It takes a vision. Derek Jones, the board president at the Sherman Terrace Co-op in the South Bronx, was determined to prove that a building doesn’t have to be rich to be energy-efficient. His campaign began shortly after he joined the board at the no-frills, working-class co-op in 2019, with a refinancing of the underlying mortgage that set aside $665,000 for capital projects. Based on an energy audit by the EN-POWER Group, an energy engineering consultancy, Jones had a long wish list of projects to help the 66-unit, postwar building cut energy usage and carbon emissions. It took a lot of convincing, but he managed to persuade his fellow board members to sign on.
To-do list. A new burner was installed, enabling the boiler to run on natural gas instead of No. 2 oil. LED lights were installed in common areas, and shareholders were encouraged to make the switch inside their apartments. The roof was insulated and resurfaced before 318 solar panels were installed. In 2021, their first full year of operation, they shaved $28,000 off the co-op’s Con Edison bill. The board then installed an electric submeter in every apartment — which meant the building’s electricity bill would no longer be baked into the maintenance but would be the responsibility of individual shareholders. “Now that people are responsible for paying for their own electricity, the hope is that they’ll use less,” Jones says. “Some people hated me for it, but it was the right thing to do.”
Success story. The co-op’s energy-efficiency letter grade, based on annual benchmarking of energy and water usage, has leaped from a low C to an A. “Derek wanted his building to be an example of what low- and middle-income co-ops can do,” says Thomas Morrisson, the director of energy management at EN-POWER who has been working with Sherman Terrace for the past three years. “Here, like in many buildings, a motivated individual sparked the push for greater energy efficiency.”
More to come. Jones hopes to install water-conserving toilets, and once the savings kick in, he hopes shareholders will be able to pocket their property tax abatements rather than having the money funneled into the co-op’s operating budget. “It’s hard for people to be patient, because even though we’re saving on energy costs, maintenance costs haven’t gone down yet,” he says. “If we keep a balanced budget, that’ll take a couple of years, and I’ll feel so much better when people see the changes. But I have to be patient, too.”