Director of Management,
Mark Greenberg Real Estate/Greenthal
Let Residents Know How Hard You Work
Setting the Scene
At a co-op’s annual meeting about three years ago, there seemed to be a lot of apathy. We didn’t have a quorum, and the discussion turned into the shareholders telling the board and the managing agent that they felt that there was not enough communication and transparency. One of the underlying issues at this master-metered building was high electric bills, and shareholders asked the board to focus on this issue and communicate what they were going to do about it.
Following the Action
This co-op has electric heat and electric air conditioning. It is master-metered and has through-the-wall PTAC units, which means that people’s electric bills can get very, very high. Additionally, a portion of the common areas is submetered and is added to each shareholder’s electric bill.
Some of the people felt – and probably rightfully so – that their electric bills were much higher than their neighbors in other buildings that got regular Con Ed service. We did many, many electrical upgrades to reduce costs. We started off by seeing what programs the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and Con Ed offered. We brought in electrical engineers, electrical consultants, NYSERDA experts, Con Ed professionals. We went to dozens of seminars. We examined all the ways to cut electricity bills. We found out that NYSERDA had a program where, if you did outside-wall insulation, you could reduce electricity uses substantially. You could also get a grant from NYSERDA to do that. That program saved us a great deal of electricity.
As we did all this, we were talking to shareholders about all the different variations for saving electricity: changing old appliances, their lighting, and the way they did things. We prepared and posted a grid of all the electrical charges for the last three years, and everybody could see the variations – the months when the electric charges were higher, how people were saving, and how the things that we did affected everybody. We are now two days away from having a cogen system up on the roof, which will also help with the common-area electric bills.
Doing It Right
We saved shareholders a lot of electrical money. But if we did it without communicating, nobody would have appreciated it. Shareholders don’t realize how hard a volunteer board and a managing agent work on their behalf. In this case, we did a fantastic job, but if we didn’t communicate it properly, nobody would have known.