As part of the Climate Mobilization Act, Local Law 97 places carbon caps on most buildings and has boards taking a really close look at how they can reduce energy consumption and their carbon footprint without spending a ton of money. A good example is an Upper East Side co-op with around 250 apartments that we are working with. It’s one of those classic white-brick buildings, and it was anticipating fines starting in 2024. The prevailing and traditional approach to energy efficiency is to say: “OK, we’ve got to put a lot of new equipment in our building. It’s going to be a big capital project. We’ve got to replace our boiler and our chiller, and it’s going to be a big to-do.” But another approach is to say: “Let’s get the most efficiency out of our existing systems.”
This building had an HVAC system, and instead of installing new equipment, we installed controls and used a real-time approach to help automate the way it works, to maximize efficiency and eliminate energy waste. A lot of buildings are overconsuming energy in the way they’re circulating hot or chilled water, the level to which they’re heating or cooling the building, and the amount of air that they’re ventilating. They’re providing hotter or colder water and circulating that water faster than they need to. There are a lot of savings you can capture through real-time controls.
This co-op was using natural gas. It’s a fan-coil building, so it has a cooling tower, central boiler plant, a chilled water loop, and a hot-water circulation loop for space heating as well as domestic hot water. It turned out the co-op was drastically overventilating, which means it was running the fans and the associated motors much faster than it needed to. It was also pulling more conditioned air out of the building faster than what was needed. By looking at these processes in real time, we are able to make changes to the fan speeds and generate a lot of electrical savings. To do that, we basically plugged the building into our real-time cloud to see what’s going on, and then sent signals to make adjustments to the fan speeds as necessary.
In these types of buildings where you have a lot of mechanical systems, there’s often a lack of optimization. It’s not necessarily any one person’s fault. Building staffs are increasingly tasked with more and more things that they need to do, and it’s just not fair to ask them to spend even more time making control adjustments all day and every day in order to eliminate energy waste. Companies have developed algorithms to help automate some of that, and buildings can leverage this and outsource some of the operation and control of these systems to boost efficiency. Once a real-time system is installed, there is staff training. There has to be a partnership between resident managers and the building staff. It would be naive to think that helping big residential buildings operate more efficiently is strictly a software or technology solution. There has to be help to resolve mechanical issues that might lead to a heating or cooling problem, and some of this can be done remotely.
This co-op is on track to save roughly $40,000 in utility costs this year. It was looking at Local Law 97 fines of roughly $60,000 starting in 2025, which is based on 2024 consumption. We think we can get them to a point where they won’t have any fines.