New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

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Problem Solved: Turning Aging Infrastructure Into Cost-Efficient Systems

Upper East Side, Manhattan

Energy efficiency, building carbon emissions, Climate Mobilization Act, co-op board.

(Clockwise from left): 333 E. 69th St., the new cooling tower, the new modular boilers (pictures courtesy of En-Power Group).

Feb. 14, 2023

As part of our ongoing Problem Solved series, Habitat spoke with Michael Scorrano, managing director and founder of En-Power Group.

The problem of aging infrastructure. Like a lot of buildings that were built in the sixties, the one at 333 E. 69th St. was reaching the end of its infrastructure life. The building also had issues with its distribution system. They were experiencing leaks in the summertime when the air conditioning sent condensate through the old drains, and the leaks were ruining shareholders’ apartment floors. They were on Con Edison steam, which is the most expensive form of heating and cooling. This building was spending around $450,000 on utility costs, of which around almost $300,000 was just for heating and cooling and making domestic hot water. So they were looking to see how they could reduce costs and set the building up for the next 50 years.

We took a look at their Energy Star score, and their resulting letter grade for energy efficiency was a big fat D. So they were below current New York City energy standards. We did a feasibility analysis, and what we finally came up with was getting rid of Con Edison steam for heating, and instead connecting to the natural gas system and putting in very high efficiency, small, modular, hot water boilers to provide heating and domestic hot water. On the cooling side, we looked at upgrading the steam chiller or using gas for cooling. We also looked at putting in smaller modular equipment that eliminated a lot of the costs of hoisting a large piece of equipment up on the roof. So we're really trying to maximize the infrastructure that was there and make it easy and cost effective when we went forward with construction.

One challenge after another. When they built the building, they installed a steam line from the basement all the way up to the roof. But fast forward 50 years, and we’re trying to find a way to bring a new electric line and a new gas line up to the roof in order to power the boiler and the electric chillers. Fortunately, this building had a open-well staircase in the middle, and we were able to design a fireproof chase and put the utilities in that — gas, electric and control wiring that sends signals to the equipment in the basement. It wasn't easy to design, but it was the right way to go.

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While we were doing the work on the distribution part, the pandemic hit and we had to shut the job down, which created a lot of turmoil. Then we had to restart it a year and a half later. So that was an added challenge.

Mission accomplished. In the end, they were able to reduce their heating and cooling costs by more than half. Their energy-efficiency letter grade went from a D to a nice solid B. They would've been facing a $66,000 a year penalty starting in cycle 2030 of the Climate Mobilization Act. By doing this project, they're not going to have any penalties through the 2034 period.

Every building is unique. I think the first thing to do is to have somebody who’s familiar with New York City infrastructure and buildings come in and properly evaluate how your building is operating. It’s not one size fits all. After we do our analysis, we crunch all the numbers and look at various options and try to put together a nice, simple roadmap for the board to follow. Then the board can focus on what’s most cost effective for that particular building.

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