New NYC Benchmarking Rules to Include Smaller Buildings

Expanding benchmarking requirements to include buildings over 25,000 square feet will help the city reduce energy consumption and help building owners save money

As temperatures rise with the arrival of summer, so does energy consumption. The hottest days of the season put an exasperating strain on the energy grid, requiring us to turn to the direst generators of power. This not only leads to increased emissions but also to the release of particulate matter into the air,  exacerbating respiratory illnesses like asthma. As New York City’s one million buildings account for over 70% of the city’s emissions, building efficiency is a key part in the city’s overall push to dramatically improve air quality and reduce emissions.

A series of mandates discussed in a City Council hearing on Wednesday would help ensure that the city is using energy in the most effective way possible so New York City can reach its goal of reducing emissions 80% by 2050.

A law enacted in 2009 requires large buildings over 50,000 square feet to annually report their water and energy consumption in a process called “benchmarking”. While costing little money or time, benchmarking allows building owners to productively track how effectively their property is using energy and compare its own usage with similar buildings. The city can use this data to inform carbon reduction efforts and drive energy policy.  New York City can only begin to improve its efficiency if it first understands how and where it is using energy.

Intro 1163 expands the law to apply to buildings greater than 25,000 square feet to include more building owners in this commonsense building management process. By expanding benchmarking, the city can more fully understand its consumption patterns and identify the actions needed to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. The city’s retrofit accelerator program, which provides direct technical assistance to property owners undertaking energy retrofits, has handled roughly 1,000 projects so far. According to the EPA, benchmarking nationally reduces consumption by an average of seven percent over three years.

Additionally, Intro 1165 and 1160 will expand the number of buildings required to upgrade lighting systems and those required to install electrical sub-meters to report energy consumption information to tenants. Lighting upgrades will save both the city energy and property owners money. A typical building owner will see cost paybacks in less than three years, followed by ongoing savings. Sub-metering will benefit the businesses of this city, informing more tenants of their actual energy consumption, allowing for better improvement decisions to be made, and paving the way for financial savings.

Requiring sub-metering in smaller buildings will only be successful, however, if these rules are adequately enforced. The Department of Buildings (DOB) must be properly staffed and have access to the needed resources if it is to ensure that all of these additional properties that would be covered are in compliance.

These mandates are an essential step towards the city reaching its ambitious sustainability goals and we look forward to working with the Mayor and the Council to see that they are passed and signed into law.