Jackie Slocombe Talks About Environmental Stewardship, Sustainability, and More

February 13, 2024

photo of jackie slocombe

Jackie Slocombe is Mercy Housing's VP of Environmental Sustainability. Mercy is an early user of SAHF's Carbon Emissions Calculator and Roadmap.

We visited with Jackie to learn more about Mercy's sustainability efforts and use of SAHF's carbon tools.

Q&A with Jackie Slocombe

Why is environmental stewardship important to Mercy Housing and your residents?

Low-income communities and communities of color are disproportionately affected by climate change, air pollution, and rising utility bills.

At Mercy Housing, we are dedicated to environmental stewardship and improving the well-being of our residents. Our sustainability program focuses on reducing our properties' environmental impact (energy, water, carbon, waste), alleviating the energy burden on residents through reduced utility bills, and creating healthier living conditions. 

We achieve this by constructing or renovating our properties to be more energy and water-efficient and replacing gas-powered appliances with clean energy alternatives. Furthermore, we empower our residents to lower their utility bills through resident engagement initiatives and community solar projects. To learn more about our work, visit our website for valuable information and resources.

Can you tell us more about Mercy Housing’s energy and sustainability efforts?

Our organization has a strong track record as a leader in the affordable housing industry's environmental sustainability efforts. We have achieved significant results in reducing energy and water intensity, surpassing our goals as a participant in the SAHF Big Reach initiative participant. From 2013 to 2020, we achieved a 30% reduction in energy intensity and a 27% reduction in water intensity.

We were also among the first participants in the Department of Energy (DOE) Better Buildings Challenge (BBC) and successfully achieved our goals in 2020. In 2020, we recommitted ourselves to a new 20% BBC goal, aligning with our long-term performance goal for 2030. Additionally, we are a DOE Better Climate Challenge (BCC) participant, pledging to reduce carbon emissions by 50% by 2030.

In 2016, we implemented a groundbreaking Pay-From-Savings Energy Performance Contract focused on retrofitting properties with heat pump water heaters. This initiative, which included six of the first heat pump water heater retrofits in multi-family buildings, was the first of its kind in the affordable housing sector.

Currently, our efforts are directed towards planning and implementation to achieve our BBC and BCC goals. We strategically align our capital planning, rehabilitation projects, and retrofits to contribute to a 20% reduction in energy and a 50% reduction in carbon emissions. The SAHF Emissions Calculation and Carbon Roadmap guide our strategic planning and carbon reduction roadmap.

We are also focusing on electrification, applying for HUD funds through the Green and Resilient Retrofit Program, and strategizing on leveraging future funds from organizations such as the DOE and Environmental Protection Agency. We are preparing to comply with upcoming Building Performance Standards and increasing our staff accordingly.

We are scaling up our solar initiatives across our portfolio to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and utility costs. We are installing solar panels at 11 sites in California and Colorado. Additionally, we have multiple sites participating in community solar programs. In California, our partnership with Sunrun provides tenants with approximately 80% of the benefit, significantly reducing their electricity bills.

Furthermore, we actively address water conservation through leak detection and submetering efforts. For more detailed statistics and information, please visit our website. We are committed to our vision of creating and preserving healthy, sustainable, and affordable housing while addressing the critical issue of climate change.

What was the initial motivation behind Mercy Housing using SAHF’s Carbon Emissions Calculator and Roadmap Tool?

Formally joining the Department of Energy Better Buildings Challenge (BBC) in 2022 was a significant step forward. As we assess our progress toward our goal, it's crucial to determine our baseline year.

To effectively address the unique challenges in the multifamily affordable housing (MFAH) sector, SAHF developed a tool that allows us to extrapolate whole building data. This tool was created before any offerings from ICF, the BCC consultant, and provides more accurate carbon estimations where needed. 

Additionally, SAHF’s tool is more straightforward, avoiding the complexities of Scope III considerations that can be challenging to track down. It also requires easier inputs than other tools, with data easily exportable from ESPM.

For a deeper understanding of our work and to explore the numerous resources we offer, we invite you to visit our website. Together, we can empower affordable housing providers, developers, and residents to actively address climate change and create and preserve healthy, sustainable, affordable housing.

What, if any, insights or findings have the Calculator or Roadmap helped you uncover or better understand?

The Calculator has helped us assess current and past greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to determine a baseline year and track progress toward goals. We use the tool to calculate emissions for each year between 2021 and the present.

We use the Roadmap to project emissions scenarios in 2030 and evaluate the impact of a greening grid on our GHG reduction commitment. We strategically divide our portfolio using custom portfolio segmentation buckets to focus on this work. The Roadmap helps us gain insights from datasets like the policy landscape, which identifies areas where fuel switching is financially beneficial and where state policies are advantageous.