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A New Tool to Help Co-ops and Condos Cut Carbon Emissions

Bill Morris in Publication Content on December 14, 2022

New York City

Local Law 97, building carbon emissions, fines, calculator, Building Energy Exchange.

A graphic from The LL97 Carbon Emissions Calculator.

Dec. 14, 2022

The calculus of Local Law 97, a centerpiece of the city’s ambitious Climate Mobilization Act, is mystifying — and terrifying — to many co-op and condo boards. The questions seem endless. Does the law apply to our building? If so, how much carbon are we emitting? What are our carbon emission caps in 2024 — and during the second round in 2030, and beyond? How big will the fines be if we don’t act?

Boards can breathe a little easier. A new tool is available to help them answer these questions — and it’s free. It’s called The LL97 Carbon Emissions Calculator, and it’s the brainchild of the nonprofit Building Energy Exchange (BE-Ex) working in tandem with the engineering firm AKF Group.

“This is something we started back in 2020, the year after the Climate Mobilization Act passed,” says Will DiMaggio, a senior associate at BE-Ex, who worked on the project with Michael Sweeney of AKF. “We wanted to create an interactive tool that allows people to search by entering their address. They’ll get data based on water and energy usage benchmarking information they’re required to deliver to the city every year under Local Law 84.”

The data that comes back is divided by the compliance periods set out in the law: 2024-2029; 2030-2034; 2035-2039; 2040-2049; 2050 and beyond. The data includes the building’s carbon emissions (based on the type and amount of energy it uses), its carbon emission thresholds, and the estimated penalties if no improvements are made to the building. It’s color-coded and easy to read. To use it, click here. (When entering the address of 312 W. 45th St., for example, enter 312 West 45.)

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“It was a matter of putting into code what was in the law — building use type and square footage, plus utility usage, including electricity, steam, #2 or #4 oil, natural gas, solar or cogen,” DiMaggio says. “For example, the law states that X amount of electricity usage produces X amount of carbon.”

DiMaggio points out that many buildings’ “carbon emissions below the threshold” number will decline during each compliance period, even if they make no energy-efficiency retrofits. That’s because the formula for calculating emissions takes into account the promise that the city’s electric grid will become increasingly green in coming years — that is, it will rely less on fossil fuels and more on renewable energy sources for its power.

The calculator takes into account the draft rules on Local Law 97 compliance that were recently released by the city’s Department of Buildings (DOB) but are still not finalized. After intense lobbying by co-op and condo activists, the rule makers agreed to expand the categories of building use types from the original 10 to the 61 types in the federal Energy Star program, which range from high-rise Manhattan co-ops to campus-like garden apartments in the outer boroughs.

“Our goal,” DiMaggio says, “was to give co-op and condo boards and other building owners a convenient way to see where their building stands. It’s a starting point from which they can think about long-term planning on how to reduce carbon emissions. We’re trying to increase literacy about Local Law 97 and other climate policies. And we’re hoping to stimulate action.”

To pursue courses of action, DiMaggio urges boards to get in touch with the Building Energy Exchange and one or more of the following agencies: the NYC Accelerator, the DOB, CUNY’s Building Performance Lab, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, and the New York City Energy Efficiency Corp.

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