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Multifamily Housing at Continental Plaza, Chicago

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Continental Plaza’s affordable housing apartment building provides 164 one-bedroom apartments for seniors. Using the Affordable Community Energy, Inc.’s energy service company model, the building owner has been able to dramatically reduce the building’s energy and water costs with minimal upfront investments. Through lighting, HVAC, solar photovoltaic, combined heat and power, and water conservation upgrades, ACE helped Continental Plaza reduce its 2014 utility costs by over $47,000–cutting its energy bill by 23% and its water bill by nearly 5%. Furthermore, the retrofit measures resulted in over $784,000 in potential added property value.

The building's renovation included installing an extensive solar photovoltaic system on the Chicago rooftop, which generates about 200,000 kWh each year, and a micro combined heat and power system—a relatively new concept for multifamily housing in the United States—to generate electricity from wasted heat energy from the building’s domestic hot water. In addition, a 10-year shared-savings energy performance contract and power purchase agreement gives the owner the added benefit of a third-party providing the operations and maintenance necessary to sustain the efficiency savings throughout the contract.


Building data

The building, is located at 1330 West 76th Street, in Chicago. Originally built in 1956 for Continental Can Company, the building was converted into multifamily housing in 1983. The apartment building is 240,430 square feet, of which 142,358 square feet is above-grade and varies from one to three stories high. Each one-bedroom apartment is about 550 square feet, for a total rentable area of 90,200 square feet. The 98,072-square-foot basement is sparsely used for mechanical equipment and storage. The building is managed by the Hispanic Housing Development Corporation (HHDC), an affordable housing non-profit in Chicago.


Development team

Affordable Community Energy: owner of the energy project (subsidiary of HHDC)

Tropic Construction: General Contractor (subsidiary of HHDC)

eConserve: water conservation strategic partner

dbHMS: project engineers


Financial data

To perform the retrofits in the apartment building, ACE invested $1,641,154 for energy efficiency and renewable energy measures, and eConserve invested $30,692 for water conservation measures. The building owner contributed just $162,000 from replacement reserves to ACE’s investment and received more than $400,000 of capital expenses that the building would otherwise have had to fund. For 2014, the building owner saved over $47,000 in utility expenses, reducing its overall energy bills by $40,652; the savings could be even greater going forward since some energy-saving measures were not fully installed until March 2014. Moreover, the building owner saved another $6,413, due to reduced water bills.


For further information and details, you can download the relevant report elaborated by the Institute for Market Transformation (ICM) here.

Lessons learnt

Continental Plaza is an example of how energy and water upgrades can help preserve affordable housing while reducing carbon emissions and conserving natural resources. Furthermore, this project demonstrates that the multifamily affordable housing owners can enter into shared energy performance contracts that can reduce operating expenses, offer discounted and predictable energy costs, transmit real-time reporting of energy consumption to allow for timely troubleshooting, and increase property value due to increased Net Operating Income (NOI). Encouraged by the results of Phase I, the Affordable Community Energy (ACE) and the Hispanic Housing Development Corporation (HHDC) are now proceeding with similar measures on an additional round of HHDC properties and beginning to offer ACE’s services to other owners. In addition, private multifamily building owners can apply the results experienced by HHDC to undertake their own energy efficiency, renewable energy, and water conservation improvements.

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