A UNIQUE, LONG-TERM APPROACH TO SUSTAINABILITY

The vitality of our community depends on the health and welfare of our people. The Rockford Housing Authority strives to enhance the health, productivity, and quality of life of our residents, constituents, and staff through the design and maintenance of the building environment and the development and implementation of cutting-edge programs that contribute to well-being for all in our community. The continual concern with the use of nonrenewable resources is their lack of sustainability.

The Rockford Housing’s Strategic Plan includes making multifamily housing more sustainable and energy efficient. The organization took a unique, long-term approach to sustainability by participating in SEED, which stands for STEM, Energy, and Economic Development. Unfortunately, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) is usually interpreted to mean science or math. The SEED Coalition is committed to preparing residents for current and future in-demand STEM & Energy jobs.

This program engaged residents for current and future STEM and technical jobs by increasing energy literacy, providing learning opportunities, and connecting residents to training opportunities for careers. While Rockford was not a pilot city, RHA has a strong STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics) program, energy conservation program, and an Artisan Entrepreneurship program. Leveraging its STEAM platform to align with SEED, aligned with its mission to assist residents to become self-sufficient.

Outcomes of the SEED Program

  • Creates a Common agenda among local partners in the coalition
  • Promotes local empowerment through public-private partnerships
  • Uses existing federal resources to increase impact in Public Housing
  • Highlights the importance of energy efficiency and savings to residents
  • Facilitates increased STEM training opportunities for residents
  • Prepares current and future workers for in-demand STEM jobs
  • Adds to efforts needed to reach national climate change objectives
  • Improves efforts to reach populations historically underrepresented in this country’s STEM pipeline: women, minorities, and students from economically distressed communities

ENSURING THE LONG-TERM FINANCIAL SUSTAINABILITY OF THE RHA PORTFOLIO

Rockford Housing Authority (RHA) joined the Better Buildings Challenge at the end of 2013, committing to reducing energy use intensity by 20 percent across its portfolio of nearly 1,400* units by 2023. By the end of 2015, RHA had completed a $7.2 million energy performance contract (EPC), which improved the energy and water efficiency and quality of life at nine of its 11 public housing developments through water conservation, electrical upgrades, and building system improvements. The green retrofits allow RHA to meet its strategic goal of modernizing its building stock while saving energy and ensuring the long-term financial sustainability of its portfolio.

This project was instrumental in making much needed long-term infrastructure upgrades to some of RHA’s properties, improving the living environment for residents, and enhancing RHA’s marketability. In addition to an array of high-efficiency lighting, mechanical and water conservation upgrades, RHA was able to invest in a solar photovoltaic system, and fund over $200,000 for its Section 3 program.

RHA in conjunction with Johnson Controls did the extensive legwork to secure $718,689 in energy grants for the initiative. Reduction in the electric and natural consumption of RHA facilities has resulted in a positive environmental impact. RHA believes that the SEED roadmap contributes for building and operating a healthier, more sustainable community. RHA also acknowledges that the challenges before us are complex and interconnected, demanding an ever-developing approach to sustainability for our residents and for our community.

RHA considers the special role and a special responsibility to confront the challenge of energy efficiency by reducing our energy and this remains one of the Rockford Housing Authority’s top priorities, and we will continue to meet this challenge through best-in-class innovations in energy efficiency, energy management, and renewable energy.

ADDING TO THE ECONOMIC IMPACT TO THE REGIONAL COMMUNITY

Approximately 65% of the subcontracting scope was performed by local firms, with over 30% of the local contracting to M/WBE firms.

This Certification is used exclusively by federal and local governments.  (MBE) Minority Business Enterprise Certification and the (WBE) Certification for Women-owned Businesses has been an important and vital aspect of the Rockford Housing Authority.

Energy Savings Performance Report Card

A Year Three Report (January 2017 to December 2017) for the Energy Savings Performance Contract (ESPC) provided by Johnson Controls states that  “A total of 105,113 therms of natural gas, 27,323 CCF of water and 1.912,197 kWh of electricity were saved during Year 3 equaling a reduction of 48% for gas, 35% for water, and 62% for electric. This has resulted in total Savings/Incentives of $606,210.”

YOUTH LEADERSHIP AND WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT

The Blackhawk Courts Farm and Garden is a project built from the dreams, ideas and hard work of Blackhawk Courts residents. The produce in Blackhawk Courts Garden is available for community members to harvest for their own use. Adults participate in cooking and nutrition classes, complete their community service hours, and bring their children to community events and field trips.

Blackhawk children become Youth Farmers. They learn and eat from the farm, and help plant, tend and harvest. Older youth can apply to our Youth Leaders program

The following organizations have contributed to RHA’s SEED efforts:

  •  Angelic Organics Learning Center
  •  Rockford Workforce Investment Board
  •  Rockford University Science Club
  •  Rockford Area Arts Council
  •  Engineers Without Borders
  •  Freedom Field Renewable Energy

Better Buildings is an initiative of the U.S. Department of Energy here is a recap and a link to the RHA Implementation Model. This blog was posted by the Department of Energy November 8, 2018.

Rockford Housing Authority — Creating a Pipeline of Green Jobs

Rockford Housing Authority understands that reaching their 20 percent Better Buildings energy reduction goal won’t be possible without resident participation, so they took a page from the SEED pilot program to establish a resident-focused effort that aimed to encourage energy-efficient behavior and prepare residents for jobs in a new “green” workforce:

  • Residents can take classes on energy efficiency and get a regular education through the monthly newsletter and RHA website.
  • Residents can also receive training on sustainable urban agriculture techniques and renewable energy technologies.
  • RHA is confident that their resident engagement efforts have not only changed the social norms around energy efficiency; they will likely expand as new partnerships for workforce development come into maturity. Enrollment in the existing offerings remains steady.

These Better Buildings Challenge partners saw the importance of engaging staff, residents, and neighbors in order to achieve ambitious energy efficiency goals.

Building energy efficiency depends as much on the people inside the buildings – both living and working – as it does on the systems that make up the buildings. These Implementation Models demonstrate different ways to integrate “people power” into a larger energy efficiency strategy.

Resources: ROCKFORD HOUSING AUTHORITY

Resources: Better Buildings is an initiative of the U.S. Department of Energy