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A Secret Weapon Helps Secure New Boiler for Boston Area Property

When the application for funding to help replace the boiler at Julia Martin House stalled, the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC) and Peabody Properties deployed a secret weapon—the 87-year-old woman for whom the community was named.

Julia Martin lived in Jamaica Plain for the last 60 years and in the Julia Martin House, a 56-apartment-home community located in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood, since it opened in 2006.

“Marianne McLaughlin [and asset manager with JPNDC] had this wonderful idea of getting Julia Martin on the phone with the people who run all of the calculations and issue the final approval,” says Elizabeth Merzigian, Facilities Manager for Sustainability Initiatives for PPI. “She put Julia Martin on the phone to tell them all about the property, all about the elderly population there and how great the property is. That did it.”

The phone call helped Peabody and JPNDC fix a simmering problem at Julia Martin House—one boiler had failed and the second was on its way to failure. Through the community’s utility monitoring platform, management saw that the community trailed similar sized properties in energy usage.

After Martin’s call, the Low-Income Energy Affordability Network (LEAN), a Mass Save program administered locally by Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD) provided 100 percent of the cost for the $102,963 boiler system in September 2015.

“The LEAN program works because they have a certain amount of money allotted to spend with non-profits,” Merzigian says. “We knew the program would be a viable option for this property.”

McLaughlin said "While there was no doubt that JPNDC would find the resources, because that's what we do, it was truly a welcome piece of news that ABCD saw the cost effectiveness of this replacement for the LEAN program and was able to fit the Julia Martin House into the schedule!"

With the funding, Peabody installed two 96-percent efficient, 850,000-BTU boilers; a hot water boiler with two storage tanks; and low-flow showerheads and aerators for all apartments. The new system replaced two, 1.2.-million-BTU boilers and three 100-gallon indirect hot tanks that JPNDC installed when the community was originally built.

Julia Martin House’s new boiler system reduced gas consumption by 34 percent and shaved $6,086 from the gas bill. “The new boiler made a huge difference,” Merzigian says.

Peabody Properties, which has four-year-plus relationship with LEAN, has received more than $12 million in funding for energy conservation measures through state and utility incentives directed at affordable housing, and so far has achieved more than $2 million in annual savings through reduced utility costs.

Merzigan suggests that owners and managers who are interested in finding out about programs offering energy incentives, should visit the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency and the Department of Housing and Urban Development website.