New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community
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Energy efficiency — and money savings — come to a South Bronx co-op.
1010 Sherman Ave., The Bronx
A man with a plan. Derek Jones, board president at the Sherman Terrace in the South Bronx, was determined to prove that a building doesn’t have to be rich to be energy-efficient. And so at his no-frills, working-class co-op, he embarked on a campaign to convince his fellow board members and shareholders that they, too, could cut energy usage and carbon emissions.
Spreading the word. It began, shortly after Jones joined the board in 2019, with a refinancing of the underlying mortgage that set aside $665,000 for capital projects. Based on an energy audit by EN-POWER Group, an energy engineering consultancy, he had a long wish list. “I wanted to get ahead of violations and chase grants from NYSERDA (the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority),” Jones says. At Sherman Terrace, a 66-unit, postwar brick building with a large retiree population, there was initially pushback to Jones’s ambitious agenda, so he sought to improve communications by posting a monthly newsletter on walls and online, and by publicizing notices through texts and emails “Some of the older people are resistant,” Jones says, “but improved communication lowered a lot of their anxiety.”
Let the work begin. A new burner was installed, enabling the boiler to run on natural gas instead of #2 oil. A separate domestic hot water system meant the boiler did not have to run year-round. LED lights were installed in common areas, and shareholders were encouraged to make the switch inside their apartments. Nearly 600 LED bulbs were installed, along with energy-efficient shower heads and faucets. The maraschino on this green sundae was insulating and resurfacing the roof before installing 318 solar panels, which was completed in early 2021.
Going above and beyond. But Jones didn’t stop there. The board embarked on a program to install 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,” he says. “Some people hated me for it, but it was the right thing to do.”
Quantum leap. The solar panels now provide about 30% of the building’s electricity. In their first full year of operation, they shaved $28,000 off the co-op’s Con Edison bill; for 2022, Jones anticipates those savings may increase to $35,000. The co-op’s energy-efficiency letter grade, based on annual benchmarking of energy and water usage, has jumped from a low C to an A. “There’s been an overall energy reduction of 29%, which is a huge improvement,” says Thomas Morrisson, director of energy management at En-Power Group, who has been working with Sherman Terrace for the past three years.
More significantly, the co-op will avoid paying carbon emission fines in 2024. The board is currently looking at $6,267 in fines in 2030, but between the submetering and fine-tuning the heating system — indoor temperature sensors were installed in individual apartments and common areas to adjust the heating output of the boiler — Morrison is optimistic the co-op can reduce its energy consumption by an additional 6% and avoid any penalties. “Derek wanted his building to be an example of what low- and middle-income co-ops can do — and he’s succeeded,” he says.
Jones is quick to point out that it’s been a group effort. “My fellow board members — past and present — deserve credit for what we’ve achieved,” he says. “We all share the responsibility of guiding our community down a path of sustainability.”
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