Multifamily Energy Savings Solutions Part 2: The Bigger Picture

In Part 1 of “Multifamily Energy Savings Solutions,” we introduced some relatively simple products and processes that individual owners or shareholders can adopt to reduce energy consumption and emissions and to save on their energy costs. 

Part 2 addresses the bigger picture: replacement of entire systems; working with advocates, government, and utilities to move toward greener energy; and, just as with the solutions mentioned in Part 1, achieving community buy-in and widespread implementation. 

Coupling with a Co-op

Jay Egg knows a lot about educating consumers and developers on the path toward energy efficiency. A former nuclear power engineer for the U.S. Navy, he became a leading expert on ground coupling—the technology that allows for a non-fossil-burning alternative for heating and cooling buildings—and now has a “practically evangelical zeal for sharing this technology,” he tells The Cooperator. Today he makes a living consulting and speaking on the subject with his business, Egg Geo, and was happy to talk to us about how geothermal technology is being implemented in multifamily buildings and communities. 

Even though he lives in Florida, where the weather inspired him to pursue innovation in the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) sector, about 30% of Egg’s work is in New York State—mostly because of the state’s progressive climate agenda and strong heating and cooling program with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), he says. He is currently working with the Amalgamated Housing Cooperative in the Bronx in an owner’s representative role as the 1,500-unit campus undertakes a conversion from a steam-absorption chiller to a geothermal heat pump for its two Towers—the newest of its 11 buildings and home to about 300 of its families. 

“Newest” is relative—the Towers were completed in 1968 and 1970, and many of the mechanical, electric, and plumbing (MEP) elements are at or nearing the end of their useful life. Long-time manager Charles Zsebedics relays that the galvanized drain pipes original to the buildings have so much build-up that condensation can’t drain, resulting in costly and disruptive flooding to apartments. With the supply pipes also at the end of their useful life, the entire heating and cooling system in the buildings is compromised. Additionally, the current chiller system’s cooling pan, also original to the buildings, has undergone so much patching and emergency repair that Zsebedics is not confident that it will survive the year. What’s more, the concern over cooling towers’ potential for spreading Legionella bacteria is especially pressing given the associated diseases’ symptomatic similarities to COVID-19 and the propensity they all have for exacerbating the already rampant respiratory illnesses that have been extensively brought about by the very emissions-heavy systems that the co-op is looking to replace. 

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