By Michael Steinweiss
The past year has changed the way New Yorkers live and work. The global pandemic has forced us all to stay at home, putting greater strain on our residences and leaving our offices temporarily vacant. To adapt to these lifestyle changes, buildings are operating differently and incurring greater expenses. While property owners work to keep buildings safe, it is essential that they not forget their energy compliance needs to avoid substantial fines.
In New York City, large and
medium-sized buildings account for nearly one third of the greenhouse gas
emissions, a significant contributor to climate change. In an effort to set a
citywide climate standard, the City passed a series of ambitious energy efficiency
local laws (LL84, 87, 95, and 97) which establish deadlines and emission
targets. While it may seem that some
of these citywide benchmarks are going to be met in the distant future,
property owners must be mindful of the yearly deadlines.
what you need to know.
First, building owners must be
aware of the NYC
Benchmarking Law (LL84) which requires buildings larger than
25,000 square feet (sqft) to measure their energy and water consumption each
year. This first step will force NYC owners to take stock of their building’s
performance, make the necessary efficiency adjustments, and will result in
greater transparency relating to energy and water usage. To avoid the $500
quarterly violations for non-compliance, annual energy benchmarking data must
be submitted to NYC Department of Buildings (DOB) by May 1.
For applicable commercial, mixed-use and
residential buildings of 50,000 sqft and greater, energy
audit and retro-commissioning is
required. Local Law 87 (LL87) mandates that every ten
years, based on the last digit of the buildings tax block number, a building file
an energy audit & retro commissioning report by December 31. Local Law 87
covers base building systems including the building envelope, HVAC systems,
conveying systems, domestic hot water systems, and electrical and lighting
systems to be reviewed for efficiency. Failure to file will result in DOB
violations of $3,000 the first year and $5,000 every year after until
compliance is filed.
The newest law to consider is
Local Law 95 (LL95). While New Yorkers are familiar with the grades outside of every
restaurant, this year, a similar standard and grading
system will now apply to a building’s energy efficiency. For buildings
over 25,000 sqft, letter grades will be assigned based on the energy star score
and must be posted by June 30. Building
owners must take action to avoid posting suboptimal letter grades in their lobbies. In 2020, the city average grade was a D!
Lastly, and the culmination of the Climate Mobilization Act (LL97), buildings over 25,000 gross sqft must ultimately require medium to large buildings to reduce their emissions by 40% over the next 10 years and 80% by 2050. However, NYC buildings must begin to meet the designated emissions intensity limits for each category by 2024 otherwise face fines proportional to the exceeded emissions limit. For example, a 100,000 sqft building emitting 1,400 tons of greenhouse gases (400 tons over the 2024 limit) could face a fine of over $115,000 annually until the limit is met. Once the 2030 limits are in place, that same building would be 900 tons over the limit and face an annual fine of over $244,000.
what needs to be done.
To meet these targets, and
avoid substantial fines, existing building owners must take immediate action to
identify retrofits, commissioning, and energy efficiency upgrades – a costly
and time intensive process. Buildings will need to submit a report each year
accounting for carbon emission limits for all covered buildings, prepared by a
registered design professional, showing their calculated limit as well as their
carbon emissions for the previous year.
These laws do not just apply
to existing buildings; new developments must meet these targets as soon as they
receive a Certificate of Occupancy. Energy models on the specified mechanical
equipment and design review will identify systems not efficient enough to
comply with the building’s carbon limit and will prevent costly upgrades needed
in less than 10 years. New construction is about planning for the future, and
it is essential that developers ensure their building’s compliance before the
project is complete. The capital investment on the front end will help avoid annual
New Yorkers have a lot on their minds these days. As we adjust to a new normal amid the global pandemic, building owners must take the appropriate steps to ensure that they are in compliance with the most recent energy laws. Don’t wait too long, and start your efficient energy compliance journey today. With reports of tenants missing rents and commercial vacancies, building owners cannot afford to incur penalties. We must all do our part to ensure that New York City is a leader in the fight against climate change.
*Michael Steinweiss is a principal of Efficient Energy Compliance a full-service energy consulting firm providing energy efficiency, management and compliance solutions for existing resident and commercial properties in New York City.
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