The New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) has been a leader in environmental conservation since 1891. Over the last decade, NYBG has transformed its Bronx campus into a 21st-century model of sustainability. By integrating energy efficiency into capital planning and piloting innovative energy upgrades, NYBG has reduced energy use by 21% and emissions by 53% per area sq. ft. and is saving nearly $300,000 each year.
NYBG’s commitment to conservation, research, and education is reflected in nearly all aspects of their work. For over a decade, NYBG has conducted strategic energy efficiency capital planning for their 250-acre, 38-building campus in the Bronx, integrating efficiency into the Garden’s broader capital planning process. NYBG uses annual carbon audits and ongoing energy monitoring to identify upgrade opportunities and measure progress towards their goal of reducing emissions 80% by 2050. Efficiency upgrades to date have been wide-reaching and included pilots of innovative retrofit technologies and strategies. NYBG has shared lessons learned with City agencies, community groups, peer institutions, and visitors, helping to accelerate New York City’s transition to a greener, more sustainable future.
Facts about the building
Energy Efficiency Master Plan
Year Project Completed
Year Base Buildings Completed
38 buildings (780,000 sq. ft.); 250-acre campus
Cultural Institution: Botanical Garden (Conservatory; Library; Offices; Academic Spaces; Research Labs; Visitor Services)
Facilities Overview: NYBG’s 250-acre campus features 50 acres of old-growth forest, 50 gardens and plant collections, and 780,000 sq. ft. of built space with 38 structures of diverse age, type, and use. Multiple natural-gas and dual-fuel fired boiler and chiller plants provide heating and cooling across most of the campus. Some plants serve a single building while others serve a cluster.
Organizational Overview: NYBG is one of 33 entities in the NYC Cultural Institutions Group (CIG). As a CIG on City-owned property, NYBG provides cultural services for New Yorkers and in return receives 10% of its operating funds from the City, including the cost of energy. The other 90% of operating costs are funded by private contributions, earned revenue, and endowment income. Over three decades, more than $350M has been invested in the Garden’s buildings and grounds, of which about 40% was provided by the City. The balance was funded primarily by private sources, including individuals, foundations, and corporations. For energy efficiency projects, the bulk of funding is provided by the NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services’ Division of Energy Management (DCAS DEM).
A. Heating, Cooling, & Ventilation
Converted to natural gas for primary heating fuel across campus; converted four buildings from steam heating to higher-efficiency hydronic; installed new scroll chillers, variable frequency drives (VFDs) and controls to improve cooling in five buildings; and installed variable air volume (VAV) controls to reduce ventilation energy use.
Piloted the use of nanotech additives to improve heat exchange rates in four buildings; and piloted component-by-component refurbishment of one building’s AHUs using with new return fans, dampers, digital motor actuators, and VFDs.
B. Domestic Water
Installed VFDs on 60% of pumps and motors; piloted installation of SmartValves; upgraded to high-efficiency condensing boilers in four buildings.
Upgraded interior and exterior lamps across campus to high-efficiency LEDs.
Upgraded from stand-alone Building Management Systems (BMS) to networked BMS; integrated new equipment and sensors with BMS; tuning and scheduling adjustments.
E. Additional Measures
Alternative energy development, including solar PV installations at two buildings; conversion to EV and CNG fleet of vehicles; and installation of CNG and EV charging stations.
Demand management with a commitment to reduce loads of to 25% during peak periods.
Education and outreach initiatives on- and off-site to inspire and empower the next generation of environmental stewards.
Carbon sequestration through organic gardening practices, mature tree care, and responsible land management.
All images courtesy of The New York Botanical Garden. Edible Academy photo (third row, right) (c) Robert Benson.
The New York Botanical Garden (NYBG); NYC Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA); NYC Department of Design & Construction (DDC) & NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services’ Division of Energy Management (DCAS DEM); NYC Council; NY State Parks
Oversight, Energy Management, & Planning Services
Grant Funding Provider
NYC DCAS DEM; NYPA; Con Ed
Between 2005 and 2017, NYBG reduced energy use by 21% and carbon emissions by 53% per area square foot, despite a building campaign that increased the Garden’s built area by 90% and a near equal increase in visitor attendance. The energy upgrades completed during this period cumulatively save NYBG nearly $300,000 each year.
Additional benefits include:
- Energy use and peak demand reduction
- Utility and operating cost savings
- Smaller carbon footprint
- Reduced pollution and stormwater runoff
- Improved ability to coordinate, schedule, and budget for projects using multiyear strategic plan
- Proof-of-concept for innovative measures through technology pilots
- Support for NYBG’s mission to protect natural resources for current and future generations
Building a Shared Vision
NYBG’s mission to protect natural resources drives their commitment to sustainability planning and climate action. This shared vision helps rally the Garden’s administration, Board of Trustees, staff, and visitors around energy capital projects.
Making the Case
NYBG leverages data from carbon and energy audits, BMS monitoring, and third-party feasibility studies when deciding which measures to green-light and prioritize. A project’s financial viability is always a top consideration, but NYBG also carefully evaluates energy and carbon savings potential.
Coordinating with Partners
As a quasi-governmental, non-profit organization, NYBG must coordinate with many partners and stakeholders to complete capital projects. Communication has been key to minimizing delays, resolving challenges, and streamlining the work process over time.
Getting it Right
NYBG’s facilities team work with their technology providers to ensure that all newly upgraded equipment is properly commissioned and staff trained on system operations and maintenance. NYBG also partners with the CUNY Building Performance Lab to analyze real-time BMS data and fine-tune systems.
Scaling up Solutions
NYBG uses measurement and verification (M&V) data to assess the impact of energy improvement projects and to decide whether pilot measures are worth repeating across campus. As a leading education institution, NYBG also shares M&V data with NYC agencies and peer institutions, helping to accelerate the adoption of new climate action solutions across NYC.
“We want to lead the charge for energy efficiency, sustainability, and climate action. When we learn about a good idea, we go for it.