Bill Morris in Bricks & Bucks on April 24, 2019
When two luxury condo towers known as the Edge rose on the Williamsburg, Brooklyn, waterfront in 2008, they boasted an impressive array of amenities, including a swimming pool, indoor basketball court, screening rooms, and much more. Those common areas, as well as the more prosaic ones such as hallways, stairwells, and storage space, were lit by fluorescent lights. A decade later, advances in technology had rendered those light fixtures obsolete. Which meant they were wasting money.
With a push from its management company, AKAM Associates, the seven-member condo board brought in the lighting contractor INF Associates to conduct an audit of the two towers’ common-area lighting fixtures. “No one was putting in LED lights back in 2008,” says Charlie dePuthod, president of INF. “The color of the light was very bluish-white. The technology has advanced a lot since then.” The price has also come down considerably.
After INF mapped out the cost and potential savings of a switch to LED fixtures, as well as the available incentives from Con Edison, the condo board sought a source of funding for the $127,000 project. It turned to the New York City Energy Efficiency Corporation (NYCEEC), a nonprofit that lends money for clean-energy projects.
“We went in with the super and took a tour of the common areas and amenities, from basement to roof,” says Posie Constable, NYCEEC’s director of business development. “First, we need to be sure there will be real energy savings before we fund a project. And second, we review three years of financials and the mortgage, if it’s a co-op, to make sure they’ll be able to get consent from their lender to take on more debt. This condo didn’t even have to tap their line of credit. They could keep that for emergencies. This was not a difficult financial analysis for us, and the energy savings were substantial.”
A $20,000 Con Edison incentive was available, which brought the out-of-pocket cost for the condo board down to $107,000. NYCEEC agreed to lend the full amount, though Constable says the corporation usually tries to get boards to put up some of the money.
INF set about retrofitting 1,363 fixtures to accept LED bulbs and added 97 new LED fixtures in the two towers, which have a total of 565 units. The retrofit will save about $40,000 on energy costs per year, meaning the savings will pay off the loan in less than three years.
“We approved this project because it’s good for the environment and it’s going to save us money,” says board president Dennis Lin, who works in finance. “The big picture is that these are already LEED Gold buildings, and we have numerous sustainability initiatives in place.” For example, he says, the property uses environmentally friendly cleaning products, compostable water cups and paper towels, and reusable shoe covers for people who walk on the pool deck. “Our board is always looking for ways to be more environmentally friendly and reduce our energy consumption,” Lin adds.
This LED retrofit was not a large project, but NYCEEC’s Constable says every bit helps. “While this was a relatively small transaction,” she says, “doing a series of transactions of this size is great. When boards ask me why they should borrow, I tell them it’s because their savings will cover their debt service.”
And for unit-owners at the Edge, their electricity bill will be cut by $40,000 a year, forever and ever.
PRINCIPAL PLAYERS – PROPERTY MANAGEMENT: AKAM Associates. ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR: INF Associates. LENDER: New York City Energy Efficiency Corporation.
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