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Green Team Goes After More Than Low-Hanging Fruit

Paula Chin in Green Ideas on April 13, 2018

Inwood, Manhattan

Green Team 1
April 13, 2018

Call them the Green Team. They are Kimberly Schwab, a former associate director at Battery Park City Parks; Osi Kaminer, who works in software sales; and Leslie Zema, a retired dance instructor. They comprise the green committee at the Park Terrace Gardens co-op in upper Manhattan’s Inwood neighborhood. Thanks to their hard work, this 397-unit, five-building, prewar complex’s energy bills have been slashed by more than $100,000 annually.

The changes started a few years ago when the city passed Local Law 84, which requires large buildings to submit yearly data on energy and water usage, a process known as benchmarking. For the three members of the Park Terrace Gardens green committee, it was a baptism by fire.

“We had to learn how to get the numbers from Con Ed for the whole co-op, the common areas and individual units, how to aggregate them, and how to score them – things that we had absolutely no idea how to do,” says Kaminer. 

Working with Douglas Elliman, the co-op’s management firm, the group quickly brought itself up to speed. In the process, Schwab and Kaminer realized that there was a lot Park Terrace could do to become more energy efficient. They began researching cost-effective ways to address their co-op’s unique problems. 

To begin with, there had been longtime complaints about heating imbalances. The green committee came up with a simple questionnaire and slipped copies under apartment doors. “Amazingly, out of 397 units, 318 of them replied,” Schwab says. “We had no idea that some apartments were so hot in winter that people weren’t just opening their windows, but actually turning on the AC. From that point on, we were on a mission.” 

In 2012, the committee forged ahead with the energy audit and system tune-ups required by Local Law 87, an expansion of Local Law 84. After diligently vetting several engineering firms, the committee went with Bright Power. As the report was being prepared, Schwab and Kaminer did more homework, attending conferences on how to comply with Local Law 87. 

When James Hannah, vice president of client energy services at Bright Power, presented his findings, the green committee gave him a pleasant surprise. “They didn’t want to just pick the low-hanging fruit and do the minimum retro-commissioning, like a boiler tune-up, to meet city requirements,” Hannah says. “They wanted a top-to-bottom job.” 

That would include installing high-capacity vents on riser lines and steam mains, upgrading to internet-enabled controls with wireless temperature sensors, and insulating bare piping. There were also such simple measures as installing weatherstripping and LED lighting, and recommendations to cover the AC units left in windows during the winter. 

The $430,000 project would pare Park Terrace’s energy use by at least 15 percent, thereby qualifying the co-op for a grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, covering half the total cost. And by slashing the property’s energy bills by around $100,000 annually, Park Terrace would recoup its investment in as little as three years. After that, it was money in the co-op’s pocket. Green Team, indeed.

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