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GREEN IDEAS

Free Resource Helps Small Co-ops and Condos Save Big on Energy

Bill Morris in Green Ideas

brooklyn and queens

Community Retrofit

Workers measuring a Brooklyn rooftop for solar panels (picture courtesy of BlocPower)

Community Retrofit NYC is helping smaller properties in Brooklyn and Queens.

The energy-saving and cost-cutting campaigns of many large co-ops and condos are getting a boost from the city’s Retrofit Accelerator program, which advises boards on how to become more energy-efficient. Now the little guys are getting a boost, too.

A free city program called Community Retrofit NYC is tailored to small co-ops and condos and other multi-family dwellings – of five to 50 units – in a swath of central Brooklyn and southern Queens. Like its big brother, Community Retrofit NYC helps boards identify their buildings’ cost- and energy-saving potential, finds incentives and affordable loans, then locates contractors, reviews bid proposals and even trains the building staff.

“There are a fair number of incentives,” says Laura Tajima, a policy adviser in the mayor’s Office of Sustainability. “But small buildings and mom-and-pops don’t always have the resources. Often boards and building owners feel overwhelmed, so what we’re trying to do is curate resources for them, so they know who to go to, who to talk to. We’re directing people to the right resources.”

BlocPower, a tech start-up, is the lead contractor on Community Retrofit NYC, which was launched last summer. “We’re learning about buildings’ needs,” says Donnel Baird, founder and chief executive of BlocPower. “We’ve sent out a team of engineers to 175 buildings so far to create profiles of energy use.”

The resulting retrofit proposals fall into one of two categories. On the lighter side is the “low-hanging fruit” – LED lighting in common areas, thermostatic radiator valves, low-flow toilets, and water-saving faucets and showerheads. Heavier jobs include installing solar panels and retrofitting or replacing boilers. Whichever route boards choose to take, Baird stresses that the clock is ticking.

“Co-op boards tend to make slower decisions,” he says. “But some incentives have already gone away, and others are changing this year. We want to encourage people to use these incentives quickly.”

Among the providers of incentives are the city’s Department of Environmental Protection , the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, Con Ed, and National Grid. Low- and no-interest loans are available from the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, through its Green Housing Preservation Program. Meanwhile, the NYC Building Operator Training Program has begun offering a free, 30-hour course to train building staffs, property managers and board members how to operate and maintain building systems to maximize their efficiency and lifespans.

“Our main objective is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from buildings,” says Tajima. “Community Retrofit has the dual goal of achieving affordability through energy efficiency.”

It’s a noble goal. Buildings are responsible for 73 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the city. But there are signs of progress. The most recent NYC Energy and Water Use Report reveals that from 2010 to 2013, thousands of the city’s biggest buildings trimmed energy use by 6 percent and emissions by 8 percent. It’s an encouraging first step toward Mayor Bill de Blasio’s ambitious goal of reducing all city emissions by 80 percent by the year 2050.

Now, smaller co-ops and condos have a chance to pitch in and do their part – and save money while they’re at it. To learn more, click here or call 347-762-4792.

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