Longwood Towers: A Condominium Complex Moves toward Energy Efficiency

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Alden Park Manor – Circa 1926

Longwood Towers on Chapel Street in Brookline has a rich history. Built in 1926 as Alden Park Manor, it originally served as one of the most prestigious residential hotels in the area and was home to sports legend Babe Ruth among other such notables.  Consisting of three Gothic-style brick towers, the complex has long been a landmark in town.  Its location means that it’s eminently walkable, with a walk score of 79, and public transit is right across the street, giving it a transit score of 87.  (Curious about your own walk score?  Go to walkscore.com and enter your address.  The higher your score the less you might need a car.)

The conversion of Longwood Towers to condominiums began in 2006. Two towers were converted to condominiums over a four-year period.  Chestnut Hill Realty (CHR) purchased the last tower in 2009 and completed the transformation to condominiums over the next year.   CHR was the sole Trustee from 2009 through 2011.  Since that time the Board has comprised three residential Trustees, one commercial Trustee, and one seat for CHR.

Upgrades to Windows

Beginning in 2005, 3,600 single pane windows were replaced with insulating glass windows.

Upgrades to Heat and Hot Water

In 2011, the common area heating and domestic hot water systems were upgraded.   The then-current steam boiler capacity was replaced with a combination of Lochinvar condensing hot water boilers and an Aegis cogeneration engine. In addition, a Johnson Controls system was installed to operate this equipment at a high level of energy efficiency.   All of the new units run on natural gas.  The project cost (before rebates) was $752,000. Rebates from National Grid and NSTAR totaled $292,000.

The result?  Gas usage for the new equipment was 30% less than the equipment it replaced.  The cogeneration engine produces 375,000 kWh of electricity each year.  The investment payback period was less than 6 years.

Reducing Electricity Consumption in Common Areas

Also in 2011, the Board used the Mass Save Small Building energy audit program to replace light bulbs and fixtures in common areas throughout the property.  Numerous motion detectors were installed to turn off or dim lights when a common space was not being used.  The total value of the work was $12,000, but with the Mass Save program, Longwood Towers paid only $3,600, and received interest-free financing.  Mass Save came back in 2015 to replace additional lighting with new improved technology that wasn’t available in 2011.

By taking advantage of these Mass Save audits electricity consumption was reduced by more than 140,000 kWh per year.  Longwood Towers’ investment was paid back in four months.

Additional reductions in electricity usage were achieved by installing variable speed motors and refurbishing additional HVAC control systems and rigorous attention to common area programmable thermostat temperature settings.

Consumption of purchased electricity has been reduced from 1.8 MM kWh in 2011 to 1 MM kWh per year since 2016.

Reducing Electricity Consumption in Residential Units

In 2014, the Board promoted the Mass Save program to replace in-unit lighting with energy-efficient LEDs at a third of the normal cost.  About 50 residents took advantage of this program, corresponding to a 30% participation rate for eligible units.  A few years later unit owners were offered low-flow faucet aerators at no charge, taking advantage of an MWRA program.  Nearly 150 units took advantage of this opportunity to reduce water usage, nearly all of the units that didn’t already have low-flow aerators.

Future Plans

Longwood Towers Walk Score

The Condo Board has approved a plan to install two electric vehicle charging stations in the summer of 2020, after garage renovations are complete.

For the most part, these efforts were initiated by the board as cost savings measures.   Residents were informed of and supported the Board decisions.    The benefit, besides cost savings, has been a significant reduction in the Longwood Towers’ carbon footprint.

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