About benchmarking in NYC
The energy used in New York City’s buildings is responsible for 73 percent of citywide carbon emissions and costs New Yorkers more than $20 billion every year. Despite this enormous impact and expense, most building owners, managers and tenants do not know how much energy their buildings use. This is very different from our approach to automobiles. We are keenly aware of a car’s fuel consumption and operating cost, but it’s uncommon to have similar insight into our homes and workplaces.
New York City is working to fill that information gap. The City of New York passed a law that requires all large buildings to measure and report their annual energy use in a process called “benchmarking.” This benchmarking data is published on the city’s website and annual report. Metered New York allows anyone to explore the data and makes it easy for building owners and prospective tenants to search, understand and interpret energy and water usage.
What does New York’s benchmarking law require?
In 2009, as part of a suit of energy efficiency laws called the Greener, Greater Buildings Plan, New York passed Local Law 84 (LL84) – one of the earliest benchmarking laws in the country and the first to be implemented. This law requires all private buildings larger than 50,000 square feet (about a 50 unit apartment building) and all properties with two or more buildings that combined are larger than 100,000 square feet to annual benchmarking their energy and water usage. There is a smaller threshold for city-owned properties and the law does not exempt any property types. The law encompasses almost 13,000 such private properties and 2,350 city owned properties. Though benchmarked buildings represent only 2% of New York City properties, they account for over half of New York City’s total square footage.
The benchmarking of city properties was first required for 2009 energy use, and the data for years 2010 through 2014 is now publicly available.
What are we learning?
New York City’s benchmarking data has provided the first major window into how New York’s building use energy providing crucial energy information to thousands of building owners and managers for the first time. But LL84 also did something else: by requiring so many buildings to benchmark, New York City’s law created a revolution in local energy efficiency data. Unlike data collected from voluntary benchmarking, which tends to over-represent proactive building owners, New York City’s benchmarking ordinance provides a representative sample set of building energy usage.
For a complete breakdown of the findings from LL84 benchmarking data please see New York City’s Energy and Water Use 2013 Report, as published by Urban Green Council in partnership with New York City.
Multifamily and office buildings are responsible for 87% of energy use in benchmarked buildings. The office sector is the more energy intensive of the two, using 56% more energy per square foot than the multifamily building sector. But multifamily housing alone make up nearly 70% of total floor area and use over half of all the energy consumed by benchmarked buildings.
Is benchmarking helping to save energy?
It’s probably more a question of how much it saves. New York City’s benchmarked buildings realized 6% energy savings and 8% carbon savings from 2010 to 2013. At present, however, it is difficult to separate the decline in emissions due to fuel switching from the decline in source energy use that results from improved efficiency.
Still, the broader evidence is promising. In analyzing 35,000 buildings that entered complete data in Portfolio Manager each year from 2008 to 2011, the EPA found an average reduction in weather normalized EUI of 7.0%.
In the District of Columbia, which has a mandatory benchmarking law similar to New York’s, buildings that benchmarked every year between 2010 and 2013 reduced their consumption by an average of 9%.
What is happening in other cities?
Twenty-two American cities and two counties have passed building benchmarking ordinances as of the start of 2017. Other cities with benchmarking ordinances include Atlanta, Austin, Berkeley, Boston, Cambridge, Chicago, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle. These policies collectively impact over 86,500 properties which encompass approximately 10.7 billion square feet of floor space. Many other cities are likely to pass similar ordinances soon. Find out more: http://www.buildingrating.org