Student Housing Business

MAY-JUN 2018

Student Housing Business is the voice of the student housing industry.

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SMARTER OPERATIONS May/June 2018 82 Harnessing Data Utilizing data, benchmarks and analysis can help properties get the biggest bang for their buck with utilities and energy bills. By Amy Bigley Works U Utility regulation continues to increase across the country, making utility and energy man- agement more complex for student housing managers and operators. But proactively man- aging utility and energy expenditures can sig- nificantly improve a property's bottom line, as well as help residents save and conserve. "Effectively managing consumption and billing is critical to our ability to drive bottom- line financial performance," explains Casey Petersen, chief operating officer with Atlanta- based Peak Campus. "In addition, customer service concerns regarding utilities can easily become a renewal issue without a good billing strategy." With recent technology advancements, man- agement teams now have a variety of smart devices, including thermostats and window and water monitors, that track usage, set tem- peratures to conserve energy during low-use hours, and collect data on actual consumption. But what's the best way to utilize this data and how can it help operators, and residents, conserve energy, reduce overall utility bills and stay current with ever-evolving regulations? Analysis & Automation One way to reduce overall utility bills is through comprehensive bill auditing, monitor- ing and analysis, but oftentimes in-house man- agement teams do not have the niche expertise to get the most out of a bill audit. That's where third-party vendors that specialize in utility and energy management can offer an invalu- able resource to property operators. Energy Management "We help operators and management teams recover more, spend less, use less and miti- gate risk," explains Linda Alperin, senior vice president of Lombard, Illinois-based RealPage Utility Management. "Through our newly launched Energy Management suite, we're able to harness the power of data coupled with energy experts to enable clients to use less energy and water and pay less." Third-party energy and utility management companies, like RealPage and Conservice, have the nationwide energy expertise and knowledge to perform in-depth analysis of a property's energy consumption by recording data points, creating benchmarks for usage comparisons, discovering leaks, correcting erroneous rates and negotiating better overall rates, where available. "Recently our partners at Conservice were able to identify a sales tax billing error on a large asset," says Petersen. "Their legal team was then able to take the lead in pursuing a refund by the provider, resulting in a six-figure refund to our clients." Milwaukee-based Telkonet offers intelligent automation, occupancy-based energy manage- ment and Internet-of-Things (IoT) technology solutions resulting in reduced energy con- sumption and efficient utility management for student housing properties. "The most exciting advancements are the integration of intelligent automation and the IoT into the energy management process," explains Jason Tienor, chief executive officer with Telkonet. "Making use of abilities to ben- efit the end user in both energy savings and improved comfort or environments has cre- ated new products and services." Telkonet's automation solutions are typically able to reduce runtime by up to 45 percent for users, with savings concentrated around HVAC usage. The company's control of energy consumption through the automation of light- ing, plug load and HVAC enables energy sav- ings while also allowing Telkonet to create more proactive user environments based on occupancy, activity and third-party triggers, notes Tienor. These solutions offer benefits to the resi- dents, as well as the property operators, as overall energy consumption can be reduced across the entire property, from residential units to common areas. In addition to reducing utility costs, these third-party service providers help property managers stay abreast and in compliance with the ever-changing regulatory environment surrounding energy and utility management. Alperin explains that states are continuing to increase regulations and transparency on ener- gy and utility consumption through required data reporting and capping usage. "On the regulation front, there is grow- ing demand for greater visibility to data and reporting, while on the tenant and operator side there is continued demand for useable and useful data accessible in a simple and actionable format," she says. Kim MacInnes, national sales manager with Logan, Utah- based Conservice, agrees, noting that the company is seeing improved energy analytics become available to assist owners and operators in mak- ing more informed decisions regarding communities' per- formance and sug- gested upgrades. From advanced s u s t a i n a b i l i t y reporting, capital improvement track- ing, city reporting in mandated loca- tions to Energy Star Portfolio Manager uploads, and lender green loan reporting weather- normalized data, Conservice and other utility man- agement provid- ers are receiving more and more data points allow- ing them to create more comprehen- sive and accurate benchmarks, recommendations for energy and utility savings, and stay in compliance. Residents' Role Today's student residents are willing to con- serve, both natural resources and money, and one of the easiest ways for property operators to tap into this willingness is by billing back to residents for actual utility usage. Traditionally, many student housing proper- ties used allowances, estimations and caps for billing of resident's utilities, however man- agement teams that have switched to billing residents for actual usage typically experience a reduction in overall utility consumption as residents see the financial consequences of excessive consumption. However, with billing back comes the CASEY PETERSEN Chief Operating Officer, Peak Campus JASON TIENOR Chief Executive Officer, Telkonet

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