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A Brooklyn Board Learns That Conserving Energy Is Not Impossible

Concord Village, Brooklyn, New York City

Concord Village Tackles Energy Conservation
Dec. 10, 2014

To compound matters, three of Concord's seven buildings still had master meters, which meant that shareholders living in them were paying a flat fee for their electricity, no matter how much they used each month. The result, Woolston recalls, was energy abuse.

Woolston had long ago thought it was time for a change. But transforming Concord Village into an energy-efficient housing complex wasn't easy. In fact, it took the board members four years of on-again, off-again discussion before they agreed to do something about it.


The board informed shareholders of its plans and put out a request for proposals for an energy audit. It hired Steven Winter Associates, a Manhattan firm specializing in cost-cutting measures and sustainability, to figure out where the co-op could be more efficient.

The consultant pointed the co-op to state funding, saying there was a rebate on energy fixes in multi-unit family dwellings.

The state would reimburse up to $600,000 in upgrade costs to Concord Village if the complex reduced its energy consumption by 15 percent. All it had to do was produce an energy audit and identify upgrades. And then make them. The catch? The changes had to be completed in a year.

"We matched the needs of the building with upgrades that made sense to the owner and the most suitable grants. It was a tailored process," explains Marc Zuluaga, the Steven Winter consultant who monitored Concord Village's plans with project manager Jason Block.

Taking the Plunge 

The first step was performing an audit to see how much energy the co-op was using, how the figure compared to other buildings, and where Concord Village could save money. The board then had to approve the audit before sending in the proposal to the state.

After the board submitted the audit to the state, a third party reviewed it to confirm the outlined costs and energy savings were accurate.

The next step was planning and executing the upgrades. Steven Winter's engineers walked the board through hiring contractors to make the fixes. The board approved the contracts. The state doled out the rebates as stages of the work were completed and inspected the work when it was done.

The final step was to make sure energy usage was reduced. Monitoring was tracked by WegoWise, both a company and an online tool that can follow a building's energy usage, benchmark it, compare its energy usage to other properties, and manage its utility information. This was information that the state wanted, too.

Co-ops and condos tend to not track energy use because it gets too pricey, according to Daniel Teague, director of business development at WegoWise. But thanks to Woolston's efforts, Concord Village is no longer predicting how much energy will be saved without question. Taking predictions as fact, says Teague, is "a big hole in efficiency."


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

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