New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide



Energy Investments: Multiple Projects Bring Big Wins

Catalyst on board. We have a 70-unit co-op in the heart of the South Bronx that was facing rising energy costs, a poor energy-efficiency letter grade with a low C, and penalties from Local Law 97. The board wanted to implement energy-efficiency measures and reduce operating costs so the building could maintain its affordability for working families.


The co-op has a very active board president, Derek Jones, who was incredibly motivated to tackle these issues and make the co-op an example of how older buildings, particularly in the Bronx, could be energy-efficient. We typically find that a lot of these green projects are driven by individuals on the board. They’re our biggest allies. They have to deal with any backlash and turn that backlash into optimism for energy-efficiency projects, because there’s always some trepidation among residents. 


Attacking on several fronts. Knowing that this board had a strong motivation to act, En-Power and several other contractors came up with a number of recommendations, and the board moved forward with several of those measures. At the heart of the project was a conversion from oil to natural gas. That included both a boiler upgrade as well as installing a separate domestic hot-water heating system so that they could run the hot-water heater only during the non-heating months, which provides significant energy savings.


Enhanced boiler controls with indoor temperature sensors were also installed throughout the building, and the common area lighting was upgraded to LEDs. The co-op also put in a rooftop solar array as well as a submetering installation. So now the shareholders are paying for their individual electricity consumption, which drives energy conservation. On the unit level, residents have worked with Con Edison to swap out their light bulbs for LED bulbs and have also gotten replacement showerheads and aerators. 


The board recapitalized its underlying mortgage to free up some capital to invest in these measures, so that it didn’t have to increase maintenance or have special assessments. The co-op is now going through the process to designate the building as an Energy Star-certified building. It had not been eligible for that certification before these efficiency measures were implemented.


The payoff of teamwork. This story highlights what co-op and condo boards working with an engineering firm can accomplish. Some of these projects were modest ones, utilizing existing systems without making drastic changes. The co-op did these projects over time, and all of them had payback periods of about five or so years, which made them very attractive to the board and the shareholders. And they’ve seen really significant results. In 2017, they had a low C energy-efficiency grade with a score of 58. In 2021, that score improved to a 94, which puts them in the A category. They’ve seen an overall reduction of about 30% of their energy usage and a complete elimination of penalties with Local Law 97 both in 2025 and 2030. It’s a wonderful success story.

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