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Industry Preps for Net-Zero Future


Manufacturing solutions for healthier, more comfortable buildings with lower costs.

By 2030, 11.7 million multifamily apartment units across the United States will need to be renovated, according to a study commissioned by the National Apartment Association and National Multifamily Housing Council and conducted by Hoyt Advisory Services. Many of those units are in buildings which waste energy—and therefore money—while not meeting their tenants comfort needs.

At the same time, building owners across the country could save a combined $3.4 billion in energy costs each year, as estimated by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) by focusing on efficiency. That’s up to 30% saved in annual utility bills.

This a tremendous opportunity for building products manufacturers to provide standardized, scalable, high-performance solutions that reduce energy costs while also improving in-unit comfort in multifamily residential properties.

Convening Retrofit Experts

On October 3, 2018, over 50 participants representing building solutions manufacturers, government organizations, national R&D labs, New York State and City housing agencies, and other groups convened in New York City for NYSERDA’s Manufacturers’ Accelerator Workshop. Attendees discussed the challenges and opportunities of delivering scalable, low-cost, quickly installed net zero solutions to multifamily properties.  They focused on what building experts recognize as critical retrofit solutions: pre-fabricated exterior panels and bundled heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) and domestic hot water (DHW) solutions.  A net zero building is an energy-efficient building where, on a source energy basis, the actual annual delivered energy is less than or equal to the on-site renewable exported energy.

Two of the event’s participants—Wythe Windows and Minotair Ventilation Inc.—are bringing some of those critical solutions to the market, and the opportunities manufacturers face when developing products for carbon neutral energy retrofits.

“[Net zero carbon] will one day become the standard. If manufacturers don’t want to go there, prepare to be tossed aside.”

Building Envelopes

Wythe Windows is a Ramsey, NJ-based high-efficiency window solutions company. They also produce pre-fabricated exterior building panels that help weatherize existing multifamily buildings. They were inspired by the solutions being implemented at scale in the Netherlands through a deep-energy retrofit initiative called Energiesprong Link opens in new window - close new window to return to this page..

“The building stock is filled with low-performing buildings that coincidentally have less than desirable facades,” says Darren Macri, CEO of Wythe Windows. “This is an opportunity for us to not only beautify our neighborhoods but also make our buildings a lot more comfortable and healthier for residents and to lower the carbon and reduce the effects of climate change, all by wrapping these panels around these existing buildings.”

Macri sees the importance of collaboration and big picture thinking when it comes to manufacturing energy-saving building solutions. Macri says, “Manufacturers, designers, and builders need to work in a more holistic fashion, because, in the end… what matters is how much energy is consumed and how occupants feel.”

Macri suggests that manufacturers seek inspiration from successful programs like Energiesprong. “That kind of international idea-sharing is the only way we are going to get these markets to mature in a way that is fast enough for all of us to make a difference and meet our climate goals,” Macri says.

Air and Water Solutions Spur Efficiency Partnership

NYSERDA’s RetrofitNY program also seeks to spur the manufacturing of bundled high-performance HVAC and DHW solutions. Another participant in the Manufacturers’ Accelerator, Minotair, was inspired to begin the production of mechanical pods in partnership with global water heater manufacturer Sanden as a result of Minotair’s participation in the NYSERDA event.

“When I got out of [the Manufacturers’ Accelerator], for me it was obvious: we had to team up with Sanden. Together we can offer the best solutions everyone can bring to the table,” said Alex De Gagné, VP Sales & Marketing and Co-Owner of Minotair, based in Gatineau, Québec.

Minotair combines their all-in-one HVAC products, called compact air treatment units, which feature efficient electric heating, cooling, dehumidification, ventilation, and a multi-purpose air filtration unit with Sanden’s domestic hot water heating products. The result is a combined mechanical pod that can be installed quickly, in outdoor or indoor retrofits, again inspired by Energiesprong’s solutions. Both Minotair and Sanden products are using integrated air-source heat pumps (ASHP), operating solely on electricity, potentially produced on site by rooftop solar panels, another important aspect of Energiesprong.

De Gagné’s air-treatment products and Sanden’s water-heating product are complementary, making the partnership, which evolved from previous co-promotions, a no-brainer. They call their combined product the “Magic Box,” a ready-to-be-installed metallic pod that can rapidly deliver energy-saving solutions with low installation costs. Time and affordability are two key components to standardizing high-performance retrofit solutions.

Ultimately, De Gagné reveals altruistic motivations for his company in providing net zero energy solutions. “This is exactly what drives our company. We create better indoor comfort, but more importantly we create better conditions for tenants to be in better health. Believe me, when I get up in the morning, I’m proud of what we do. We make products that help people. What’s not to like?

Adapt or Risk Being Left Behind

Though Minotair and Wythe are aiming for net zero specifically, they also recognize that other manufacturers can still play a role in bringing energy efficient products to scale without the pressure of carbon neutrality. “We can't expect all buildings to [go net zero carbon] at this moment. But there are many, many more buildings that can incorporate these solutions and come near to net zero and can implement a little of this solution and a little of that solution,” says Macri of Wythe Windows.

For manufacturers like Wythe and Minotair, they recognize that the market is demanding higher performing solutions to meet state policy goals. Therefore, they need to adapt or risk being left behind.

“More and more large cities like New York and Vancouver, some states like California, New York, and the province of Ontario are aiming to get to stricter standards to have high performance buildings to reduce our carbon footprints, increase indoor comfort and improve occupants’ health. It will one day become the standard, more and more people are embracing it. If you’re not getting there, if manufacturers don’t want to go there, prepare to be tossed aside by competitors. We’re about to see the light and a clear indication this is where the market must be going,” says De Gagné.

NYSERDA recognizes manufacturers play a key role in unlocking scalable solutions for carbon neutral retrofits. RetrofitNY connects manufacturers with building owners and industry stakeholders to collaborate on high-performance solutions for affordable multifamily properties. If you are a manufacturer that develops HVAC/DHW or building envelope solutions, contact NYSERDA  to learn how you can get involved in the revolution in how existing buildings are renovated.