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Five Steps on the Road to Compliance With Local Law 97

Gustavo Rusconi in Green Ideas on February 23, 2023

New York City

Local Law 97 compliance, building carbon emissions, co-op and condo boards.
Feb. 23, 2023

The clock is ticking for many New York City co-op and condo boards. In 2024 — a little more than 10 months from now — they will be required to reduce their buildings’ carbon emissions to prescribed levels, or face stiff fines under Local Law 97. The carbon caps will get progressively more stringent in 2030 and beyond. By 2050, larger buildings will have to reduce their carbon emissions by a staggering 80%!

With the first deadline looming, many co-op and condo boards are in the midst of planning or have already completed necessary upgrades. But for those just starting out — and for those stragglers who have not yet begun — the following five steps will get them on the road to compliance:   

1. Hire an energy engineering firm. This company will analyze your building’s carbon output, prepare an audit and devise a 10-year plan that identifies which systems should be upgraded immediately and which repairs and improvements may be completed gradually. This comprehensive audit should examine the boiler, chiller, hot water system and HVAC system. Guided by the audit, building management will work with the board to determine which systems may be easily upgraded and maintained by qualified technicians. It’s often cheaper to improve the efficiency of existing systems than to replace them.

2. Put together a long-term capital budget. This will cover projected costs for possible repairs and replacements, as well as potential fines. A budget spanning five to eight years is the most realistic, since anything beyond that is speculative and subject to change.

3. Tighten the building envelope. Replacing windows and repairing leaky roofs automatically reduces emissions. A building’s super can check to see if there are leaks from other building systems or areas, and he can identify which ones may be easily fixed. If your building qualifies, consider installing a green roof and/or an array of solar panels, which will not only reduce carbon emissions but also prolong the life of the roof. Several companies are currently paying buildings to rent their roofs so they can install solar panels. They then feed green electricity to the apartments, and the rental income helps offset the cost of other upgrades.

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4. Balance the heat. In older New York City buildings, it’s common in wintertime for upper floors to be too hot while lower floors are too cold. Compensating for the imbalance too often requires cranking up the heat from oil- or natural gas-burning boilers, which results in a higher carbon output. Placing sensors next to heating units throughout a building will identify problem areas so that heat can be distributed more evenly. It’s also important to check that steam traps are working properly and to make sure that all heating and hot water pipes are properly insulated.

5. Work with your neighbors. Just as two-thirds of New York City’s greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings, two-thirds of every building’s energy is used by the residents. A good start is to update the existing alteration agreement and require such sustainable elements as LED lighting and energy-efficient appliances and plumbing fixtures. Building-wide meetings can be organized to educate residents on the best sustainable practices, such as turning off air-conditioners when leaving an apartment on a hot day.

Many utility companies have partnered with energy management technology companies that provide guidance on websites and apps, such as GridRewards. Registration to the apps is free, and some of these technology partnerships pay residents for lowering energy usage during high demand times. This not only lowers residents’ monthly utility bills but also reduces the building’s carbon footprint. 

My message to all co-op and condo boards, shareholders and unit-owners is this: be prepared for possible upfront costs when taking carbon-cutting measures, but realize that they will ultimately produce savings, avoid fines, and provide health and wellness benefits to all residents. And you’ll be doing the planet a favor.

Gustavo Rusconi is vice president and director of management at Argo Real Estate.

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