In December of 2009, as part of Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC initiative, the New York City Council enacted Local Law 84, which requires owners of certain covered buildings to benchmark energy and water use. The inaugural benchmarking due date was intended to be May 1, 2011. However, on March 21, 2011 the City’s Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability announced that “for at least three months after May 1, 2011, no penalty will be assessed due to failure to comply with the benchmarking requirements of Local Law 84.” Thus, the deadline for compliance has effectively been extended until August 1, 2011 to allow owners of covered buildings additional time to get acquainted with the benchmarking procedure. According to the Urban Green Council, similar extensions are not anticipated in future years.

What is Benchmarking?

Benchmarking is the process whereby a covered building owner will be required to input and submit to a “benchmarking tool” such building’s total use of energy and water for the previous calendar year. A benchmarking tool is an internet-based database system, which is currently set up by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, developed to track and assess the energy and water use of certain types of buildings relative to similar buildings. After submission of this information, the City of New York will publish it on the internet on or before September 1, 2012, and on every September 1st thereafter.

Covered Buildings

Local Law 84 applies to: (i) a building that exceeds 50,000 gross square feet, (ii) two or more buildings on the same tax lot that together exceed 100,000 gross square feet, or (iii) two or more buildings held in the condominium form of ownership that are governed by the same board of managers and that together exceed 100,000 gross square feet.

Required Action and Timing

As enacted, Local Law 84 requires the owners of covered buildings to complete their inaugural annual benchmarking undertaking no later than May 1, 2011 (using energy information (e.g., utility bills, etc.) from January 2010 through December 2010), and no later than May 1st of every calendar year thereafter. However, the inaugural annual benchmarking has been extended until August 1, 2011. Benchmarking of water use is not required unless the building was equipped with automatic meter reading equipment by the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection for the entire previous calendar year.

Obligations of Building Owners and Tenants

Benchmarking of building systems may require owners to obtain certain information from their tenants as to water and energy use (i.e., if a tenant pays its utilities directly). As such, covered building owners must therefore make tenants aware of this obligation and leases, to the extent not already provided for, should reflect each tenant’s obligation to timely provide any such information, as applicable.

For more information on the benchmarking procedure, the following resources are available:

Urban Green Council’s Compliance Checklist & User Guide.

REBNY’s Building Energy Benchmarking information page, the self-proclaimed “one stop shop for all things benchmarking.” This resource contains several videos that explain the benchmarking process.