By May 1, 2011, New Yorkers had to embrace a new term in their collective lexicon: benchmarking.
Benchmarking refers to the New York City Local Law 84 (LL84) mandate under which certain public and private buildings, both commercial and residential, must submit annual energy and water use data using the EPA online tool Portfolio Manager.
Energy and water use by buildings in New York City accounts for approximately 75% of the City’s total emission of green house gases. LL84 is the first phase in managing and addressing this inefficiency by collecting information and creating awareness. The next step will be using the information to locate and address inefficiencies in building systems and therein create opportunities to save money that is currently being lost. LL 84 is an annual reporting requirement that is complemented by Local Law 87 (LL87). LL87 requires energy audits and retro-commissioning of buildings every 10 years. The implementation period for LL87 is also fast approaching as well, with the first set of energy audits due in 2013 for buildings whose tax block number ends in 3.
Who needs to benchmark?
LL84 applies to:
- Building(s) owned by New York City or for which the city pays part of its annual energy bill over 10,000 gross square feet and which do not participate in a program administered by the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development
- Building(s) not owned by New York City over 50,000 gross square feet
- Two or more buildings totaling 100,000 square feet or more on the same lot
- Buildings totaling 100,000 square feet under the same condo board
New York City has identified approximately 16,000 buildings that fall within LL84’s benchmarking requirement and has sent them this letter.
Complying with LL84
Although the prospect of yet another regulatory directive seems overwhelming, compliance may be easier than one would expect. Technical and financial assistance is available through the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA). NYSERDA’s Flextech program offers a 50% cost share for benchmarking, energy audit, and retro-commissioning studies. Flextech is available to commercial, industrial, business, and institutional entities that pay into the Electrical System Benefits Charge through their utilities. Contact Assistant Project Manager ClaraRose Voigt at (212) 971-5342 ext. 3007 or e-mail email@example.com to find out how you can get started.
For residential buildings, NYSERDA offers a Multifamily Performance Program which includes benchmarking service and financial assistance. Click here to get started or contact MultifamilyPrograms@nyserda.org if you have questions. Live benchmarking trainings are also available through the nonprofit organization Association for Energy Affordability, Inc.
While the wealth of assistance and financial incentives available make compliance a no-brainer, it is also fair to note that failure to comply with LL84 is a “lesser violation” under the Construction Code. For every quarter that building owners do not submit the requisite benchmarking information, they will incur a fine of $500. The City has allowed a grace period of three months for observance of LL84 and will begin to assess penalties after August 1, 2011.
Many commercial and residential building owners, including co-ops and condo associations, will delegate compliance with LL84 to their property manager or a consultant. Once a benchmarking administrator has been appointed, he or she will need to compile data on the building’s 2010 energy use. The administrator may do so by contacting the building’s utility company. For example, with Con Edison, the administrator may email a request, including the building’s account number, the name on the account, and the service address, to firstname.lastname@example.org. If the administrator is not the named person on the account, he or she must also submit a letter of authorization. The fee for aggregated energy use data for up to 24 months is $102.50 per building. Con Ed can be expected to provide the data by e-mail within 15 days after payment. For separately metered non-residential tenants, information must be requested using the Non-Residential Tenant Data Collection Form. Property owners are required to send the form but will not be penalized if tenants do not provide the information.
Once the energy and water use data is collected from the utility company and tenants, the information will need to be entered online through the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Portfolio Manager. The Notes section of Portfolio Manager should include an entry of the building’s Borough Block Lot (BBL) number. Click here to register and log into Portfolio Manager to create a New York City LL84 Compliance Report. Accessing Portfolio Manager using this New York City specific link (rather than the EPA’s home site link) is imperative to linking the account to the New York City electronic reporting structure so that a compliance report may be submitted. The EPA will send a confirmation e-mail upon receipt of the report. This e-mail, along with proof of sending the data collection forms, energy data, calculations, and other related documents, should be maintained for three years. The Department of Buildings maintains the right to inspect and audit these records during that time. Maintenance of these records should be treated in the same light as tax records; in the event of mistake or misstatements (not recommended) in benchmarking, supporting documents will prove invaluable in avoiding penalties.
Individual information submitted for 2010 by non-city buildings will not be made public. It will be used by the Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability to conduct an analysis of the city’s energy and water usage and the implementation of LL84. The analysis will be submitted to the Mayor and Speaker of the City Council, and made publicly available online.
The Department of Finance will publish benchmarking information online by September 2011 for city buildings, September 2012 for non-city buildings whose primary use is not residential, and September 2013 for buildings whose primary use is residential. This publicly available information will include an energy utilization index, water use per gross square foot, a rating comparing energy/water use of the building to that of similar buildings (where available), and a comparison of data across calendar years for any year the building was benchmarked. An exception exists for buildings containing data centers, television studios, and/or trading floors that exceed 10% of the gross square footage of the building. The information for such buildings will not be disclosed until the Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability has found a way for the benchmarking tool to make adequate adjustments for those facilities.
After the initial implementation phase of LL84 occurs and the law’s requirements become familiar to owners, benchmarking will become less of a regulatory burden and more a regular part of operations. Once benchmarking has been completed for multiple years, property owners can use the different Current Ratings to see if there is a need to seek overhauls of their systems. Over time, this process should prove to be a great step to begin improving a building’s performance that is less resource intensive than capital improvements or compulsory regulations that require building owners to send supervisors or management staff to energy efficiency trainings. Improvements in energy performance are valuable not only for their operational savings but also for marketing a building covered by LL84. If owners take full advantage of all the resources available to leverage the information provided by benchmarking, this program has the potential to ultimately provide appeal to eco- and economically conscious tenants too, helping buildings to stay competitive in an ever-challenging occupancy market.