President and CEO,
Matthew Adam Properties, Inc.
Back in 2019 I wrote about Local Law 97 which requires all buildings of more than 25,000 to meet certain levels of carbon emissions by 2024 and then imposes more stringent requirements by 2030 and beyond to 2050. The city estimated that about 20 percent of buildings would require work to meet the 2024 deadline and nearly 75 percent by 2030. It seemed a long way off then and with the Covid pandemic descending about a year after the law was passed focus on complying was lax.
Well, the deadline is fast approaching and the city estimates about 2,700 buildings (including co-ops and condos) need to upgrade to comply with the first phase of the law. As with commercial buildings, most of those needing work are smaller properties.
It’s a combination of factors, says Darren Johnson, senior account manager of Bright Power, a provider of energy and water management services. “A lot of owners are hoping this will go away,” he says. Additionally, smaller buildings often lack the data to know how compliant they are. And time is running out.
“The timeline to do the work is closing fast for the buildings that need to get below the 2024 emissions cap,” Johnson says, so buildings that have done little are behind the eight ball now and need to move quickly.
One issue confronting buildings was the lack of rules, in effect putting properties in limbo notes Amanda Clevinger, policy and programs manager at Bright Power. The city released preliminary directives in October and after hearings is expected to finalize them in January.
The proposed regulations include formulas to determine a building’s energy use and annual greenhouse gas emissions and the limit to comply. It also sets forth the procedure to determine a building’s gross floor area for the purpose of reporting to the department. One area that is more beneficial to commercial properties than residential is permitting owners to comply by offsetting emissions from electricity by buying renewable energy credits from solar and wind projects. Most residential buildings run on fossil fuels for heating and hot water.
Clevinger points out that while the law is aggressive in seeking to limit carbon emissions, the city has not provided sufficient budget to regulate it.
What do buildings need to do to comply? Since most carbon emissions are generated within individual residences, buildings can leverage utility and NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research and Development Authority) incentive programs to reduce the use of energy in the units. Probably the first step is hiring an energy company to analyze current usage and help the building develop short and long-term plans. As I have previously warned, beware of working with a start-up company that formed solely to assist with compliance for the new law.
The city now requires annual benchmarking of energy use. This information can be used in determining energy usage and where reductions can be made.
Johnson said areas of concentration include heating and hot water to reduce the amount of energy they require. During this century, technology has come to the market to help properties control and equalize the flow of heat to reduce fuel use. Similar efforts can be made with cooling systems. This helps, coupled with work on the exterior and windows to reduce the loss of heat and air conditioning.
For hot water, Johnson points to such basic efforts as reducing the fixtures’ flow. Many larger properties have installed these improvements, but they do cost.
While numerous buildings and individuals now use LED bulbs, lighting overall does not represent the largest use of electricity in an apartment building.
Buildings requiring work to meet the 2024 requirements should take a long-range view, Johnson and Clevinger say. Just meeting the minimum standards for 2024 leaves a big gap to fill by 2030, which we have seen from the current timeline comes with the speed of a sprinter, not a marathon runner. So too for buildings in compliance for 2024 but faced with new equipment needs. These properties should look at options that will satisfy requirements beyond 2030 not just the most economic short-term solution. While it may be more expensive now, in the long-term buildings will come out ahead. Another factor when considering long-term planning is increased costs for materials and work as the deadlines approach.
President and CEO
Matthew Adam Properties, Inc.
375 Pearl Street – 14th Floor
New York, NY 10038