Council of New York Cooperatives & Condominiums
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Energy Issues

Published: Autumn 2012

Local Law 84 of 2009 launched New York City's campaign for a Greater Greener New York. It requires buildings of greater than 50,000 square feet to measure their energy consumption with a view to establishing norms and promoting energy conservation and reduction of each building's carbon footprint. In 2011 these buildings were required to begin the process with careful measurement of all internal space. Steam, oil or gas and electricity used in the building in 2010 were then entered into the EPA Portfolio Manager program, enabling the calculation of energy use on a per square foot basis. The data was forwarded to the Department of Finance whose responsibility it will be to score New York City buildings in comparison to one another.

As with any new program, there were challenges in the first year of implementation, but the City maintained a Benchmarking Helpline to answer questions and the filing deadline was repeatedly extended. Eventually an impressive 75% compliance was achieved, giving New York a valuable baseline statistical data, including more information on multifamily residential buildings than is to be found anywhere else. The report issued in August by the Mayor's Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability analyzes the information received and makes recommendations for improvements in future data collection, input and analysis.

The report found that buildings in New York City use less energy than the national averages, perhaps due to the high quality of its older building stock. It also found great disparity within categories between the most energy efficient buildings and the most energy intensive ones. The report points out that significant reductions in energy and greenhouse gas emissions could be achieved through improvements to the most energy intensive buildings.

The report identified actions that the City will implement to improve the quality of energy benchmarking and ease compliance for building owners, including:

  • streamlining the process of acquiring energy data through cooperation from private utilities, state regulators and technology companies.
  • improving calculation of square footage of buildings
  • clarifying benchmarking law and eliminating requirements which become unnecessary
  • seeking funds to maintain Benchmarking Help Center for an additional three years.

The second year of information has now been entered into the database, and there are refinements to that data. The City has taken strides to correct inaccuracies and misunderstandings identified in some first year filing. Estimates of individual use of electricity was permitted in the first year, but utilities have provided more complete data about 2011, and for this filing the Department of Environmental Preservation has transmitted water use data when requested. These measures will enhance the accuracy of data collected in 2012, and the City's next report will be able to study the comparison of two years of data in individual buildings. The Department of Finance will also provide 'scores' for each building's 2011 energy use from the information filed this year.

In conjunction with the City's efforts to create a Greater Greener New York, the Thomas Shortman Training Center of Building Service Workers Local 32BJ launched the 1000 Green Supers training program in September of 2009. This ground-breaking comprehensive 40 hours program includes text book and hands-on learning about all aspects of green building operations and maintenance. Mayor Bloomberg announced the start of this program along with Michael Fishman, president of Local 32BJ.

The Green Supers program is a cooperative effort between property managers, 32BJ members, union staff, and the city's greenest superintendents. The first 1000 Green Supers were congratulated in a moving ceremony in May 2011. But the demand continued, and so the program continued, funded in part with grants from the US Department of Labor. To date more than 2000 New York Supers have completed this program.

This achievement benefits the entire city. The building Superintendent is the key to efficient building maintenance. These graduates are firmly committed to maximizing their buildings' effectiveness in reducing energy use, lower operating costs, and preserve the environment. Members of Local 32BJ staff a majority of the residential buildings in New York City. The Thomas Shortman Center provides 32BJ members with a wide variety of classes at no cost, funded through grants and employer contributions as negotiated in the Union contract.

Members of the Realty Advisory Board on Labor Relations, Inc. (the RAB) serve on the Advisory Board of the Thomas Shortman Center, where the Green Supers program will continue to be available, as are advanced programs for Green Super graduates.

On Earth Day in 2011, the City promulgated a rule requiring the phasing out of #6 oil by 2015 and the elimination of #4 oil by 2030. As of July, 2012, the City has ceased to renew the triennial boiler/burner permit for any building burning #6 oil. The intent of the rule is to promote conversion to #2 oil or to natural gas, which is cleaner burning and currently far less costly. But this has not always proven easy, and the cost can be considerable.

The majority of buildings burning #4 and #6 oil are located in Manhattan and the Bronx. For larger buildings to convert to gas heat, they need to connect to a high pressure gas line (or install and maintain costly booster equipment to low pressure gas line). Con Edison has identified 507 buildings located in close proximity to high pressure lines and therefore eligible to have gas lines brought to their buildings at no cost. The list of these buildings is on the CNYC website. Many have already begun the process of converting to gas heat. Buildings not presently on the path of a high pressure line are encouraged to join with neighboring buildings to form a 'cluster' on a straight path from the existing high pressure gas lines. This will greatly reduce the cost of bringing the line to the building.

Note that the interior costs for completing a gas installation could be substantial, as a fireproof room is necessary to house the heating equipment and in many cases, it may be necessary to reline the chimney. With the significant discrepancy between the high cost of oil and the low cost of natural gas, it is anticipated that even the most complex installation costs will have a payback of less than five years. Many experts advise retaining the ability to burn oil as a backup when going to a gas fired system. This dual fuel option could shield a building in the event of a precipitous rise in gas prices or a gas shortage as hundreds of buildings convert.

The option that requires the smallest cash investment now, is to make the simple changes necessary to begin burning #4 oil. #4 oil is a mixture of #6 and #2 oil and therefore it is cleaner burning than #6. The estimated cost, without complications, is approximately $10,000 including necessary fees, consultants, permits and the labor itself. #4 oil costs more per gallon than #6 oil and is likely to become more costly still as it is modified to comply with the sulphur reduction standards. However, burning #4 oil will create less pollution than burning #6, and the boiler will no longer require monthly cleaning, but rather could be cleaned just two to four times a year. This switch gives the building time to explore various options and to prepare for 2030, when it will no longer be able to burn #4 oil. This will also provide time for the building to accumulate funds for that changeover.

