A critical tool for climate action, our study finds that implementing recommended efficiency retrofits would immediately reduce multifamily energy use in NYC by 11% and have a simple payback of less than 6 years.

Overview

Report Authors

Richard Yancey, Building Energy Exchange
Talia Kula, Building Energy Exchange
Ellen Abramowitz, Building Energy Exchange
Adam Hinge, Sustainable Energy Partnerships
Jeffrey Perlman, Bright Power
Sarah Newman, Bright Power
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The one million buildings in New York City (NYC) contribute roughly 70% of our city’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and must play a pivotal role in our fight against climate change. Large multifamily buildings, while representing only about 9% of the total number of buildings in NYC, emit nearly 30% of our building sector’s GHG1. Upgrading this essential part of NYC’s fabric will not only lower utility bills and harmful emissions, but will also dramatically improve the indoor health, comfort, and well-being of all New Yorkers.

The road to 80 x 50 – NYC’s ambitious commitment to reduce GHG 80% below 2005 levels by 2050 – requires tapping the huge, but often elusive energy savings potential embedded in multifamily buildings. Our second look into the wealth of multifamily building data being collected under the landmark laws of NYC’s 2009 Greener Greater Buildings Plan seeks to turn this potential into action. Examining an additional year of energy audit data has confirmed many of the initial findings of Retrofitting Affordability, this report’s predecessor. Now, with Turning Data into Action, we have taken the additional step of organizing energy auditor evaluations of building efficiency upgrade opportunities into complementary “packages” of energy conservation measures (ECMs), that are matched to key touchpoints in a building’s financial lifecycle.

By organizing the massive dataset of NYC multifamily building energy use and auditor recommendations into digestible packages, we hope to enable building decision-makers to better understand their retrofit options at critical milestones.

Methodology

To create these ECM packages, we have divided the diverse portfolio of NYC’s multifamily buildings into 12 major segments with similar  characteristics, such as age, height, and fuel type. For each of these building segments, we have developed “tearsheets” that outline a suite of ECM packages appropriate at specific phases or “touchpoints” within that building segment’s lifecycle. Each tearsheet includes analysis of potential costs, energy savings, and payback periods.

The lifecycle touchpoints used throughout this report are:

ECM Package Tearsheets

Grouping ECMs into packages by touchpoint makes it easier for building professionals to understand which efficiency measures to undertake and when to do the work.

Building segment-specific packages constitute a suite of measures that a building owner may want to implement together, according to the building’s stage in its financial lifecycle. Lifecycle touchpoints (described above) were assigned to each ECM based on LL87 audit reported cost and payback time as well as some expert opinion, and are not part of the LL87 audit data.

The packaging of ECMs by building segment and lifecycle touchpoint make it easier for building owners and operators to understand which measures are appropriate for their buildings at any given time, and which measures they should plan to implement in the future. The package tearsheets give building owners the opportunity to align energy efficiency retrofits with their property’s financing cycle and to plan for a phased retrofit. Additionally, the packages serve to highlight the audit findings for each given building type, and provide a more digestible way for building owners and operators to take action around their audits.

Sample ECM package tearsheet (side A)

Sample ECM package tearsheet (side B)

The cost, energy savings, and payback of each individual ECM were derived directly from the LL87 data. However, full package costs, savings, and payback have been calculated based on the expectation that an “Anytime/Anywhere” retrofit can deliver 5% energy savings, “Midcycle” retrofits can deliver 10% energy savings, and “Refi” retrofits can deliver 30% energy savings. The authors used these savings assumptions as well as fuel costs derived from NYC multifamily building EnergyScoreCards to calculate potential monetary savings and costs of each package of ECMs at each touchpoint.

It is crucial to note that each building has a different baseline of energy consumption and unique features. Therefore, it is important to work with an expert to develop a scope of work appropriate for your building. The analysis in this report is based on the first two years of reported data, and the quality of that data has yet to be determined (see Data Quality sidebar on page 17 of the full report). While almost all conservation measures listed on the package tearsheets are derived from the LL87 audits, the tearsheets do not list every ECM recommended by the auditors. Rather, industry experts have selected the most common and effective measures from the audits to be included in the package tearsheets. These packages provide guidance, but building owners should consult with an energy service provider or a NYC Retrofit Accelerator Efficiency Advisor before proceeding. Because of their unique building characteristics, Very Large Buildings and NYCHA properties are not addressed in the ECM package tearsheets.

Equipment Replacement Tearsheets

The end of useful life of a major piece of building equipment is a perfect time to implement energy saving upgrades. At such times, it is important not only to install a more efficient replacement (e.g. a new boiler), but to also upgrade the associated equipment (e.g. valves and thermostats). Although upfront costs are increased by including a more comprehensive suite of measures, projects that replace associated equipment as well as the major piece of equipment pay back more quickly over time.

The equipment replacement opportunities identified in this report relate to boiler replacement, domestic hot water system upgrades, window replacement, and roof replacement. The authors offer recommendations for potential related upgrades to consider undertaking when completing any of these projects.

Equipment replacement tearsheet (side B)

Equipment replacement tearsheet (side A)

Equipment replacement tearsheet (side B)

Cost estimates in the Equipment Replacement Tearsheets were derived from the LL87 data. However, savings opportunities were calculated based on expert opinion of reasonable savings percentage expectations and fuel costs derived from NYC multifamily building EnergyScoreCards.

Conclusion

New York is among the leading cities developing innovative solutions to our planet’s climate crisis. Lessons that we learn here are relevant to municipalities across the nation and around the world. Thanks to data collection laws passed nearly a decade ago, NYC has an increasingly clear understanding of how our buildings use energy and the significant role that buildings must play in climate mitigation. This report provides an overview of the substantial opportunities for carbon reduction in large multifamily buildings and presents user-friendly tools to help catalyze action.

Our report’s retrofit packages include simple, successful measures that have big impacts, quick paybacks, and can dramatically improve the quality of our living spaces. But addressing the full scope of our climate challenges will also require accessing the deeper savings, and more profound quality of life improvements, found in the packages with greater costs and longer paybacks. Implementing and scaling these deep energy retrofits is a significant challenge, requiring public and private stakeholders to work cooperatively. Each of the packages can be used as a starting point for building owners or managers to develop long term plans to fine-tune their energy systems, and gain more room to explore financing and funding options.

Much work lies ahead if we are to meet the challenges of our climate crisis. Cities and their buildings can provide meaningful solutions that dramatically reduce harmful GHG emissions and improve health and well-being. However, there are obstacles to success and buildings are slow to change. To realize this enormous opportunity, building owners, tenants, designers, engineers, contractors, policy-makers, officials, and manufacturers must work collaboratively to turn this potential into action.

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  • Retrofit
  • Multi-Family

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