Foundation Communities

At a Glance


Real Estate

Project Types

Commercial Energy Efficiency, Engagement and Behavior Change




Austin, TX

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Net Present Value:


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Annual kWh Savings:

1,000,000 kWh

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Annual CO2 Reductions:

1,000 metric tons


Tanvi Umarje benchmarked energy and water performance and identified possible efficiency opportunities at low-income communities in Austin and North Texas.


Foundation Communities is a non-profit organization based in Austin, Texas that provides affordable homes and free on-site support services for low-income families and individuals. The organization has 18 communities in Austin and in North Texas, which provide affordable homes for over 2,800 families and efficiency apartments for 600 single adults. EDF Climate Corps fellow Tanvi Umarje was assigned the task of evaluating Foundation Communities’ energy and water performance. The overarching goal for her summer project was to understand where Foundation Communities was with its energy and water use and identify where it should go next.


Umarje benchmarked the communities on the basis of their current performance, and selected nine communities in Austin and three in North Texas for energy and water audits. One difficulty she encountered during the audits was gathering accurate information about the current state of buildings. For example, it was difficult to determine how many HVAC systems had been replaced to date. There was no centralized data management system containing this information, so maintenance staff had developed ad hoc, site-specific ways to track this information. To overcome this barrier, Umarje was persistent and interviewed relevant stakeholders to collect this crucial information. After collecting and analyzing data for the 12 communities, Umarje realized each community was unique in its own way, and each needed some kind of individual treatment. She identified that duct sealing, envelope air sealing, attic insulation upgrades, upgrading to ENERGY STAR appliances and installing low-flow water devices were the most promising opportunities to improve energy efficiency.


Impact Investing in the retrofits and upgrades Umarje recommended would not only improve Foundation Communities’ environmental performance, but also benefit the organization and its residents by reducing utility costs. At the end of her fellowship, Umarje presented her findings to Foundation Communities’ Green Initiatives Director, Susan Peterson, who identified insulation upgrades and duct sealing as top priorities. If all of her projects were fully implemented, they could result in over 1 million kilowatt hours of annual electricity savings, 11 million gallons of annual water savings, $1 million in net present value and 1,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions reductions.

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