The USDA-RD Multi-Family Housing Energy Efficiency Initiative

The introduction of USDA Rural Development Multi-Family Housing Energy Efficiency Initiative as part of our existing application process is a continuation of a promise to help maintain and protect the environment for future generations and builds upon a strong foundation of environmental support from USDA-RD and others.

The United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development (USDA-RD) has long advocated energy conservation and efficiency. Through other energy-focused programs, such as the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), which provides loan guarantees and grants for renewable energy systems, and the Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan Program, which finances bio-based and bio-energy fuel products, USDA-RD has demonstrated its commitment to green energy and we will continue to encourage developers and business owners to meet and exceed industry standards for energy efficiency.

Program Goal

The Multi-Family Housing Energy Efficiency Initiative enables Section 515 Rural Rental Housing Program for New Construction, Section 514 Farm Labor Housing Loans and Section 516 Farm Labor Housing Grants for Off-Farm Housing, Section 522 Housing Preservation Grants, and Sections 514, 515 and 516 Multi-Family Housing Revitalization Demonstration Program applicants to help the environment and increase their eligibility for funding by incorporating energy efficiency practices into project designs, construction, and operations. The goal of the Multi-Family Housing Energy Efficiency Initiative is to promote development projects that require a reduced quantity of energy to operate, use energy sources that do not produce greenhouse gases and that have little or no net emission of greenhouse gases, and are economically viable. Points are available to applicants who seek third-party energy efficiency certifications, use energy efficient building materials and design strategies, generate energy on site, and make a commitment to energy efficient post-construction operation and maintenance. Our hope is that by integrating green technology into design plans, and by following energy efficiency guidelines, we can reduce the need for outside energy sources, reduce costs, secure a better environment for tomorrow and create wealth.

Participation Guidelines

The three areas of focus for the Energy Efficiency Initiative are energy conservation, energy generation and green property management.

Note: Please see the most current NOFA for a detailed review of application and project requirements. Click here to visit the NOFA page.

Energy Conservation

For energy conservation, the Multi-Family Housing Energy Efficiency Initiative awards points for both new construction and rehabilitation projects to participate in energy efficiency programs and standards certifications. Though each of the programs listed below is different, some share common features which may make it easier to obtain multiple certifications. Points are awarded for each certification obtained, although not all certifications are accepted by all USDA-RD programs. Participation in qualified local and regional programs and certifications may also earn points.

It is important to note that certain programs have multiple levels of certification and that additional points are awarded for reaching higher levels. The following are the current available certification programs for energy conservation:

Note: Please see the individual USDA-RD program NOFAs for details on which certifications are permissible for your program.

Energy Generation

In addition to participating in standards certifications and energy efficiency programs, the Multi-Family Housing Energy Efficiency Initiative encourages developers to generate energy on-site by utilizing technology to lessen their properties' need for outside energy sources. Doing so will earn additional NOFA points and increase a project's viability regarding USDA-RD program funding. Energy generation can be accomplished using technologies including, but not limited to: wind turbines, micro-turbines, micro-hydro power, photovolactics (capable of producing a voltage when exposed to radiant energy, especially light), solar hot water systems, biomass/biofuel systems that do not use fossil fuels in production, and geo-exchange systems. Developers must use industry recognized simulation software when estimating energy consumption and generation for preliminary building designs. They must also then submit a report of findings based on the simulations with their USDA-RD program applications.

While we value our commitment to energy independence and look forward to a future of increased energy efficient housing, USDA-RD recognizes that zero-net energy consumption is a challenge to developers and builders alike and not all applicants will reach this goal. Projects will receive points for partial energy generation of 10% or more. Points received may increase with higher percentages of energy generation, where generation is considered to be the total amount of energy needed on-site to make the building a zero-net energy consumer of energy. In other words, the building requires no more energy than it produces.

Green Property Management

USDA-RD believes it is important to focus on energy efficiency even after construction is complete. Responsible post-construction operation and maintenance is a duty for every environmentally sound property. For this reason, all applications will receive additional points if the designated property management company or individuals that will assume operations and maintenance obligations have a Credential for Green Property Management. Credentialing can be obtained from any of the following organizations:

The Credential for Green Property Management can be obtained from other organizations with certifiable credentialing programs. To be considered, all credentials must be illustrated in the application in the resumes/bios of the property management team.

For more information on the USDA Rural Development Multi-Family Housing Energy Efficiency Initiative and the programs under which it operates, please contact your state office. Click here for a link to state offices.