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Making the best use of your roof space can require some creative thinking.
AUTHORTina Larsson, The Folson Group
We worked with a very proactive board on the Upper East Side that wanted to reduce its building’s carbon emissions and do the right thing for the residents. It was facing some $80,000 in fines in 2030 under the Climate Mobilization Act and wanted to develop the roof, so that’s what we did. The board was planning to do mandatory repairs under the Facade Inspection and Safety Program, or Local Law 11, and had already budgeted for scaffolding all around the building, which is 16 stories. So we suggested taking advantage of that by replacing the roof at the same time.
Putting Valuable Space to Use
The roof was the original one dating back to 1960. It wasn’t in bad shape, but the board wanted to replace it with something with a higher R value, which measures how well the insulation prevents energy from escaping. The board also wanted to increase amenity space by installing a roof garden, and solar panels were on its wish list as well. The challenge was how to make all of that happen, since there are restrictions on how much of a roof’s total area can be for residential use. So we came up with the solution of installing solar panels on the building’s water tower. The panels are on the south side of the tower and slant down over the elevator shaft, creating a shaded patio area while also maximizing the garden space. To our knowledge, it’s the only building in New York City with this configuration.
There are over a million rooftops in New York City, and fewer than 1,000 of those were actually being used a couple of years ago. It’s valuable space, so why not use it? Now the building has a roof garden with many sitting areas, and the solar panels offset 25% of the electricity used in the common areas. As it looks right now, the roof repair and solar panels will bring down the building’s fine in 2030. And we’re still working on other projects to make the number even lower. The board is also considering installing electric heat pumps for hot water. The building already had Con Edison come in and install LED lights not just in the common areas but inside individual apartments. Showerheads and faucets have been replaced with aerated ones, which use less water while keeping or even increasing water pressure. Everyone thinks that aerated shower heads and faucets mean they’ll lose pressure, but that’s not the case.
What’s the Lesson Here?
That there’s no better time to start than now, because there are so many different solutions to meeting the carbon reduction targets under the Climate Mobilization Act. But there are also huge costs. So boards need to develop a long-term plan and then roll out one alternative after the next after the next. If you hope to meet the ultimate goal of not being fined in 2030, there’s no time to waste.