The Chicago Housing Authority provides residents with an allowance to cover part of their monthly utility bills. The formula with which the allowance is calculated must be reviewed occasionally, and in 2016 CHA retained Quercus Consulting to conduct a survey of its residents to determine the average energy consumption of these households. There are nearly 14,000 units which receive a utility allowance, and Quercus is conducting 550 in-home surveys, over 4% of the total.
A survey of this scale, and of this population, is unique, but Quercus’ implementation strategy is also original: the people conducting the survey are trainees with Greencorps Chicago, a green jobs training program managed by the City of Chicago Department of Transportation. Greencorps’ training projects are usually focused on landscaping and natural areas management, so the addition of the CHA survey project is giving the trainees experience with customer service and technology. The survey responses are being collected via a web-based app and the trainees record the data in the field using tablets.
The survey results will be a tremendous source of information for CHA and researchers. Quercus designed the survey and coordinated the site visit schedule, and will recommend energy allowances for every type of unit, such as a one bedroom for a single person, a three-bedroom home for a family, differentiating between units with aging appliances versus new ones, and other qualifiers. Our project will also produce fact sheets for residents on simple, low-cost actions to reduce their energy consumption.