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Streamlining Building Systems

Minding the money. After completing a long list of improvements, the board at the 20-story, 168-unit co-op at 201 E. 79th St. in Manhattan asked itself the same question it has been asking for years: How can we save money? The board’s recent achievements included a $28 million project to repair the postwar building’s failing white-brick skin, replacing all three elevators and installing a new chiller to run the central heating and air-conditioning system. The next step was making that system more efficient. 


The board got in touch with James Hannah, the managing director at Parity, a company dedicated to maximizing the efficiency of HVAC systems in multifamily buildings. “There’s frequently an opportunity to increase efficiency in postwar buildings with a chiller and cooling tower that provide central heating and cooling,” he says. “You have a lot of water that’s being heated or cooled, then circulated to apartments. You’re also drawing in or exhausting air. These buildings almost always use more energy than they need to.”


Constant communication. Hannah recommended installing 20 temperature sensors inside apartments that fed information to Parity’s software. With real-time knowledge of the building’s heating, cooling and ventilation needs, adjustments can be made 24/7 to the building’s Con Edison steam valve, chiller, cooling tower, pumps and fans. “We get everything to work in harmony to reduce waste,” Hannah says. 


A key player in this process is the co-op’s resident manager, Anthony Maldonado. “Guys like Anthony know their buildings,” Hannah says. “If there’s an issue with a piece of equipment or a complaint from a resident, the super can make a manual adjustment or give us a call.”


Maldonado adds: “The system has made my life extremely easy. The main thing is preventive maintenance — it tells me something’s wrong before residents even realize it. Since we went live last summer, we’ve been able to balance our systems so there’s no more over- or under-heating. And now we turn our fans and pumps down in off-peak hours. Instant savings.”


Money-back promise. Parity’s business model is to guarantee a certain level of energy savings. If those goals are not met, Parity cuts the building a check to cover the shortfall. This co-op’s hardware and software programming cost $50,000 after incentives from Con Edison and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. Parity’s fee for this building is $9,500 a year during a five-year contract. The upside is that the building will save an estimated $33,000 on its annual Con Edison electricity and steam bills, meaning the investment will pay for itself in less than two years.


“I think of this project as a streamlining of our building’s existing systems,” says Stefan Unger, a former president and current member of the co-op board. “The savings are guaranteed, and Parity’s fees come out of our savings. This was a no-brainer for the board because it’s going to make the building more efficient.” 

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