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Dec.December 06, 2021 02:30 PM

Is Your Multifamily Building’s Energy-Efficiency Making the Grade?

Ayomide Balogun, Senior Program Manager for National Grid (top) & Ronald Gillooly, Industrial Energy Program Director, and Business Development for Leidos (bottom)

If you’re a building owner in New York City’s multifamily sector, you likely recently received your second grade on your energy efficiency, as mandated by the New York City Benchmarking Law. Just like when you were back in school, you might be wondering what the grade was based on, what it means to your future, and how you can improve it. Read on to find out more about these new energy-efficiency grades, and more importantly, the benefits you’ll reap by reaching for that “A.”

The New York City Benchmarking Law Explained

New York City’s Climate Mobilization Act aims to reduce emissions generated by buildings by 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050. To meet those ambitious targets, it has established a system that grades structures larger than 25,000 square feet, supplying each with a snapshot of its current energy efficiency. While fines are not yet being levied on properties that earn low scores, owners could start being assessed fines as soon as 2025.

But even though there are no overt monetary repercussions now, grades must be displayed prominently in the entry window. As consumers seek to lower their carbon footprint, a poor grade that’s visible to all who walk by can potentially damage the landlord’s reputation and ability to attract and retain clients.

“Tenants have a heightened awareness and interest in climate change. Living in a healthier, more eco-friendly residence is a message that really resonates with them,” says Ronald Gillooly, industrial energy program director, and business development for Leidos. His team engages with customers to increase their benchmarking scores through upgrades, many of which are offset by incentives from National Grid. 

Surprising Benefits of Improving Your Grade

It can be hard to devote capital investment to upgrades when landlords aren’t immediately impacted by fines. However, the benefits of optimizing your property to comply with the new guidelines are many, says Ayomide Balogun, senior program manager for National Grid.

First, these enhancements offer a sustained, consistent reduction in energy costs. These savings can potentially even recoup the bulk of capital costs, especially when combined with National Grid’s incentives.

In addition, many upgrades pull double duty, explains Gillooly. “While our initial focus is energy-efficient opportunities, we also try to identify ancillary benefits. We look at it as a partnership and find that customers are even more engaged and eager to get started when we are solving another issue they have.”

For example, his team might determine that replacing an outdated or faulty control system not only optimizes efficiency but also frees up time for maintenance staff to handle other tasks. Or they could solve a comfort issue that makes tenants happier and elicits fewer complaints about rooms that are too hot or cold.

In addition, landlords can use positive results as a marketing tool to attract and retain tenants by maximizing the connection between a high grade and the ecofriendly living environment consumers aspire to.

A Road Map: From Today’s Cost-Effective Upgrades to Long-Term Improvements

While many building owners understand the importance of making the necessary changes, they may be deterred by the cost. The good news is you don’t have to tackle the issues all at once. “When you work with National Grid, a dedicated project manager will coordinate with the facility contact to conduct an assessment and identify opportunities for energy-efficiency upgrades, then they’ll facilitate the improvements and work with National Grid to secure the incentives,” Balogun says.

As Gillooly describes it, his team functions as a “concierge” of sorts, walking customers through every step of the process to streamline participation as much as possible for all stakeholders. That includes handling the paperwork; coordinating with vendors or contractors, and ultimately securing the National Grid incentive.

“We create an individual plan specific to each property and start with quick, impactful wins to get the ball rolling, and then we build on the success from there,” says Gillooly. These initial measures often include repairing steam traps, insulating pipes, upgrading boiler controls, or swapping out faucets and showerheads for fixtures that are more energy efficient.

Often small measures can make a meaningful impact.  As one example, Gillooly is working with a large multifamily that had earned a “D,” the lowest possible score (properties receive an “F” if they fail to return the benchmarking form). After conducting a site assessment and deep dive into the energy usage, they realized something was askew. As relatively new construction built to current energy codes, the structure should have been far more energy-efficient. That discrepancy indicated an underlying issue, like a mechanism with heating and cooling functions that were fighting each other. With a relatively simple operational change, the building would be able to raise its grade substantially and reap the benefits of reduced energy bills over the long run.

In addition to suggesting a number of easy, cost-effective ways landlords can achieve a significant bang for their buck right away, the team will also create a plan for how and when to invest in pricier upgrades that will eventually need to be completed. Some capital measures have lengthy timelines, which means it’s vital to plan ahead since it might be harder to complete the work as the deadline nears.

“Our report will include a dashboard of suggested measures that outline specific National Grid incentives and requirements, along with estimated savings,” Gillooly says. “We develop a pipeline of opportunities that the customer can pursue, spearheaded by a project manager who is committed to working with the involved stakeholders to move the measures forward through completion and ensure the landlord receives the incentives they qualify for.”

An Investment that Pays Off

There are myriad reasons to boost a structure’s energy efficiency, from a healthier, more comfortable, and tenant-friendly building to recurring energy savings and the knowledge that you’re doing your part to reduce your carbon footprint. But, sometimes the message comes through best when expressed through cold, hard cash. And why pay fines when you can invest in improvements, many of which will be supported by incentives from National Grid?

Ready to get started? Contact National Grid’s Leidos partner by calling 1-877-370-5043 or visit their benchmarking program website today to find out how to schedule an assessment and take your first step on the road to a more energy-efficient property.

 


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