Spring into Action and Build Green

Spring into Action and Build Green

Photo of Fair Avenue Apartments: Carlos Javier Sanchez, San Antonio Business Journal

Spring into Action and Build Green

By Hector Martinez and Beth Keel

Spring is upon us — a new season that brings warmth and renewal. Nature springs to life, and we at the San Antonio Housing Authority (SAHA) are strongly committed to going above and beyond in reducing our carbon footprint on the environment, and making our housing communities — and all of San Antonio — a cleaner, safer place to live and work.  

From recycling programs, to lead-based-paint and asbestos abatement projects, to creating the newly opened Garcia Street Urban Farm, to energy-reducing retrofit construction and green-certified capital improvement projects and new multi-family developments, SAHA’s efforts citywide are producing real, measurable results.

In 2018, SAHA was recognized by Build San Antonio Green (BSAG) for achieving more than a million square feet of certified green space. Before that SAHA was recognized by the United States Department of Energy for a Senior/Disabled downtown midrise renovation project that resulted in significantly lower energy consumption. Also, in 2016, SAHA was invited to the White House to participate in a roundtable discussion on energy opportunities for low-income families, something SAHA continues to provide every day.

BETTER BUILDINGS INITIATIVE

SAHA previously volunteered to enter into the Department of Energy’s (DOE) “Better Buildings Challenge” (BBC), a voluntary leadership initiative through which Partners – including companies, universities, school districts and municipalities – make a public commitment to achieve lasting, organization-wide energy savings. Partners in the Better Buildings Challenge commit to achieve significant energy savings established by a specific energy savings goal. Goals encompass over 2,000,000 square feet of SAHA’s portfolio and strive to achieve at least 20 percent reduction in energy consumption over 10 years. SAHA continues to track and verify progress toward these energy savings goals.

Partners challenge commit to track and verify progress toward energy savings goals by following a common process:

  • Baseline: Progress is tracked against a baseline year, which is selected by Partners within the parameters of program requirements. The baseline year is a reference point in time in which the energy reduction will be measured against. SAHA’s baseline BBC baseline year is dependent on the upgrades of the building.

  • Energy Tracking Software: SAHA is enrolled in an EPA database called Energy Star Portfolio Manager. 

  • Reporting: Progress toward energy reduction goals will be tracked by DOE. Partners benchmarking in Portfolio Manager can share access to their account with DOE. 

  • Metrics: Energy use metrics are expressed in terms of source energy use intensity (EUI). For commercial buildings, energy use intensity is tracked in terms of energy use per square foot. 

  • Verification: Energy data and operating characteristics is reviewed to ensure completeness and accuracy. Data is independently verified for a random sample of Partner properties to maintain integrity of program results.  

  • Energy Performance Results: Progress toward goals is displayed for all Partners in the Energy Performance section of the Better Buildings Challenge website.

ENERGY PERFORMANCE CONTRACTING

Energy Performance Contracting (EPC) is an innovative financing technique that uses cost savings from reduced energy consumption to repay the cost of installing energy conservation measures, and allows the Housing Authority to invest those savings back into those communities in capital improvement projects. This innovative financing technique allows agencies to achieve energy savings without upfront capital expenses. 

Typical energy conservation measures include LED lighting, insulation, energy efficient windows, high efficient and more. 

SAHA has partnered with the Denver Housing Authority through an inter-agency agreement, in order to develop SAHA’s first-ever Energy Performance Contracting project. This first-phase EPC included a total of 1995 units at five of SAHA’s largest communities: Lincoln Heights (338 units) and Cassiano Homes (499 units), Alazan Apache Courts (741 units), Fair Avenue Apartments (216 units) and the Villa Tranchese Apartments (201 units). In addition, SAHA received approval from HUD to administer this contract as a “self directed” contract. At the time, the only EPC self directed EPC contract by a housing authority in the state of Texas. This allowed SAHA to save hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees from a third party.

Phase II EPC is scheduled for 2020, where SAHA will invest in the installation of various energy conservation measures at more than 34 developments, including more than 2,300 Public Housing units, with projected savings of more than $9 million through the life of the program. Between Phase I and Phase II of SAHA’s EPC, the projected annual energy savings are equivalent to eliminating 5,665 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. This is similar to the emissions associated with powering 653 homes for a whole year.*

SAHA is proud to be a leader in the community in preserving and protecting the environment, lowering energy and water consumption, and overall reducing our own carbon footprint in San Antonio. Most importantly, the health, safety and comfort of our clients remains the priority, and these efforts help us achieve those goals. 

For more information about SAHA’s sustainability efforts, visit saha.org/sustainability.

*These numbers were calculated using the EPA’s greenhouse gas equivalency calculator


Hector Martinez serves as SAHA’s Director of Construction Services & Sustainability and is responsible for overseeing the development, design, and implementation of capital improvement projects for the repair, preservation and modernization of SAHA’s affordable housing communities throughout San Antonio, and to ensure and promote green building and sustainable practices and standards, while forming partnerships and organizing programs to promote health and well-being initiatives for our community. 

Beth Keel is the Sustainability Initiatives Liaison for the San Antonio Housing Authority (SAHA) and an avid outdoor enthusiast. She attended Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, for a Bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies and a Master’s Degree in Environmental Leadership. She brings life and university experience to SAHA by looking outside of the box for answers in sustainability, education, green building, and conservation. She has continued her education as a Certified Energy Manager, Certified Energy Rater, Certified RESnet Green Rater, Certified in Permaculture Design, and a Texas Master Naturalist. She has garnered the agency more than 30 local and national awards.