New York City’s building stock is exceptionally diverse, and with that diversity comes a number of unique challenges pertaining to specific architectural conditions. This playbook provides solutions to some of the more common insulation challenges facing New York City buildings.

Report Background

Many New York City buildings, particularly those built prior to the 1980s, were constructed with subpar insulation. Hard-to-reach areas have frequently been left uninsulated, with some buildings lacking insulation entirely, and thermal bridges have often gone unaddressed. This report offers solutions to common insulation challenges, presenting targeted improvements that should be considered during more comprehensive retrofit projects.

Insulation upgrades benefit building owners, tenants, and occupants. Subpar insulation leads to energy waste, increasing energy bills for both landlords and tenants. Thermal bridges – places where thermally conductive materials increase thermal transfer between inside and outside – exacerbate the problem.

Example of a thermal bridge created by a concrete slab balcony, allowing heat from a conditioned exterior to escape into the outdoors through the concrete slab.

Poor insulation and thermal bridges also have an adverse effect on occupant comfort, causing building occupants to feel chilled near cold exterior walls and resulting in internal drafts that occupants perceive as a chill, illustrated in the diagram below:

Even imperfect insulation improvements can help mitigate these issues, offering significant cost savings and improved occupant comfort.

A building’s envelope is made up of the exterior walls, roofs, windows, and doors separating conditioned interior spaces from the unconditioned outdoors, controlling the transmission of heat, air, water vapor, and moisture.

New York City’s building stock is exceptionally diverse. With that diversity comes a number of unique insulation challenges pertaining to specific architectural conditions. This report focuses on some of the city’s more common insulation upgrade scenarios, including:

-Shared party walls
-Concrete slab balconies
-Unconditioned basements

Additional Resources

General information on upgrading building envelope performance can be found in the following reports from BE-Ex’s Tech Primer series:

High Performance Windows
Roof Insulation
Wall Insulation

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