The Way of the Future?
By Danielle Braff
Energy is money. And in big co-op apartment or condo buildings, energy is big money—we’re talking thousands upon thousands of dollars in waste…or savings. Most folks know that turning off lights in unoccupied rooms, taking shorter showers, and turning down the thermostat a couple of degrees can help save energy—and by extension, money. Helping an entire building cut costs and reduce its carbon footprint can be a little trickier, however—which is why many co-op and condo buildings hire professional energy consultants to assess their energy profile and make recommendations as to how it might be improved.
It is very important for boards and management to understand what the energy consultants are looking for when assessing their building, and how they work with the boards and managers to suggest and to implement greener, money-saving measures for buildings of every size. There are also legal issues that must be taken into account when dealing with residential buildings in New York City.
Local Laws Enacted
In 2009, former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg enacted Local Laws 84 and 87 as part of his New York City Greener, Greater Buildings Plan initiative. New Mayor Bill de Blasio said he is committed to continuing the reforms in the PlaNYC initiative.
“The overall goal of these laws was and is to promote a citywide reduction in energy consumption,” says George Crawford, principal of Green Partners, a New York State Energy Research & Development (NYSERDA)-approved energy efficiency consultant company specializing in cost-effective strategies for buildings larger than 50,000 square feet. “Benchmarking information and scores can be helpful in evaluating a buildings’ energy performance,” Crawford says. “Below-average benchmarking scores can signal excessive energy consumption.”
Respectively, Local Law 84 requires the annual benchmarking for precisely these buildings, and applies to multifamily buildings, as well as commercial and not-for-profit properties. Failure to file reports results in violations and fines. Local Law 87 requires that buildings greater than 80,000 square feet perform an American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Level II energy audit and a retro-commissioning once every 10 years.
The timing for these audits is based on the last number of the block for each building. For example, says Crawford, a building with a block number ending in a 4 must file an audit report by the end of 2014. If the block ends in a 5, the report has to be filed by the end of 2015. The reports must be performed by a properly credentialed and licensed energy professional such as a professional engineer (PE) with a certified energy manager (CEM) accreditation.
Together, these two laws are meant to demonstrate to both the state and the building itself how much energy, the building is using. If it’s using too much, it should be corrected, says Frank Lauricella, director of business development with The Daylight Savings Company, an energy-efficiency engineering company based in Goshen, New York. “By collecting current utility data and using the EPA’s Portfolio Manager, a building’s energy consumption score can be evaluated relative to similar facilities,” Lauricella says. “Benchmarking can provide a cursory view of potential savings.”
If the building has a very high energy use intensity—or a low score—it suggests that energy improvements are very likely to have a high impact, he explains.
By virtue of Local Law 87, which is a very comprehensive energy assessment, the building will be able to identify energy saving measures and opportunities that may range from low cost (i.e., changing thermostat set points) to very capital intensive options (installing a new boiler, for example), Lauricella says. “The report will include the cost to implement, the energy savings, the cost savings and payback periods for each measure,” he says….