48% of NYC buildings fail on energy efficiency

Scores improve marginally; low letter grades carry no fines

Almost half of NYC buildings received either a D or F grade (Getty)
Almost half of NYC buildings received either a D or F grade (Getty)

Energy efficiency among New York City buildings has improved a bit, but almost half of those forced to post a grade are still failing.

According to The City’s analysis of preliminary data from the Department of Buildings, 48.3 percent of buildings received either a D or F grade. Receiving a D is essentially the worst a building can do, as Fs are reserved for properties that don’t submit data.

The share of Ds dropped to 39.2 percent from 44.1 percent year-over-year, suggesting some of the least energy-efficient buildings made improvements, though some commercial buildings saw consumption drop because of the pandemic. Meanwhile, the share of Fs increased to 9.1 percent from 7.6 percent.

On the other end of the spectrum, 19.9 percent earned A grades, up from 15.5 percent. The City reported that the average overall score increased from 54 to 57 year-over-year; letter grades stem from a building’s score.

Manhattan had the largest share of A’s among the five boroughs at 23 percent, up from 15 percent a year ago. The borough had trailed Brooklyn and Queens previously.

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Gina Bocra, chief sustainability officer at the Department of Buildings, told The City that the transparency of the grades has motivated property owners to improve their buildings.

More than 20,000 buildings with more than 25,000 square feet in space were analyzed in the preliminary data.

The grade’s significance is largely in the eye of the beholder. Landlords don’t get fined for poor grades, but tenants may use them as a data point in deciding about renewing or signing a commercial or residential lease. The only penalty is a $1,250 fine for not posting the letter grades by Oct. 31 where people can see them.

Grades are calculated based on an Energy Star metric comparing the energy consumption of buildings across the country with similar densities and uses. The letter grades were required by the passage of Local Law 95 in 2018.

Beginning in 2024, however, Local Law 97 will subject building owners to a fine of $268 per ton of greenhouse gas emissions above a certain limit.

[The City] — Holden Walter-Warner