New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Business of Management 2021

HABITAT

ARCHIVE ARTICLE

On Top Of the Situation

The first question building owners need to ask themselves is: Do you want your roof to bring you headaches or joy? Do you want it to be a source of recurring costs or a source of revenue and profitable investment?

 

Just the Facts

For undeveloped roof spaces, the waterproofing membrane is exposed to the sun and the elements, and it takes a real beating. It breaks down over time, cracking, leaking and inevitably needing repairs. You obviously never get your money back on those repair expenses. But if you develop your roof with either a green roof or solar, suddenly all that changes.

 

Go Green

A green roof protects your waterproofing membrane and extends its lifespan by 40 to 60 years. A green roof is actually the best way to protect your building from leaks. Green roofs are fantastic for our dense urban centers as well. They clean and cool the air, they manage stormwater, and they can be used to grow food. For owners of developed roof spaces, the sun goes from being your worst enemy to being your best friend. On sunny days a green roof with a deck is an amazing amenity that increases property values and the quality of life for the residents.

 

Capture the Sunshine

And if you put solar panels on your roof, instead of the sun's rays burning holes in your roof, now they're being intercepted by the solar panels and converted into electricity that lowers your utility bill. Basically, for anyone with solar panels on the roof, it's raining money, and those solar panels are like buckets. It's that easy. It's worth mentioning that New York City's Local Law 97 will require buildings to improve their energy efficiency, and green roofs and solar roofs are eligible options for complying with this law and avoiding costly violations. Also, many buildings will likely perform a total roof replacement at some point, and that will trigger Local Law 92-94, which will require them to install a solar or a green roof anyway, so it's a good idea to get familiar with these concepts. We offer an integrated solar/green roof system that lets building owners enjoy the benefits of both systems. If your zoning laws allow it, you can go with a solar canopy with decking underneath. That way, you can have your cake and eat it, too.

 

Finding the Money

The green roof property tax abatement offers $5.23 per square foot of green roof built, and that's across the entire city. Eventually they're going to start offering $15 per square foot in certain priority areas. One financing option is PACE financing, which is now allowed in New York City under Local Law 96.

Basically, it's an optional financing mechanism created specifically to allow building owners to finance their energy-efficiency upgrades. The loan is structured in a way that lets the upgrades pay for themselves. The loan covers all the soft and hard costs of the energy-efficiency upgrades – with zero upfront investment from the building owners.

The loan payments are then spread out over 20 to 25 years, and each payment is less than the calculated annual energy savings for the retrofits. So building owners put no money down, and then they're cash-flow-positive from Day 1 until the retrofits are completely paid off. PACE financing lets building owners be compliant with all of these laws without spending their own money. There are also many layers of financial incentives at the federal, state and city level.

 

Community Solar

This is the newest ownership model option available to New York City co-ops and condos that are looking to go solar. Rather than paying to install solar panels, boards simply rent out their unused roof space to community solar vendors, who install solar panels. Building owners can either collect an annual lease payment for 25 years, or, if they’re due for one, they can get a complete roof repair free. Owners basically put down no money, and then they're not responsible for maintaining the panels, so there's zero risk. They're complying with all of those laws, and they just basically sit back and collect the checks. Further, the building collects a property tax abatement from the solar installation, and each individual resident has the option to buy this cheap electricity at a further 10% reduction, lowering their own utility bills. Simply put, this is a great way to turn your rooftop from a costly headache into a revenue stream that brings you joy.

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