Recently New York City’s Bloomberg administration announced the completion of a benchmarking project for the city’s municipal buildings that will insure every city-owned structure in excess of 10,000 square feet meets very strict energy efficiency requirements.
The project, initiated on December 9, 2009 with the passage of the “Greener, Greater Buildings Plan” (formally known as Intro. No. 476-A, Benchmarking Energy and Water Use), puts the city at the head of a national effort to improve building energy efficiency aimed at reducing America’ carbon footprint and its use of highly pollutive fossil fuels to generate electricity.
For New York City, the benchmarking of 2,790 municipal properties represents a first step on a road which will benchmark both public and private buildings by May 1, 2011. The exception is only size; privately owned buildings must be larger than 50,000 square feet.
The Plan aims to reduce the city’s total carbon footprint by 30 percent by 2030 (originally 2017), with five percent of that reduction coming from government, commercial and residential building. After the initial phase is completed, building owners will be required to benchmark yearly.
For New York City, which worked with 28 individual city agencies under the auspices of the Department of Citywide Administrative Services to measure total electricity, natural gas, steam and fuel oil consumption, the achievement will allow the city to deliver energy efficiency funding (under NYSERDA, or the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority) to buildings most likely to benefit based on their age, size and condition.
The project used the U.S. Environmental Agency’s (EPA’s) Energy Star Portfolio Manager energy management tool, which is integral to the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification process, as established and managed by the U.S. Green Building Council, or USGBC.
The benchmarking paradigms, which include water as well as energy use, are expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the city by 1.68 million tons compared to 2006 levels.
Financially speaking, the Bloomberg administration expects to reach break-even on energy efficiency investments by 2013; two years later, it anticipates saving more on the city’s energy bills – which currently stand at US$800 million a year – than will be spent to retrofit the buildings.
It’s an ambitious plan, employing not only the EPA’s energy management tool but also TRIRIGA's TREES software to monitor and thus reduce energy use, which is currently responsible for about 64 percent of the city’s municipal carbon emissions.
Beginning Sept. 1, 2011, the city will post municipal building benchmark results on the Internet; a year later, commercial buildings will also be posted, on the same site as tax assessments.
On May 11, 2010 the Bloomberg administration also completed a solar assessment of the city, using a Shrike Commander operating a laser-guided viewer/mapper to determine how many roofs within the city are suitable for solar photovoltaic installations.
At a cost of US$450,000, it seems the most sensible assessment by a government entity yet, particularly as data will also be used to assess flood-prone areas.
The federal government also offers energy use assessment advice, assistance and funding to individual commercial building owners through its Commercial Building Partnerships (CPB), using ARRA funds to implement energy saving measures of up to 30 percent for existing buildings and 50 percent for new buildings.
This will likely be very helpful to building owners in smaller cities across the U.S., where municipal and regional government funding has been severely impacted by a recession that appears to be hanging on by its fingernails.
Image courtesy of Momos via Wikimedia
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