Deadline for New York City's Pioneering Local Law 84 is Quickly Approaching

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Graphic Source: Chambers Design, Inc.
New York City is becoming a major force in blazing a trail for how to be a greener and greater city. Recently, the city government pioneered new local laws that have other metropolises playing catch up. These laws focus on identifying and improving the energy performance of all city-owned buildings along with large-scale commercial, mixed-use and residential buildings in the five boroughs. Of these new policies, Local Law 84 is the first to take effect. It requires buildings of 50,000 square feet or larger to measure and rate (or "benchmark") their energy performance. In two years, the information will become public. The deadline for benchmarking with the NYC is May 1, 2011. Buildings that do not comply will have to pay quarterly fines until they do comply. The law could transform how we understand energy usages allowing new perspectives of performance on a city-scale. The only thing standing in the way of this brave step into the future is, well, those responsible for complying. This could be the biggest obstacle yet.
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Graphic Source: NYC Mayor's Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability

New York City has identified approximately 16,000 buildings that must comply with Local Law 84. The law stipulates that all buildings 50,000 square feet, or larger, benchmark their buildings using Portfolio Manager, EPA's free, online benchmarking tool, by May 1, 2011. Portfolio Manager is an interactive energy management tool that allows you to track and assess energy and water consumption of a single building or a portfolio of properties. The tool provides a platform for owners, managers and others to set investment priorities, identify under-performing buildings, verify efficiency improvements, and receive EPA recognition for superior energy performance. When benchmarking is completed, the results must be reported to the NYC Department of Finance electronically using the submission report generated Portfolio Manager. This May is just the first of an annual report required by the city for these buildings. Every year, the report must be submitted by the deadline of May 1. Non-compliance will result in a $500.00 fine for every quarter the information is not submitted.

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Graphic Source: NYC Mayor's Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability
Are you Energy Star?
Once you have the energy data entered into the EPA tool, you will be able to rate the building on a scale from 1 - 100. The rating is a comparison to similar buildings nationwide, and isn't compared to the other buildings entered into Portfolio Manager. If the building scores, say, a 50 - this indicates that it performs better than 50% of all similar structures nationwide. Buildings achieving a rating of 75 or higher and professionally verified to meet current indoor environment standards are eligible to apply for the ENERGY STAR. If your building is lower than 75, you would then want to do an energy audit to find out the most effective way to achieve a 75 or higher. Doing so will pay off in the long-run because other NYC local laws will mandate energy audits if you haven't upgraded the performance levels. As the information becomes public, consumers looking for office space or apartments can determine if they will spend more or less money on utility bills. Greener, more efficient buildings would more easily show their value with higher efficiency and sustainable standards.

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Graphic Source: NYC Mayor's Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability
Who's Responsible to Benchmark?
To comply with the local law, the responsibility falls squarely on the owner, the managing body (such as a condo board) or a third-party, like a green building consultant that represents the building's owner or board. Once the initial data is in the Portfolio Manager, the tool allows you to streamline your portfolio's energy and water data, track key consumption areas as well as track performance, and cost information. For example, you can track multiple energy and water meters for each facility, customize meter names and key information, benchmark your facilities relative to their past performance and enter operating characteristics, tailored to each space use category within your building among other functions.

According to the NYC Mayor's Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability, of the identified 16,000 buildings required to report energy usage, only about 60 buildings have submitted documentation to the Dept of Finance. There are rumblings by some building owners that the city hasn't done a great job of notifying them on the guidelines of the new laws. The Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability maintains that every building expected to comply was sent a letter by mail in Nov 2010. The city has also launched a myriad of partnerships and programs to get the word out. Laurie Kerr, Senior Policy Advisor on Buildings and Energy to the Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability, says that the City understands the law is a new way of dealing with energy reporting, and are being very helpful to educate all parties. For example, they have partnered with organizations such as Urban Green (the New York Chapter of the USGBC) to provide informational sessions for a year and half about the laws. I have attended two such meetings - and found them quite useful.

Along with educational events, the city is working with groups like Association for Energy Affordability's Home to provide training on how-to benchmark your building. The training sessions are being held every week through April 5, 2011. Along with external efforts, the city's website has several links to important instructions about Portfolio Manager, benchmarking, the law & its requirements along with a hotline offering person-to-person communication for time-critical answers about the process.

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Graphic Source: NYC Mayor's Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability
Where is this all going?
Local Law 84 is only one of three new laws related to energy for buildings in NYC. These laws will change the dynamic of understanding how energy is used and who is using it. Russell Unger, executive director of Urban Green, says that the big picture is that the city's building owners, managers, and large tenants will know far more about their building energy consumption than they do today, and have tools to reduce that consumption if they choose. Those building with high energy consumption will realize they are paying more to operate than they should and may start asking why? This will incentivize them see the benefit of retro-fitting systems to save money on operation costs. According Kerr, the city sees this first step as a way to rid what has plagued progress for energy efficiency for years - that being a lack of information. With Local Law 84, that is certainly true. Once the data is inputted, the possibilities for evaluation and analysis are endless. This is a game changer.

More on Energy and Buildings
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The Oldest, Tallest, Largest Commercial Buildings Since Energy Star Was Born
Is Energy Consumption The Only Thing That Matters In Green Building?
Top 10 US Cities With the Most Energy Star Rated Commercial Buildings: EPA

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