Bill Morris in Bricks & Bucks
Ray Murphy isn’t trying to save the planet. He’s trying to save money. As it turns out, he’s doing both.
Murphy has been the resident manager at the 29-story, 266-unit Avery condominium on the West Side of Manhattan since shortly after the building opened in 2009. In that time he has overseen three capital projects that have saved unit-owners hundreds of thousands of dollars — while reducing the building’s carbon emissions enough to keep it safe from Local Law 97 fines through 2030. Given Murphy’s philosophy, more projects are sure to follow.
“I try to do something every year, take little bites,” Murphy says. “I view these projects as a money thing. Your budget is going to go up 3% or more every year because everything gets more expensive. We started doing these projects because they made financial sense.”
The projects may have started as a money thing, but, as a bonus, they’ve also turned out to be a planet-friendly thing. The Avery is living proof that the two can go hand-in-hand. Here’s the evidence:
Lighting upgrade. Back in 2015, while attending a meeting of a property managers’ group called the Emerald Guild, Murphy heard about newly available Con Edison rebates for buildings that upgraded their lighting by switching from incandescent to LED fixtures in common areas.
“When I heard about those rebates, it was a no-brainer,” Murphy says. “It was found money.”
The condo board brought in the lighting contractor Facility Solutions Group to oversee the installation of more than 500 LED bulbs and the replacement of some fixtures. The board used $60,000 from the reserve fund to pay for the project while the rebate covered the rest of the $180,000 price tag. With annual savings of $100,000 on its electric bill, the board recouped its investment in a little over six months. As a bonus, the LED lights don’t give off heat, which cuts the building’s cooling costs.
“Once I was on the bandwagon, I started watching things,” Murphy says. “We were starting to hear about a new thing called Local Law 97.”
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Heating and cooling. In 2018, a year before the city passed Local Law 97, the Avery board hired DVM Industries to perform a major upgrade of the HVAC system. “We took 24 motors out of our air handler and replaced them with energy-efficient motors governed by Variable Frequency Drive,” Murphy says. The project cost $50,000 and produces annual energy savings of $24,000.
Boiler room insulation. The board has just signed a $54,000 contract with Thermaxx to install insulating jackets on all of the equipment in the boiler room, which will prevent heat from escaping the boiler, pumps and pipes, thus reducing cooling costs and heat waste. The project will save $12,000 a year.
Murphy admits there’s a downside to this flurry of energy-saving projects. “Any time an outside contractor comes into a building, it’s a pain in the backside,” he says. “But when we have projects like these, it’s worth the aggravation. I would say to supers and boards, ‘Don’t be afraid of these projects. They should be front and center.’”
“Ray and I are on the same page on this,” says Slava Hazin, a real estate lawyer at the firm Warshaw Burstein who has been president of the five-member Avery condo board since the building opened. “Our fiduciary duty is to the bottom line. But the benefits to the environment make these projects a win-win for everybody.”
PRINCIPAL PLAYERS — LIGHTING CONTRACTOR: Facility Solutions Group. ENERGY CONSULTANT: Greenwich Energy Solutions. PROPERTY MANAGEMENT: Halstead. HVAC CONTRACTOR: DVM Industries. BOILER INSULATION: Thermaxx.
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