It has been estimated that approximately 75% of New York City’s carbon emissions stem from the energy consumed by buildings. Due to this, increasing the energy efficiency of existing buildings has been a central focus of the New York City Council. They have enacted four local laws, 84, 85, 87, and 88, which are part of a broader design called the Greener, Greater Buildings Plan, the most comprehensive set of efficiency laws in the nation. These laws, which create a New York City Energy Conservation Code, require retro-commissioning, energy audits, lighting upgrades and building performance benchmarks. These new laws signify a major shift in obligations being imposed on existing buildings as they were generally grandfathered or exempt under the New York State Energy Code as well as prior amendments to New York City’s code. These laws apply to ‘covered buildings’ which are presumed to have the largest carbon footprint. Covered buildings are described as (a) buildings that exceed 50,000 gross square feet; (b) two or more buildings on the same tax lot that together exceed 100,000 gross square feet; and (c) two or more buildings held in the condominium form of ownership that are governed by the same board of manager and together exceed 100,000 gross square feet. These laws became effective immediately and require businesses to have forward-looking planning and actions in order to meet the new requirements.
Local Law 87 requires that all properties larger than 50,000 square feet have an ASHRAE Level II energy audit and retro-commissioning studies performed on the base building systems every 10 years. Before building owners can file the energy efficiency report, they must certify the energy audit was performed, and the retro-commissioning was executed, within four years prior to the due date. The energy efficiency report that is due is comprised of the results of these processes, and focuses on the ‘base building systems’ that either use energy or impact energy consumption . Base building systems include several items including the HVAC system, building envelope and lighting systems. Compliance of Local Law 87 is being conducted on a staggered schedule between 2013 and 2022, and is being based on the last digit of the building’s tax block number. Building block numbers ending in 3 are due in 2013; those ending in 4 are due 2014, and so on. Failure to have a building benchmarked will result in a violation and a penalty of $500; with an additional penalty of $500 each quarter until the building is no longer in violation.
There are exceptions to having to perform an energy audit and retro-commissioning. Building owners do not have to conduct an energy audit if (a) the building has received an EPA Energy Star rating label for at least two of the three years preceding the year their filing is due; (b) the building has received certification under department-approved rating systems within four years prior to filling the energy efficiency report; and (c) the building’s energy performance is 25 or more points better than the performance of an average building of its type over a two year period with the three year period prior to filing the energy efficiency report. Retro-commissioning is not required if (a) the building has received certification under department-approved rating systems within two years prior to filing the report and (b) if the building has earned LEED points for Existing Building Commissioning Investigation and Analysis and Existing Building Commissioning Implementation. Some building owners have criticized the high price of completing the retro-commissioning and energy audits. However, it has been estimated that with the operational savings building owners will realize, the payback period is less than three years.