Though it has been in effect in New York City since 2009, questions about the City’s benchmarking law have re-entered the public conversation since the law was revised last year to include an additional 10,000 mid-size buildings. If you are a property owner or property manager and you haven’t been in on the conversation, you’re probably wondering what benchmarking is, and how the benchmarking law affects you.
Benchmarking pertains to the measurement and reporting of energy and water use in New York City buildings. Specifically, for those property owners that are required to comply, an annual report of energy and water use must be submitted to the City every year. The statute, previously known as Local Law 84 of 2009, has been expanded under Local Law 133 of 2016 and is now simply called the Benchmarking Law. Compliance is enforced by the Department of Buildings (DOB), and property owners who fail to comply are subject to violations and fines of up to $2,000 per year.
History and Context
Seven years ago, the City of New York set a goal of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 80 percent by 2050. Because buildings are responsible for about 70 percent of GHG emissions, the City subsequently initiated the Greener Greater Buildings Plan, a suite of laws that requires energy tracking and implementation of certain energy saving measures. Included in the plan was Local Law 84 of 2009, which requires owners of New York City properties with a single large building or a property with multiple buildings totaling more than 100,000 square feet to submit an annual report of energy usage. Approximately 15,000 private and City properties have been on the benchmarking Covered Buildings List every year since the law was enacted. While these properties account for fewer than two percent of properties citywide, they comprise 47 percent of New York City’s total floor area.
Citywide benchmarking data can be valuable to many—including property owners, policy analysts, and conscientious residents. Every year the City releases a public disclosure list of benchmarking data, which allows stakeholders to quantify and compare data against similar buildings in the City. Detailed data is used by analysts to track progress towards the GHG goals, and to help identify where energy reduction is needed most. Studies have shown a positive correlation between benchmarked properties and energy use reduction over time. According to the New York City’s 2016 Benchmarking report, a group of 3,000 properties that consistently benchmarked over a three-year period (2010 – 2013) dropped emissions by 8 percent, and decreased energy use by 6 percent. The NYC law has served as a model for other major cities, including Seattle, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Chicago, which have enacted similar benchmarking ordinances.
Every February, the Department of Finance publishes a Covered Building List that shows what properties must be benchmarked, and whether or not water data must be included. Owners of properties that are on the Covered Buildings List must record their data—including building characteristics and uses – using Energy Star Portfolio Manager (ESPM) software.