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A Co-op Board's Realistic Decision-Making Pays Off

Concord Village, Brooklyn, New York City

Co-op Compromises to Save Money on Energy
Dec. 30, 2014

A Realistic Compromise

The co-op settled on making enough upgrades to qualify for half the funds — $300,000 — to reduce the property's energy use by seven and a half percent, and sliced the budget down to $1.2 million. The projected annual savings were $150,000; the actual savings were $230,000 in the first year.

The lighting, air sealing, and heating upgrades made the biggest impact. The building replaced its indoor and outdoor lights with LEDs that were put on a timer instead of being on all day. The doorways in the staircase were sealed so heat didn't get sucked out. Contractors installed thermostatic radiator valves, which allowed residents to control the heat in their units and stop heating when the temperature hit 72 degrees.

The co-op also secured more state money to install submeters in each apartment. The cost of the new meters to switch three buildings — the other four had already made the switch — to submeters was $120,000 after the incentive.

There have been tangible results. In the first year, 84 percent of shareholders with submeters paid less than they used to for electricity. Of the 16 percent paying more, the highest bill averaged $150 more a month, according to Catherine Woolston, a board member who pushed for change in the co-op. She believes it went down because people were more conscious of their energy usage.

To fund the retrofitting, Concord Village borrowed against its $10 million reserve. The plan was to use the expected $150,000 in annual energy savings to pay back the reserve over 10 years. Since it saw $230,000 in savings the first year, the board is weighing what to do with the extra $80,000.

Of Projects and Managers

The board hired Project Management Group, a subsidiary of the property's management company, Akam Living Services, to act as project manager and oversee the renovations because, Woolston explains, "we knew this was too much of a burden for our regular staff."

Bringing Steven Winter Associates on board was also key. "Without the technical know-how, you can't get this done. You have to build a support network," says Woolston.

Co-op and condo boards are bombarded with information from contractors and engineering companies promising to improve the building's efficiency, confusing members as to where to start, according to Steven Winter's Marc Zuluaga: "There is a lot of noise out there."

In the case of Concord Village, Zuluaga was able to tell the board where its energy consumption was compared to other large post-war co-op buildings and what projects would have the greatest financial benefit.


Adapted from "Conserving at Concord Village" by Kathleen Lucadamo (Habitat, December 2014)

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