Most of your buildings have a shareholder—or maybe two or three—who fit into a particular mold: you know, longer hair, Birkenstocks, vintage Woodstock t-shirts; or maybe yours has the $5,000 suit, $1,000 shoes, and starched attitude. They may look different, but both have the same agenda: “Green our building!”
These eco-conscious folks come in shades from helpful to militant, yet they all want to know how you are going to reduce your building’s carbon footprint. What’s more, they seem to have time on their hands to attend meetings and write thoughtful emails to other people in the building. In some incarnations, they want to do expensive pet projects like ground source heat pumps, solar panels, green roofs and windmills. Others want to go basic: organize recycling, green the cleaning practices, and train the maintenance staff.
Q. What to do with these diverse, well-meaning folks? Experience says to put them to work. As the managing agent and board have enough on their respective plates, give them a set of tasks and put them in charge of the green building committee you're going to form (if you haven't already). Here is a list of questions and tasks that can satisfy your building's gung-ho greenies, i.e., environmental activists, and save both money and resources in the process:
Q. What's our energy usage? Recent New York City legislation requires buildings over 50,000 square feet to quantify their heating fuel, electric, and water bills annually, total them, and “benchmark” the building’s energy and water usage. Later, buildings of this size will also need to have energy audits and retrocommissioning studies performed (we’ll discuss this in a future article). The benchmarking tool is free from the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA), and you can file yours a year ahead of time, while finding out how well (or poorly) your building is doing compared to others. Organizing all of these records, with help from the management company (much of your usage is available online from the utilities or a local water company) is a great organizational tool that your greenie can utilize for the board, it prepares you for the upcoming “benchmarking” regulations, and keeps your green shareholder busy yet involved in a very useful process.
Q. What's our usage per gross square-foot?Research on hundreds of buildings in New York City says the “average” building here uses about 1.1 therms of gas per gross square foot, .9 gallons of #2 oil, .8 gallons of #4 oil, or .7 gallons of #6 oil (the different fuels have different amounts of heat in them, so the average usage for each type of fuel is slightly different). That’s the average, or a grade of “C;” most buildings want to do better than that. The average building also uses about 2 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity in its common areas per gross building square-foot, and spends about 58¢ per gross square-foot on water. Talking to your oil company, utilities, and management company to get this information together will take a fair amount of time, but it will be a useful tool for the board to make better fuel purchasing choices going forward.