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NYC Doubling Down on Benchmarking Mandate

NYC-buildings-1.jpgIn October of 2016, the New York City Council approved changes to a 2009 energy benchmarking ordinance (Local Law 84) that added new benchmarking requirements for thousands of private and city-owned buildings. The goal was to extend the reach of NYC’s energy benchmarking and audit program.

The changes came on the heels of a report published by Crain’s New York Business last August that documented carbon emission reductions of 8 percent and decreases in energy use of 6 percent for 3,000 NYC “consistently benchmarked properties.” This preliminary data was perhaps the first confirmation that the City’s benchmarking program was making a real difference.

The impact of the changes will be difficult to assess for some time, due to reporting timetables built into the law, but New York City is clearly doubling down on mandated energy benchmarking. Today’s blog highlights the recent changes, and the observed results to date.

New Requirements

The revisions to article 28-309 of the administrative code of the City of New York (Local Law 84) include:

  • Extending the mandate for non-City buildings from 50,000+ sq. ft. down to 25,000+ sq. ft. This will probably more than double the pool of reporting buildings from the current total of 22,000.
  • Defining responsible parties and obligations for better data collection for multi-tenant building reporting.

Penalties for Non-Compliance

The 2009 law had some teeth. Building owners that failed to benchmark annually by the August 1 deadline were subject to a penalty of $500. Continued noncompliance could result in recurring penalties of $500 per violation once every three months. So if you owned a lot of buildings, the price tag for non-compliance could be quite hefty.

Original Scope and Recent Reporting

LL84 originally extended to roughly 15,000 properties. The original companion legislation, LL87, required large buildings to audit, retro-commission, and submit information to the City. Compliance in the first required reporting period (2011) was 64 percent by August of that year, and 75 percent by December 31, 2011, perhaps spurred by the City’s 5,200 warning letters.

The City collects data from only ten percent of covered buildings every year. Therefore, NYC will not have data from all large buildings until at least 2023.

The August 2016 Crain’s report was written and designed by Urban Green Council at the direction of the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability. It is one of the first significant reports on post-benchmarking energy use for a wide segment of NYC buildings, and offers interesting insights regarding patterns of energy use in one of the largest U.S. cities.

The Crain’s report provides findings from 20 percent of all large buildings, using data collected in 2013 and 2014.

Urban Green Council, a New York affiliate of the U.S. Green Building Council, and New York University’s Center for Urban Science and Progress (NYU CUSP) performed the data analysis and developed the graphs and charts included in the report. 

Benchmarking Insights

The Crain’s report noted that most benchmarked buildings are multifamily buildings. Together, those buildings occupy a full 67 percent of the city’s benchmarked floor area. Offices constitute the next largest portion of benchmarked space at 24 percent. Other types of buildings are usually grouped in the City’s data as “Other” and make up nine percent of benchmarked floor area.

The data show that electricity constitutes well over half of the source energy consumed in benchmarked buildings—59 percent.

The chart below visualizes primary energy end uses for all commodities in all sectors, the multi-family sector, and the office sector.

nyc energy use by sector.jpg

The graph below is illustrative of the detailed energy information available from the benchmarking audits. It provides an overview of lighting types associated with the three primary sectors. 


The full Crain’s report is available for free with a trial subscription to the ScribD publication service.

Benchmarking Impact

Data available to date suggests that energy use intensity (EUI) in the multi-family housing segment has remained relatively stable during the reporting period (2010-2013), dropping perhaps five percent. Office buildings have realized more significant reductions in EUI of 11 percent. The graph below demonstrates this trend.


The report acknowledges that many factors may have contributed to the 2013 energy reduction, including the effects of Superstorm Sandy, which caused many buildings in the inundation areas to be unoccupied for long periods of time. A previous small sample analysis of the affected area noted that median EUI for office buildings had dropped by 26 percent from 2011 to 2012.

Room for Improvement

The building audits have revealed significant opportunities for energy reduction initiatives, including:

For offices:

  • Ventilation system upgrades
  • Heating system upgrades
  • Onsite co-generation

For multifamily:

  • HVAC control upgrades
  • Sensors
  • Sub-metering
  • Heating system upgrades

Many of the recommended energy conservation measures had a payback period significantly less than five years, as indicated in the chart below.


Valuable Resource

The Crain’s Report is a valuable resource that has provided a clearer picture of energy use in a major U.S. city. The preliminary data suggests that consistent energy tracking, benchmarking, and the accompanying energy awareness can benefit the bottom line for many organizations with significant investments in large buildings. That observation is in line with many we have made here at EnergyCAP over the years as we have developed the software tools to make energy tracking and benchmarking more convenient, powerful, accurate, and transparent.

Kudos to the NYC Mayor’s Office of Sustainability for commissioning this landmark study. We will look forward to future installments as more data becomes available for analysis and discussion.