For most administrators of low-income housing programs in large cities, sustainability goals are not always on the top of the priority list.

But every dollar matters, and the appeal of energy savings cannot be overstated. For housing authorities, which manage millions of square feet of space, there is a critical need to slash energy costs without spending a lot upfront for retrofits that may not offer a fast enough payback.

Recently, Massachusetts' Low-Income Multifamily Program has identified $137 million in energy savings using WegoWise, a building data analytics firm that is focused on the multifamily market.

The public housing authority market has been a rich source of clients for the six-year-old company, which has been selling its software for two years. There are about 2 million multi-family buildings in the U.S., which comprise about 30 million units. Many of those, especially in the Northeast, are old building stock that is often performing particularly poorly. Although WegoWise works with many housing authorities, it also works with the private and institutional sectors.

Massachusetts’ Low-Income Energy Affordability Network, or LEAN, has been using WegoWise to monitor and benchmark water and energy use at more than 45,000 apartment units. By comparing usage, WegoWise has identified which buildings would benefit the most from retrofits.

“WegoWise has been instrumental to how we operate,” John Wells, co-chair of LEAN, said in a statement. “Now that we can capture total energy/water usage for multifamily properties, we can be far more strategic about our energy-efficiency retrofits and generate cost reductions. By identifying large energy users, we are able to allocate our resources to have the greatest overall impact for low-income residents who need it the most.” 

Most of the retrofits involve lighting upgrades and appliance upgrades, mostly new refrigerators. Some of the deeper savings come from buildings that can justify an HVAC upgrade or air ceiling insulation retrofit, according to Dan Teague of WegoWise.

“Since our platform has helped to identify more than $137 million in savings over the past year alone, they could confidently invest more,” said Barun Singh, founder and CTO of WegoWise, in a statement.

The potential for millions in savings is also just the beginning. Mass Save’s Low-Income Multifamily Program anticipates $500 million in lifetime savings and will use reporting from WegoWise to inform the energy efficiency plan for the state for 2013-2015.

The savings being delivered are the largest to date for WegoWise. The company is mostly in the multi-family space, but it knows its results could be broadly applicable. Earlier this year, WegoWise started working with USGBC to develop a way for homes to earn LEED points, and there could be partnerships with large building management systems in the future.