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City's Co-ops and Condos Cut Energy Use and Emissions

New York City

Benchmarking Report
Oct. 20, 2017

New York City’s largest buildings, including housing co-operatives and condominiums, have received a new report card on their energy and water use. And the grades are encouraging. Buildings that cataloged their energy and water use, a process known as benchmarking mandated by Local Laws 84 and 87, reduced their energy usage by nearly 10 percent and their total emissions by almost 14 percent from 2010 to 2015, according to New York City’s Energy and Water Use Report just released jointly by the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, NYU’s Center for Urban Science and Progress, and the nonprofit Urban Green Council. (Read the complete report here.)

“However,” the report cautions, “it is important to note that half of these declines are due to a cleaner electrical grid and [Con Ed’s] more efficient district steam generation. Building owners will have to dig deeper into energy efficiency to keep up the pace now that most New York State electricity generation from coal and oil has transitioned to natural gas and renewables.” 

The NYC Clean Heat program was a major contributor to the 14 percent emissions reduction. The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) phased out the use of the heaviest fuel oils – Nos. 5 and 6 – between 2011 and 2015. The City has achieved nearly full compliance with this regulation. 

Sean Brennan, research manager at Urban Green Council and primary author of the report, tells Habitat, “We found that buildings with master electric meters used 20 percent more electricity than those that were direct-metered or submetered. This is the first time we’ve confirmed that with actual data in New York City.” 

Building sectors varied in their energy reductions. After an initial 5 percent drop, the largest multi-family buildings – including co-ops and condos with 50,000 square feet or more – have been stagnant for the past few years, while offices have experienced regular declines, and universities have become the city’s all-stars with a 20 percent reduction. 

“This is good news,” says Russell Unger, executive director of Urban Green Council. “We must work harder and faster to reach the city’s goals to reduce carbon use 40 percent by 2030 and to cut greenhouse gases 80 percent by 2050. Still, the gains are encouraging, and the findings give us direction on how to get even better.”

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