Turning Data into Action:
Office Buildings

By analyzing publicly available building data, our team identified strategic packages of retrofit measures well-suited to four common commercial building typologies, organized by heating and cooling system, and applicable to more than 70% of NYC’s large office buildings.

These retrofit packages offer options for building decision-makers to achieve moderate to deep emissions savings, and provide viable pathways to LL97 compliance for buildings at nearly any level of baseline performance.

Turning Data Into Action: Office Buildings (report)

Turning Data Into Action: Office Buildings (tearsheets)

executive summary

policy context: To meet the ambitious goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, the NYC government passed groundbreaking climate legislation in 2019 that places limits on GHG emissions from buildings, requiring owners to implement deeper energy efficiency and emissions reduction measures in more buildings than ever before.

What is Local Law 97?

Aligning New York State and City Policies and Regulations

key findings

1. Following energy audit recommendations alone will not suffice for most office buildings to meet 2030 emissions limits.|
Building owners needing to reduce GHG emissions by more than 5-10% to avoid LL97 penalties must take a more comprehensive retrofit approach than is typically recommended in energy audits, looking beyond base building upgrades and quick paybacks, and integrating tenant space retrofits into longer-term capital plans and investments.

2. Tenant spaces are essential to achieving deep emissions reductions.
Decarbonizing existing office buildings will require a new paradigm of owner-tenant collaboration—one that includes new leasing models, updated fit-out requirements that leverage tenant vacancies and renewals, and optimization of tenant-controlled systems, like lighting, appliances, and information technologies.

3. Electrification—removing on-site fossil fuel-based systems—must be part of long-term planning.
To meet increasingly stringent LL97 emission limits in 2030 and beyond, most large office buildings will need to phase out fossil fuel-powered equipment, and replace it with electric heating and cooling systems to leverage the statewide increase in renewable electricity generation.

4. Non-equipment factors cannot be ignored.
In addition to retrofitting major building systems like heating, cooling, and ventilation, owners must also consider non-equipment factors as part of a comprehensive retrofit strategy. These include variables such as tenant space uses, occupancy intensities, and leasing cycle impacts.

5. Succesful decarbonization requires capital planning that aligns leasing cycle and asset planning milestones with retrofit implementation.
A comprehensive long-term capital plan is a crucial tool for identifying and implementing GHG emissions reduction measures. Tenant turnover, building repositioning, and equipment replacement are key opportunities to increase cost-effectiveness and reduce disruption when retrofitting both tenant and base building spaces.

methodology: We examined publicly available data from LL87 energy audits, including information on buildings’ major heating and cooling systems, along with auditor recommended energy conservation measures and potential energy saving estimates.

We used this information to identify four specific office building typologies for analysis, based on common heating and cooling systems, as reported in audits: Central Chiller Systems with District Steam Heating, Packaged Cooling Systems with Steam Heating, Decentralized Cooling Systems with Hot Water Heating, and Decentralized Cooling Systems with Steam Heating.


how it works: This report’s associated tearsheets help owners identify carbon reduction pathways, including improvements to base building systems and tenant energy reduction measures, that can help them plan for long-term LL97 compliance. 

Step 1: Calculate your property’s annual GHG emissions and determine your target percent emissions reduction required for LL97 compliance.

Step 2: Download your tearsheet. There are four tearsheets—one for each of the office typologies identified in this report.

Step 3: Design your decarbonization pathway. There are three pathways identified on the tearsheets, distinguished from one another by the GHG emissions percent savings range possible from building baseline. Each savings pathway directs building decision-makers to a menu of relevant retrofit packages, or emissions reduction measures (ERMs). By combining ERMs, building decision-makers can build out a decarbonization master plan for long-term LL97 compliance.

looking forward: Although meeting emissions limits for the second compliance period of NYC LL97 will not be easy, our report finds that it is achievable for most office buildings.

This report and associated tearsheets demonstrate that each of the four office building typologies analyzed—and each individual building within those typologies—will need to develop its own pathway, select specific packages of emissions reduction measures, and create a long-term capital plan appropriate to their unique needs and constraints, in order to reduce carbon emissions to the degree required by NYC law. However, this report also reveals that many of the most impactful measures are applicable to the majority of buildings. These measures include replacing onsite fossil-fuel burning systems with electric-powered equipment, installing automated controls to manage lighting, plug loads, and HVAC equipment, and moving energy-intensive business operations—like onsite management of IT and data centers—to the cloud.

Despite uncertainty that may persist in the regulatory landscape in NYC and beyond—including details of energy codes and climate policies that may evolve over time—it remains clear that market demand and local, state, and federal regulations are all moving towards deep decarbonization of the built environment. This report offers guidance for office building decision-makers to start taking action to meet these demands, begin realizing the benefits of high performance upgrades, and lead the industry in building a safer, healthier, and more sustainable future for all.




report credits

Developed By:           

Building Energy Exchange                

CodeGreen Solutions          

Sustainable Energy Partnerships