New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine July/August 2020 free digital issue




Midsize Co-ops and Condos Are Outsize Energy Users

New York City

Energy use, Climate Mobilization Act, heating system maintenance, energy benchmarking.

Midsize prewar buildings use 12 percent more energy than larger buildings.

Jan. 23, 2020

A new study by the nonprofit Urban Green Council reveals, surprisingly, that midsize multifamily buildings are using more energy and producing more carbon than larger buildings – which could result in major fines if co-op and condo boards don’t take steps to meet carbon targets under the Climate Mobilization Act.

About 9,000 midsize buildings (between 25,000 and 50,000 square feet) must, like their larger counterparts, report their annual energy and water use. About 5,400 provided usable 2017 data, representing 31 percent of all benchmarked properties. Since multifamily housing accounts for the majority of new records, Urban Green Council focused its analysis on this sector. 

The conclusion: medium multifamily properties are burning a tremendous amount of oil and gas onsite, and they have the highest fuel energy use intensity of all benchmarked multifamily properties. This trend is strongest in the city’s numerous prewar buildings (those built before 1940). 

Because of their high fuel use, medium multifamily properties also use more energy overall. This difference is most notable between medium and large low-rise properties (under seven stories), which are similar in age and height. The midsize properties are using 12 percent more energy to serve essentially the same purpose, resulting in higher greenhouse gas emissions. 

A higher proportion of medium multifamily properties are above Local Law 97’s upcoming emissions limits: 27 percent are above the 2024 limit, and 77 percent are above the 2030 limit. The percentages for larger buildings are, respectively, 17 and 74 percent. That means co-op and condo boards in these buildings must act promptly to avoid steep fines. 

There’s good news. In many cases, these buildings may only need to make simple, low-cost changes to lower fuel use. Heating system maintenance and upgrades should be at the top of the list.

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