New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide



New Energy Conservation Code, p.2


Local Law 87

Local Law 87 mandates an energy audits once every 10 years. An energy audit is "a process of identifying and developing modifications and improvements of the base building systems," which includes the building envelope, elevators, HVAC, hot water and electrical systems.

Many co-op and condo buildings have done this voluntarily to quality for tax breaks and LEED certification and the like, so it's not unfamiliar territory. You need to have an energy auditor authorized by "the department" (the law doesn't say which department; I'm presuming it's the Department of Buildings, but I'm not a lawyer and would it kill them to say it?) who submits an energy-efficiency report. With exceptions for newer buildings and buildings that have undergone recent major rehabilitation, the first energy report is due beginning in 2013. When exactly? "[I]n the calendar year with a final digit that is the same as the last digit of the building's tax block number."

You don't need to do even this once-a-decade energy audit if your building's received LEED certification within the last four years or an EPA Energy Star label for at least two of the last three years, plus one other almost comically convoluted exception.

The more controversial aspect of Local Law 87 is the part requiring "retro-commissioning." This doesn't mean that your co-op or condo has to suddenly put in a green roof, solar panels and a victory garden. It just mandates "repairing defects, cleaning, adjusting valves, sensors, controls or programmed settings, and/or changing operational practices … to optimize the energy efficiency of existing base building systems … before they require costly (and energy wasting) improvements," which you almost certainly do anyway, except maybe for the "changing operational practices" part, which can mean anything. Again, there are LEED and other exceptions.

Incredibly, however, you can't just repair defects, clean, adjust valves, etc. by yourself. Why? Because "[r]etro-commissioning must be performed by or under the supervision of a 'retro-commissioning agent' in accordance with rules promulgated by the department." On the bright side, since the qualifications for "retro-commissioning agent" aren't yet defined, it's possible — we're speculating — that it may be someone you appoint yourself, like your building's fire marshal.

Local Law 88

Finally, there's Local Law 88, which, though only six pages, contains a barrel-load of requirements. The lighting systems of covered buildings have to be upgraded to comply with the standards for new systems as listed in section 805 of the New York City Energy Conservation Code (which doesn't appear to be online).The good news? You don't have to finish doing so until Jan. 1, 2025.

The law also requires that electrical submeters be installed "in tenant spaces," meaning an apartment "that is let or sublet to another person by the owner or a lessee," which would technically cover co-ops but not condos (unless, perhaps, you're a condo-owner renting out your apartment. Again, not a lawyer, just a literalist editor-writer). Conversely, Local Law 84, the benchmarking law, defines tenant as "any tenant, tenant-stockholder of a cooperative apartment corporation, condominium unit owner or other occupant."

The law goes onto to say that each "tenant or subtenant" with a submeter has to be given a monthly statement of his or her electrical usage.


As with most any New York City building law, there are exceptions. Aside from some of the LEED-related ones mentioned so far, buildings listed in the State or National Register of Historic Places are exempt. Buildings designated by Landmarks Preservation Commission — either individually or as part of an historic district — are exempt from the building envelope and exterior lighting requirements, and any interior so is exempt from the code entirely.

Local Law 87, the energy-audit/retro-commissioning law, also includes exemptions for buildings with "financial hardship" as that law defines it.


The new code addresses a loophole in the New York State Energy Code that had exempted buildings where renovations were made to less than half of the building system. It's part of the city's larger, six-point "Greener, Greater Buildings Plan," which includes these four laws plus a workforce training program and a Federal stimulus-package loan program to help property owners to pay for efficiency upgrades. Greener, Greater is itself part of the long-range "PlaNYC 2030" report. In January, Mayor Michael Bloomberg's New York City Green Codes Task Force issued a report detailing 111 energy and environmental recommendations to add to the city building codes.

The goals, the city has said, are to upgrade infrastructure, reduce carbon emissions, lower consumers' energy costs, and create green jobs. From our analysis of the four new Local Laws, the mandated expenses for co-op and condo boards will be less in terms of capital costs than in cash outlays for accredited and authorized experts and consultants — and, less tangibly though almost certainly greater, the increased cost in time, effort and diligence that will be required by boards, property managers and attorneys.

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