You can pass by many old industrial, commercial and residential buildings in the middle of winter and find the windows wide open, since the controls on the old steam heat systems are so primitive. They can have steel sash windows that barely keep the heat in. Andy Revkin writes that there are 22,000 buildings over 50,000 square feet in New York alone that could use energy upgrades. And now New York City is going to make building owners do it. Van Jones likes the idea:
"Getting buildings to waste less energy results in job creation and cutting carbon pollution," Mr. Jones said. "Money that was literally going out the window can be reinvested in businesses, in consumer purchases or savings."
Andy Revkin continues:
The New York requirements for buildings, if approved, would in theory reduce the city's total carbon-dioxide emissions by 2022 by around 3 million tons a year. That is equivalent to 5 percent of the city's total emissions of 63 million tons in 2005, officials said.
Of course the New York chapter of the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA), which claims to have "participated in the development of international model codes for energy conservation, indoor air quality," is against the idea:
In a recent letter to the mayor's office, Angelo J. Grima, the president of the New York chapter, said the plan to have upgrades determined by outside energy auditors could lead to inflated prices and the wrong solutions.
"We believe that the building prioritization of retrofitting is best left in the hands of the building owner/manager, not outside consultants who seek to bundle projects and lead to higher costs for our members," his letter said.
It is a difficult issue. The plan suggests that there would be an audit, "benchmarking," and Any improvements in windows, insulation or other building components that would pay off in saved energy costs over five years would be mandatory.
But if you do it on the cheap, insulate improperly, throw in crappy windows and don't compensate for the leakiness of the existing building by bringing in adequate fresh air, you can destroy a building in ten years and affect the health of the occupants. It has to be done with care. In New York City construction and with their questionable inspections, it often isn't.
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