Better Multi-Unit Residential Buildings – Reading List


Ramona apartments image4Like any building type, multi-unit residential projects can be designed to have very low energy use and high levels of occupant comfort, safety, and health. However, they do have some unique challenges.

The reading list below provides an introduction to research on improving performance in multi-unit residential buildings. If you find a broken link or would like to suggest something to add, please contact us.

Top 5 Things to Read:

#1: Affordable and Efficient
Andrew Pape-Salmon, Ed McNamara, and Ariel Levy, available from
This case study was published in the ASHRAE Journal as part of their 2014 ASHRAE Technology Awards. It discusses the Ramona Apartments, a 138-unit affordable housing project in Portland, Oregon, that was designed to reduce energy use by 50% compared to existing similar buildings. See also Andrew Pape-Salmon’s profile on the Belmont, a deep energy retrofit in Vancouver.

#2: Energy Simulations of Strategies to Achieve Low-Energy, Multi-unit Residential Building Designs in Different Regions of Canada
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, available from
This CMHC Research Highlight summarizes a recent study that used building energy consumption simulations to examine whether and how MURBs in Canada can reach Passive House standards for energy performance, given Canada’s climate, existing design practices, building codes, and available technologies.

#3: Better Buildings Challenge Database
U.S. Department of Energy, available at
Select “Multifamily” under “Building Type” and find a range of case studies and presentations. One to check out: “How to Get to Zero Energy in Multifamily”.

#4: Ontario Private Sector Readies for Energy Reporting
Barbara Carss, available from
This news article discusses proposed energy reporting requirements in Ontario and potential challenges related to multi-unit residential buildings. As the article points out, energy reporting is becoming more common across North America. Also see this Canadian Apartment article on Vancouver’s Zero Emissions Building Plan: Vancouver Developers to Pursue Zero Emissions.

#5: Energy Consumption and Conservation in Mid-and High-Rise Residential Buildings in British Columbia
RDH, available from
This study reviewed the actual energy consumption of in-service mid- to high-rise buildings and assessed the impacts of building enclosure improvements. As noted by the study, building enclosure improvements are often undertaken to address moisture-related failures, but energy conservation can be realized at the same time. Measured building performance data was then used to identify opportunities for further energy use reductions.

Other Resources

Energy Conservation in Multifamily Housing: Review and Recommendations for Retrofit Programs
John DiCicco et al., available from
This 1994 paper is dated, but provides a good overview of the major issues in multifamily housing. The primary authors are from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, and more current research and commentary on many issues can be found in the ACEEE’s series on energy efficiency in buildings (

Seeing Green
Derek Mearns, available from
This Multifamily Executive Magazine article discusses some of the barriers to incorporating energy efficiency in new construction multi-unit projects, as well as some of the benefits, from a builder/owner’s perspective. See also Building Green Affordably by Rich Binsacca.

Send this to a friend