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City Council Approves New Energy Rules For Apartment Homes

Woodwillow Townhomes in South Austin is among the 1,000 apartment complexes in Austin affected by the new ordinance.
Photo by KUT News
Woodwillow Townhomes in South Austin is among the 1,000 apartment complexes in Austin affected by the new ordinance.

Austin City Council approved new rules this morning that could have a big impact on the owners of apartment buildings and the people who live in them. The Energy Conservation Audit and Disclosure (ECAD) Ordinance will require multifamily property owners to conduct specialized audits that reveal the energy efficiency of apartments and townhomes. That information would be disclosed to tenants, and the most inefficient buildings would require upgrades.

The ordinance, which amends Chapter 6-7 of the City Code, was approved unanimously by council this morning. But council members could not come to agreement on exactly how tenants should be notified of the efficiency of their buildings. That provision was set aside and will be discussed in the future.

The rule change would require the owner of any apartment building that uses more than 150 percent of the average energy per square foot to perform upgrades.  Austin Energy spokesman Ed Clark says there are about 1,000 apartment complexes in Austin city limits, but only a few dozen would be affected.

"We see only about fifty that will have an energy use per square that is more than 150 percent of the average for their type of facility," Clark told KUT News.

Bob Thompson, a member of the Austin Apartment Association, suggests the number of high energy-use apartment complexes is closer to 60 or 70.

Apartment complex owners could seek an exemption if they could prove compliance would cause "undue hardship", for example, if lower energy consumption beneath the 150 percent threshold required a complete and costly replacement of the building's HVAC system.

Council members seemed assured that many improvements could be made relatively inexpensively, such as installing sun screens in windows or insulation in attics.

Proponents of the ordinance hope it will reward property owners who make energy efficiency upgrades by incentivizing tenants to move into buildings with lower electric bills.

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion-dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on X @KUTnathan.
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