New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Business of Management 2021




Benchmarking Webinars to Help Co-ops and Condos Avoid $2,000 Fines

Bill Morris in Bricks & Bucks on June 16, 2021

New York City

Energy and water usage benchmarking, energy-efficiency letter grades, ENERGY STAR scores.
June 16, 2021

Though benchmarking – the annual reporting of a building’s energy and water usage – has been required in New York City since 2009, as many as 15% of buildings failed to file their mandatory reports in 2019, racking up fines of $2,000 apiece. In an effort to improve compliance, the city’s Sustainability Help Center will conduct two free webinars tailored to co-op and condo boards that have filed benchmarking reports in the past but need a refresher course.

The hour-long webinars will begin at 6 p.m. on July 15 and at 1 p.m. on July 20. To register, click here

Each building’s benchmarking data took on added significance last year when it became the basis for energy-efficiency letter grades. Under this system, benchmarking data is fed into the Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager. This online tool generates an ENERGY STAR score, ranging from 0 to 100, that compares energy usage in buildings of similar size and use. A score of 90 means that only 10% of similar buildings nationwide are more energy efficient. In New York City, these numbers are now converted into a building’s letter grade, ranging from A to F, which must be updated once a year and posted conspicuously near the front door by Oct. 1. In the controversial program’s first year, slightly more than half of the city’s 17,000 benchmarked buildings received a disappointing grade of D – reflecting an ENERGY STAR score between 1 and 54.

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For now, the city’s priority is to get stragglers to comply. “Because between 12 and 15% of buildings failed to file a report in 2019, we’re trying to get that number smaller,” says Lillibeth Liriano, an associate at the Sustainability Help Center who will participate in the upcoming webinars. “That number reflects a lot of smaller, self-managed buildings that maybe don’t have the staff or the ability to hire someone to compile their data. Maybe the person who’s doing it is not even aware how it’s done.”

Ignorance of such matters can get expensive. There are four deadlines each year for submitting data from the previous calendar year – on May 1, Aug. 1, Nov. 1 and Feb. 1. (Earlier this year, due to an unspecified “technical deficiency,” the May 1 deadline for submitting 2020 data was extended to June 1.) Failure to meet each of the rolling deadlines brings a $500 fine from the Department of Buildings. Therefore, failure to file a report results in fines totaling $2,000, plus a letter grade of F. Failure to post a letter grade will result in a fine of $1,250

“The webinars are designed for buildings that have benchmarked in the past,” Liriano says. “We’ll go over how to update energy info, how to request it, how to submit it to the city. A lot of people compile the data but don’t realize they have to take the additional step of submitting it. We also talk about energy-efficiency letter grades.”

There are, according to Liriano, encouraging signs that compliance is already on the upswing. “So far this year, submissions are very high,” she says. “On the surface, after the first deadline, it’s looking pretty good. Not 100%, but much better.”

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