Creating the optimal living environment in today’s public housing
Public housing authorities (PHAs) and owners are tasked with creating and maintaining living environments that provide a safe and comfortable home for their residents, whether they be the elderly, low-income families or individuals with disabilities. But that goal must also be balanced with operational concerns; these buildings must remain affordable, energy efficient and resilient for the future. With a wide reduction in capital funding, public housing residents often deal with unsafe and deteriorating living conditions, creating a less than ideal environment for vulnerable residents. This leaves PHAs and owners searching for building management solutions that will allow them to deliver an ideal living space for residents while keeping operations manageable and costs low.
Infrastructure improvements that save time and money
PHAs and owners can turn to automated, intelligent and integrated technologies to create this living environment. By connecting previously disparate systems – such as HVAC, fire and life safety, lighting and more – a building’s technologies seamlessly communicate to maintain a consistent and comfortable environment. For instance, connecting technologies like LED lighting and HVAC systems to occupancy sensors allows these systems to activate only when a room is in use, reducing the energy waste associated with maintaining unoccupied spaces. These integrations can greatly reduce utility costs while promoting environmental stewardship.
By managing these integrations through a building automation system (BAS), PHAs and owners have enhanced insight into their buildings’ operations. Through real-time analytics and performance tracking, equipment breakdowns and energy inefficiencies can be immediately flagged, allowing managers to address them faster and more thoroughly. With all building systems connected onto one network, there is more generated performance data than ever for managers to analyze and leverage for informed decision-making.
Advanced security solutions through connected technologies
Public housing facilities require advanced security solutions in order to protect vulnerable residents, but traditional physical security methods often leave dangerous gaps in safety. Integrating access control technologies with video surveillance allows PHAs to monitor building entry and occupancy in common spaces, ensuring security managers are aware of who is accessing the facility at any given moment.
During an emergency situation such as a fire or lockdown, communication is crucial, but is oftentimes difficult in larger housing campuses. By connecting intercom devices with fire alarms, verbal and evacuation instructions can be provided in real time as residents evacuate the building. Emergency lighting can also be integrated to more easily guide residents through the safest evacuation route in the event of visually impairing smoke. Alternatively, during a lockdown, door entry access can be suspended while residents shelter in place. By automating these security measures through systems integration, residents and staff can feel safe with the peace of mind that their environment is appropriately prepared to address the situation.
Choosing the right funding opportunity
As federal and state funding continues to shrink, so does access to municipal leases and bonds, leaving PHAs scrambling to find the capital for infrastructure improvements. But with the right alternative funding method, they can modernize their facilities and lower energy and operating costs without upfront capital expenditures – whether that’s through a Public Private Partnership (P3), Buildings-as-a-Service (Baas), or an energy service contract (EPC). An EPC is especially valuable for organizations who are working towards efficiency goals. By working with a partner, all the risks associated with design, construction, finance and operations are transferred to this organization responsible for the upgrades, and the associated energy savings can be redirected to pay for the project and allow grater budgetary space for other improvements.
Improving public housing community well-being
All PHAs want to create housing facilities that allow their residents to thrive. Making the necessary infrastructure improvements to accomplish this may seem daunting, but with the right solutions and funding approach, getting started has never been easier. By implementing smart technology integrations, PHA’s are empowered to create safer living environments that promote an improved quality of life for vulnerable residents, while keeping costs low and maintenance manageable.
Mary Fox is the director of public housing, Performance Infrastructure™ for Johnson Controls Building Solutions North America. With over 30 years’ experience in the energy industry and 20 years with public housing clients, Mary drives innovative solutions and infrastructure improvements, enabled by innovative funding mechanisms.