Located in Oakland’s Laurel District, the aptly named Theater Apartments offers 46 rental units in a building that served as a movie theater from the 1920s through the 1930s. After the theater closed in the 1940s, it was converted into studio and one bedroom apartments. These days, the structure’s design still evokes the early days of cinema: outside, the original marquee is flanked by two statue-topped columns, while inside, a lobby with a high ceiling and curved back wall has stairs that once led theater-goers up to the balcony.
Despite the building’s charm, it suffered from energy and comfort problems that are all too common among the Bay Area’s older buildings, making it a perfect candidate for the rebates and free energy consulting services offered by BayREN’s Multifamily program.
Property owner Al Stephens had two goals when he enrolled the Theater Apartments in the Bay Area Multifamily Building Enhancements program: improving tenant comfort and energy efficiency.
At no charge to Mr. Stephens, the program’s energy consultant, Association for Energy Affordability, analyzed the building’s energy performance issues and prioritized cost-effective upgrades. The building’s utility costs are included in the rents, so Mr. Stephens has clear financial motivation to reduce energy use.
AEA staff considered options for replacing the central heating system’s forced-air furnace, but determined that it would be more cost effective to insulate the ductwork and make improvements to the building envelope. Now, for the first time in the building’s 100-year history, the huge attic is insulated. In addition, the apartments were upgraded with energy-efficient windows that reduce drafts and cut down on noise from the outside. Other improvements included brightening the dim hallways with energy-efficient LED light fixtures and replacing old refrigerators with energy-saving models.
The Bay Area Multifamily Building Enhancements program’s comprehensive approach to building energy upgrades was a big draw for Mr. Stephens. Unlike the piecemeal approach of rebate programs he had encountered in the past, this program was designed to ensure that “big things got done rather than a piece here and a piece there,” he said.
3116 38th Ave., Oakland, CA
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