Aspen eyes efficiency upgrades for worker housing |

Aspen eyes efficiency upgrades for worker housing

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

ASPEN – The city of Aspen has proposed a pilot effort to upgrade the energy efficiency of housing units set aside for local workers when the residences change hands.

In the United States, buildings account for an estimated 40 percent of all energy consumption, and 55 percent of that total can be attributed to residential structures, according to a memo from Lauren McDonell, the city’s environmental initiative program manager.

Many worker-housing units within the Aspen/Pitkin County Housing Authority program are in need of upgrades, and a one-year pilot project has been proposed to make “quick, high-impact energy-efficiency improvements” as the units turn over, according to McDonell.

She’s looking for the City Council and county commissioners to OK the idea this spring with the goal of starting to tackle improvements in early summer.

How many units see upgrades depends on various considerations – including criteria that have yet to be defined fully – as well as how many happen to come up for sale. The housing authority recorded 60 sales last year. The housing authority’s inventory of 2,815 housing units includes 1,501 sale units and 1,314 rentals. Sale units are the target of the proposed energy program.

“It kind of depends on what comes up on the market and has the greatest chance of success,” McDonell said.

The city and county adopted the National Energy Conservation Code in 2003, she said, so worker housing constructed before then is likely to be less efficient and could get the focus.

“We’d like to tackle the older ones first,” she said.

The upgrades would be based on the highest efficiency gains that could be realized, determined by an energy assessment, but could include sealing and insulating units, installing programmable thermostats and low-flow fixtures and insulating or replacing water heaters, for example. The cost of the improvements would be fronted by a revolving fund managed by the housing authority but added to the sale price of the unit and quickly recouped. The buyer would presumably recoup the added expense through energy savings.

A financial incentive, perhaps $100 to $400, could be offered to encourage sellers, or in some cases buyers, to give the city access to a unit for five to 10 days in order to make the upgrades, according to the proposal.

“Closing already takes longer than it used to, and we don’t want to prolong that,” McDonell said.


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