Going green doesn’t have anything to do with choosing a natural paint color for your kitchen, or planting herbs in your community garden. But the phrase can have many different meanings and can be done across a broad spectrum. Turning off lights in rooms you’re not occupying is a small green move; installing a gigantic wind turbine on your building’s rooftop is a bigger one. Different communities throughout New York place green practices and programming at different positions on their lists of priorities—and the steps they take depend on funding, community interest, feasibility and other factors.
A Greener State of Mind
Co-op and condominium boards are getting the message that green is not only good for the environment, it is also good for the balance sheet. “Particularly in New York City there is a lot of growing awareness about going green,” says Marc Zuluaga, P.E., vice president and director of Multifamily Energy Services for the New York-based energy consulting firm Steven Winter Associates. “Major benefits include reduced operating costs, mitigation of risks associated with energy commodity fluctuations, improved reliability of equipment, improved comfort and improved indoor air quality and resident quality of life.”
While associations and boards might want to go green, the city is not giving all of them a chance, explains Zuluaga. New York City’s Greener, Greater Buildings Plan (GGBP) targets energy efficiency in large existing buildings. The GGBP was designed, in part, to ensure that information about energy is provided to decision-makers and that the most cost-effective energy efficiency measures are pursued. Zuluaga made special mention of Local Law 84 which requires large buildings to annually benchmark their energy performance and Local Law 87 that requires buildings conduct an energy audit and retro-commissioning every 10 years.
“There is often a champion on a board interested in green-energy issues,” says Zuluaga. “Sustainability committees are also becoming more common. While these folks can result in initial interest, all the more mainstream decision-makers on a board still need to be brought along.”
Allan Samuels, president of Energy Squared, an engineering consultant based in North Brunswick, New Jersey, sees more green opportunities than challenges for New York City. “New York, and its neighbor New Jersey has fantastic green, sustainable opportunities that can save buildings lots of money,” he says. Working with multifamily residential facilities, developers as well as commercial and industrial property owners, the firm provides mechanical, electrical and plumbing designs, specifications, building performance modeling, energy simulations and renewable energy services. “Compared to the rest of the country, New York has some of the best incentives,” he says adding that his company is currently working with 20 to 30 multifamily buildings that are benefiting from tapping into sustainable initiatives.