Making the switch from heavy viscous #6 oil all the way to clear, pure #2 oil will involve additional costs and considerations. The oil tank will have to be cleaned and carefully tested for any possible weaknesses or holes. While #6 oil plugged these up, #2 will do the opposite and leaks can occur. Often it makes sense to have your tank relined to hold #2. Again, #2 will cost more per gallon than #6, but your equipment will now do very well with just one annual cleaning. A biodiesel component in #2 oil is available today from many fuel providers. Its use is required by law in New York City buildings effective in October. The requirements are described on page 11 of this publication as is the State Biodiesel Tax Credit program. The addition of animal or vegetable oil to petroleum has a positive effect on your heating equipment and can earn tax credits for you now.

At CNYC's 32nd Annual Housing Conference at Baruch College on Sunday, November 11th, Architect Young Suh and environmental attorney Isabelle Silverman will discuss Options when Switching from #6 Oil in a midday class. Consult the CNYC Conference brochure which you will find inserted opposite page 10 of this publication.

Local Law 87 of 2009 establishes the second big step toward a Greater Greener New York. Beginning in 2013, most New York City buildings of 50,000 square feet or more are required to have energy audits and to perform any retro-commissioning of building systems that the audit deems necessary. Retro-commissioning is defined as, "a systematic process for optimizing the energy efficiency of existing base buildings systems through the identification and correction of deficiencies in such systems, including, but not limited to, repairs of defects, cleaning, adjustments of valves, sensors, controls or program settings, and/or changes in operational practices." When this work has been completed, an energy efficiency report is filed. These energy audits are to be scheduled in ten year cycles, no more than four years before the building's energy efficiency report is due. Reports are to be filed in the year with the same number as the last digit of the building's tax block (buildings whose tax block ends in 3 must file in 2013 and then in 2023, those with block numbers ending in 2 file in 2022 and again in 2032).

Any building that has had an energy audit performed no earlier than 2006 has the right to submit an early filing for its first energy efficiency report. Its next report will not be due until the appropriate year per the description above.

Local Law 87 exempts from the energy audit requirement:

  • any building receiving an EPA Energy Star label (where there is no EPA Energy Star rating for the building, its energy performance must be certified to be 25 or more points better than the performance of an average building of its type) for at least two of the three years preceding the filing date for its energy efficiency report, or
  • buildings receiving LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification within four years prior to the filing of its energy efficiency report.

A registered design professional must certify this status.

Local Law 87 also states that an energy audit shall not be required for the first energy efficiency report of a simple building, where a qualified design professional certifies that the building is in compliance with six of the following seven items.

  • Individual heating controls in each dwelling unit or an energy management system incorporating 10 to 30 sensors to control the central heating system.
  • Common area and exterior lighting in compliance with 2010 New York City energy conservation code.
  • Low flow faucets and shower heads installed in all units.
  • Proper insulation of all exposed pipes that are used to convey heat or hot water.
  • Properly insulated domestic hot water tanks.
  • All common area clothes washing machines are front loading.
  • Cool roof in compliance with 2010 building code requirements.

The regulations that have been proposed for the implementation of Local Law 87 are stringent in their requirements for testing. When small samples of a building component fail a test, the design professional must proceed to test a much larger number of the component in questions.

Buildings able to do so are wise to file energy efficiency reports early, before these regulations are promulgated. Alternatively, careful fine tuning of all building systems prior to the energy audit will be helpful in ensuring good results (including the most important result: a building functioning at maximal energy efficiency!).

To learn more about the requirements of the Local Laws enacting the City's plans for a Greater Greener New York, visit the city website gov. You can proceed from there to the websites of the City Council for the full texts of these laws, or to the Department of Buildings or the Department of Environmental Protection websites for implementation advice.

At CNYC's 32nd Annual Housing Conference representatives of the Mayor's Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability will present a class entitled Audits & Retro Commissioning: What is Required. In addition there are many classes throughout the day stressing 'green' measures. Consult the Conference brochure, inserted opposite page 10 of this publication to select classes of interest and deploy a team of board members and committee members to cover them all.

Electrical submetering is a well recognized method of improving energy conservation and reducing costs in multiple dwellings. In master metered buildings, electricity is measured for the entire building and is billed at an advantageous wholesale rate. However, the cost of electricity is then included in each unit's monthly fees, with no measurement of use being recorded for the unit and no incentive for the resident to conserve electricity. Submetering the building involves installing an individual meter to measure and bill for actual electrical use in each apartment. The cooperative or condominium has the responsibility for generating the bills and collecting the electric fees, and the building as a whole continues to benefit from the wholesale rate for the power.

There was a period of time when the New York State Public Service Commission did not permit the submetering of electricity. This changed in 1979 and, in the interim, many cooperatives and condominiums have instituted submetering as a vehicle for energy conservation and also to charge people for the electricity that they actually use. Stiff requirements were put in place for securing shareholder or unit owner support for conversion to submetering, and even stricter requirements were imposed in to protect renters.

Decades of study reflect the advantages of submetering. Then, surprisingly, in 2011, the Public Service Commission proposed new rules for residential submetering that would, among other things prohibit its use in new buildings. CNYC was among many organizations, individuals and entities to file comments opposing these changes.

On August 21, 2012, the Public Service Commission published early drafts of Revised Residential Submetering Regulations, inviting comments by October 4, 2012. CNYC is happy to report that the modified regulations permit submetering in new construction and substantially renovated structures. The rules for conversion to submetering continue to be detailed and demanding, but this is how the Commission protects the rights of individuals.

CNYC continues to encourage members to consider electrical submetering as an effective means of curbing profligate use of power, of raising energy awareness and flattening the demand curve, and of charging individuals appropriately for the electricity that they themselves are using.


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