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04.15.2011
New York Building Benchmarks
New law requires report on energy consumption.
Energy Star offers energy saving tips on its web site.
Courtesy Energy Star

As of May 1, New York City building owners with more than 50,000 square feet must report energy and water use through the Environmental Protection Agency’s Portfolio Manager Tool. Owners will get a benchmarking grade of 1 to 100, with 50 being average. The grade is not unlike miles per hour for cars—complete with fines—but the national program adjusts to reflect regional differences in fuel consumption. To arrive at the grade, building managers must input several variables into the program, including energy use, floor area ratios, number of occupants, and definition of space use. Within a year, potential buyers and renters could check on a building’s efficiency by going to the Department of Building’s website.

DOB spokesperson Jennifer Gilbert said property owners are ultimately responsible, but building managers will likely be the one’s plugging in the data. Non-compliance will result in a quarterly fine of $500 or $2,000 annually. The DOB will issue and collect fines. Owners will need to obtain energy use information from their tenants, but as privacy issues may hinder that effort, DOB will provide formulas to calculate information withheld.

In the weeks leading up to the public hearing, AIANY Chapter President Margaret O’Donoghue Castillo held a benchmarking seminar at the Center for Architecture to get out the word. Castillo said that as architects’ clients begin to understand how well their buildings are performing, the market would eventually shift toward efficient, high-performing buildings. She added that the new law has the potential to create more work for architects as they will be called upon to improve building envelopes, mechanical systems, and lighting. On the state level, the Center has received a grant from NYSERDA to develop a lecture series on the subject. She added that energy calculations are already required on all architectural drawings, and by September of this year the State will be conducting hard audits to make sure the numbers are there. Castillo noted that the local benchmark law fits in with the bigger picture. “This is something an architect should know how to do, whether they do it or not,” she said. “This is coming from the law, but it’s also what the AIA believes in. Our goal is to have zero emissions by 2030.”

Tom Stoelker