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Retro-Commissioning: Using Local Law 87 to Push Money-Saving HVAC Tweaks

Jennifer V. Hughes in Board Operations on March 7, 2013

110 Riverside Drive, Upper West Side, Manhattan

110 Riverside Drive. Photo by Tom Soter
March 7, 2013

"They used Local Law 87 as a catalyst to really move forward," says Michael Scorrano, managing director at the energy-services company EN-POWER GROUP, which performed work at 110 Riverside Drive.

The co-op completed its energy audit in fall 2012, while simultaneously deciding to participate in the Multifamily Performance Program (MPP) offered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). This program covers condos and co-ops and also starts with an energy audit. If 110 Riverside successfully completes the MPP and reduces energy usage by 15 percent, the co-op will receive a rebate of $107,000. Under the MPP version for which 110 Riverside qualified, the building will get back part of the money spent on the audit, or about half of the $12,000 cost. (Scorrano notes that the current MPP does not cover energy audits.)

The audit showed that the co-op was doing extremely well. According to NYSERDA, it rated 67 percent, meaning that it was better, in terms of energy efficiency, than 67 percent of similarly sized and situated buildings.

Room for Improvement

Retro-commissioning is not

supposed to be a major item.

It's about tweaking things.

There is still room for improvement. The retro-commissioning work required at the co-op by Local Law 87 will include basic maintenance and repair work to the current boiler system. "We will put in new burners, a new burner management system; we will overhaul the boiler, tune the gaskets, that sort of thing," Scorrano says.

Also as part of the retro-commissioning angle, EN-POWER will perform a programming change on the boiler to reduce the overnight temperature by one degree. That work will cost only about $1,000, but just that one degree will save the building $2,500 annually.

"Retro-commissioning is not supposed to be a major item," he says. "It's about tweaking things and making sure that they work the way they should." All told, Scorrano estimates the co-op's retro-commissioning cost at about $25,000.

The audit suggested other measures that would not be required under Local Law 87 but would help the building meet its MPP goals. The biggest, as in almost all buildings, would be to convert from burning fuel oil to natural gas. The problem is that the building is in an area that is not currently piped to handle a boiler system load.

Scorrano says the co-op could pay an extra $100,000 for Con Ed to link the building to its system, or it could wait to see if the company decides to expand into the neighborhood on its own. If Con Ed starts to service the neighborhood fully, the cost to convert from oil to gas would be about $250,000 and the return on investment (ROI) would be about four years.

To see what other kinds of practical upgrades Local Law 87 can spur for condo and co-op boards, read part two.


Photo by Tom Soter. Click to enlarge.

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