Think tank issues report on city building energy efficiency

Posted by on Fri, Jun 19, 2015 @ 10:06 AM
Major reductions in energy use and greenhouse gas emissions can be achieved with relative ease in large residential buildings as New York City works to dramatically cut greenhouse gas emissions, according to a report issued Thursday.


"Retrofitting Affordability" is the latest report of the newly formed Building Energy Exchange, a public-private think tank established after Mayor Bill de Blasio's declaration to cut city emissions 80 percent by 2050—most of which will come from buildings.

The report contextualizes reams of data collected by the city under a law established during the Bloomberg administration that requires buildings over 50,000 square feet to conduct audits of their energy use and identify areas of improvement. It not only makes recommendations for the buildings themselves but also for a more rigorous auditing process.

"It validates the energy audit process but it also points to this being its first year," said Richard Yancey, BEEx's executive director. "There's a learning curve in the process."

The report included six key findings for the class of buildings that are required to be audited:

—The buildings could reduce emissions by 11 percent and achieve $350 million in annual energy savings.

—Post World War II buildings account for more than half of the greenhouse gas reductions in multi-family buildings but cover only 38 percent of the square footage and account for 40 percent of the total estimated retrofit costs.

—Hot water and heating account for 50 percent of the potential energy savings.

—Half the retrofit recommendations would be paid back within five years in savings on utility bills.

—Affordable housing in several communities has "excellent potential for energy savings."

—Future audits need to be more aggressive.

The report is the second major effort by a building advocacy group to help use the data collected by the city to cull a narrative from the numbers. Capital reported earlier this week about the Urban Green Council's new site which compares building energy use to others in order to show where different buildings stand.

"I think there's a lack of trust in what are the true costs of these measures," he said "What is their payback and efficacy."

Finding capital for the retrofits is also a concern. The lending world has yet to view energy efficiency as a safe bet, to the chagrin of state and city regulators who'd like to see more financing for retrofits.

Among the suggested fixes are lighting retrofits, pipe insulation, and better fuel efficiency. 

Yancey and his group hope that if more landlords take the leap, more data will convince the banks that efficiency savings are a real thing.

"That's the issue," he said. "Banks loan off of datasets of thousands and tens of thousands."

The full report can be read here:

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