings. For these residents, colder winter temperatures often mean colder homes. A tenant on the top floor of one of Jim’s buildings in Logan Square had this problem; she told him that her apartment was always cold no matter what she tried.

    Jim called us for help. We conducted an energy assessment of his 19-unit, 100-year-old building and identified the issues. The building lacked insulation and air sealing in the attic space, typical of buildings of this age. We all know that hot air rises. With no thermal barrier to stop it, the heat in the top floor units rose up and out of the units and through the roof.

    We also found additional measures to reduce his operating costs and create healthier, cozier homes for his tenants. Jim’s building had an old, inefficient boiler and the building also needed upgraded lighting and water fixtures.

    “If you’re going to keep a property long-term, it makes sense to complete these energy efficiency programs, because it will save money in the long run,” Jim said. “It’s simple mathematics if you do the correct installations.”

    Local Contractors Do the Work

    At Jim’s building, Mokena-based Minnich Insulation, Inc completed the air sealing and insulation in the roof cavity, and Fewer Boiler, Inc  of Chicago replaced the old steam boiler with a modulating boiler that keeps temperatures more consistent. We also replaced fluorescent lights with energy efficient LED bulbs and installed low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators in each unit.

    Offset the Costs

    A key part of a successful energy efficiency program is to connect building owners to resources that offset the costs of the improvements. For Jim, we were able to connect him to over $22,000 in utility funded incentives for the new boiler, lighting retrofit, and water efficiency fixtures.

    He’s already seeing results. “I’ve noticed dramatic improvements in the warmth of the units” Jim said. His tenants have noticed, too. “You get a happier customer—which is your resident,” he said.

    Showcase the Work

    The improvements to Jim’s building tell an important story of how support for housing and clean energy programs preserve healthy and affordable housing and create local jobs. It was such a good story that we invited U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley to tour Jim’s building and see the benefits of energy efficiency himself. A champion of practical solutions to problems, Rep. Quigley heard directly from the owner, tenants, and contractors – beneficiaries of  policies that support energy efficiency programs.

    Is your apartment cold? While we can’t promise a local official will visit your building, we can set you on the path to a cozier, healthier home through energy and water efficiency improvements. Let your landlord know about Elevate Energy’s services.

  10. Team Building through Scrappy Art

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    For the last six months, Elevate Energy has been hard at work developing our three-year strategic plan. Always inclusive and forward-looking, our CEO Anne Evens knew it was important for the entire staff to have a role and voice in the plan to build ownership and excitement around the direction and impact of our organization.

    While a core committee did the heavy lifting, it also collaborated with staff along the way to leverage diverse insights and assess the efficacy of the strategic plan as it was being developed. This included an all-hands-on-deck strategic planning day in October in which we gathered in small groups to discuss the organization’s vision and goals.

    And, as an organization that both works hard and plays hard, our  productive morning was capped by an equally collaborative and innovative afternoon—our friends at the Rebuilding Exchange hosted a “Scraptacular” workshop at our office.

    What is a Scraptacular, you ask? Great question! It’s a clever, hands-on concept from the fantastic Rebuilding Exchange in which a group of people use reclaimed scraps of seemingly disconnected materials (think wood, carpet, tile, and construction rubble) to contribute to a larger piece.

    We wanted this larger piece to be our beloved logo. So, we set to work. At times it was a scene of intense focus, at times it was silly, as Elevators found inspiration in our city, our people, and our work, and in architecture, nature, and the abstract.  Some designs were symmetrical, others were minimalistic or quite embellished. Some incorporated our signature marigold, others used colors found in the scrap materials.

    It may sound like an odd scene, but the result was carefully planned and quite impressive: together, the circles formed a larger-than-life collage that now proudly hangs on our office wall. One Elevator enjoyed the “individual creativity under a common theme, Viva!” Another said that it, “was a small personal commitment for a bigger activity” and many mentioned that it aligned with our mission, was relaxing, highly creative, and that “glue guns are fun!”

    We like to joke that the team that gets scrappy together stays together, but, as we close 2017, we also see the workshop as a metaphor for the ethos of our organization. We all bring unique talent and perspective, but it is our cohesive drive and dedication that makes Elevate what it is and enables us to have positive impact in our communities.

    We highly recommend a Scraptacular event for your own organization or office, whether you are in the midst of heady strategic planning or just searching for a unique and rewarding team-building activity.  Get in touch with the Rebuilding Exchange to learn more about private workshops.