Benchmarking Your Building Clock is Ticking for May 1st Deadline

On December 8, 2009, the City Council passed Local Law 84 as part of New York City’s Greener, Greater Buildings initiative. Article 309 of this law requires all residential and commercial buildings over 50,000 square feet and city buildings over 10,000 square feet to benchmark their 2010 energy and water use by May 1, 2011 and every May 1 thereafter. Inasmuch as this initial benchmarking is based upon 2010 data, this leaves only about 4.5 months to gather and publish the data for what is estimated to be 20,000 qualifying buildings. Should the deadline be missed, the NYC penalty is $500 per quarter.

What is the Process?

NYC requires the benchmarking process to use the EPA’s Portfolio Manager, which is an Internet-based database system. Basically, the process requires data collection for the entire 2010 calendar year regarding energy and water usage along with building size parameters, hours of operation (not applicable to multi-family buildings), and other pertinent information relevant to the building type.

Considering most residential units are separately and privately metered, complications with data collection are likely. However, Con Edison will provide 2010’s consumption for an entire building, broken down in a month-to-month basis, for a nominal fee of $102.50. For most residential properties, this will be the most expeditious method to collect such data. Water usage data is only required if the building was equipped with automatic meter reading equipment for the full previous year. Other energy use data includes: oil, steam, propane, and natural gas consumption. All energy use data is to be segregated on a per month basis. Once the data is uploaded, Portfolio Manager will produce a Statement of Energy Performance, which in turn will be filed with NYC.

What Type of Data Will be

Disclosed by NYC?

Following benchmarking, the Department of Finance will begin to publish information on their website no later than September 1, 2011 for city buildings. Non-residential building information will be posted no later than September 1, 2012, and residential buildings no later than September 1, 2013. Findings will be published on a recurring yearly basis for each building type following the initial disclosure.

Information disclosed by NYC will include the energy utilization index (BTU/SFG/year), water use per SFG, a comparison of data gathered from each year of benchmarking, and a Statement of Energy Performance complete with a score from 1 to 100 generated by the Portfolio Manager. Any score over 75 is considered very good and qualifies the applicant building to pursue an Energy Star rating. The energy utilization index information will be tracked and assessed relative to buildings of similar use. Since residential buildings vary depending on their size (SFG), number of units, size of individual units, unit mix, use of air conditioning, etc., discrepancies between building energy utilization index results can be expected.

What is the Purpose?

Primarily, benchmarking will make occupants conscious of their energy usage and will therefore set a standard of measurement for the reduction of energy use in the following years. Basically, the adage of “it must be measurable to be managed” would apply. Local Law 84 requires owners or their representatives to upload their annual energy use every May 1 going forward. Comparisons amongst similar residential use buildings will only be approximate given the variations between buildings. Nonetheless, the data garnered from benchmarking will be reported to the Mayor and Speaker of the NYC Council and will be instrumental in shaping future energy use reduction efforts.

What Needs to be Done?

Don’t wait! Given the estimated 20,000 buildings and the approximately 4 ½ months until the May 1 deadline, time is of the essence. Some residential buildings will likely collate and upload the data themselves. While the amount of data being requested is not unreasonable, the process will be somewhat time consuming, and it will take some time to learn how to adeptly manipulate Portfolio Manager to correctly process the data. Others may elect to have their property management company take care of the process.

There are also many energy use consultancies available to provide this service. Such companies can easily be found online and will handle the process of benchmarking on behalf of the client. Services vary by consultancy and in some cases go beyond just the aggregation and submission of data and include walk-through surveys, quarterly database updates, etc. Fees for such services will range from $1,000 to $4,000 depending upon such factors as data availability and building uses. A professional engineer, registered architect, or certified energy manager is not required to collect, review, supervise, or apply a professional seal to the data or results, however, having such professional expertise on staff may prove helpful should an owner wish to implement energy conservation measures. As with anything with a deadline to meet, fees can be expected to escalate as the May 1st deadline nears.

Conclusion

If your building, including cellar levels, is greater than 50,000 SFG, you must comply with NYC’s Energy and Water Use Benchmarking law by May 1st and every year thereafter. Start the data solicitation and organization now.

Josh Simon is with Energy Reduction Solutions (ERS), which provides energy auditing and retrofit consulting services, with offices located in New York, White Plains, Washington, DC, and Miami.

Related Articles

Hidden Energy Wasters

Finding Them Saves Money

What about the environmental impact of LED Lighting? How much energy does it save?

Reducing Energy Costs - and Waste

What Are Some Steps Boards Can Take?

Squeezing Your Own Juice

The Benefits of Cogeneration

Save Your Energy

A Look at the Resilient Power Hub

Multifamily Energy Conservation

What's on the Horizon?