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Turning Data into Action

Data, data, everywhere. The city has been collecting energy benchmarking data for several years, and it’s now been given some legs. 

Say what? The Building Energy Exchange, in collaboration with Bright Power and Sustainable Energy Partnerships, has published a report called Turning Data Into Action. These folks analyzed nearly 16,000 datasets from Local Law 84 (benchmarking) and Local Law 87 (energy audit), using Python programming to analyze the submissions that New York City buildings have been filing. 

And then they turned all this data into easy-to-read, color-coded tearsheets containing energy upgrade opportunities matched to key points in a building’s financial lifecycle. Each sheet lists retrofit measures to consider, ranging from capital-intensive measures best implemented when a building is refinancing, to low-cost measures that can be funded out of operating expenses, and to those in between. 

“This is by no means meant to replace a comprehensive energy audit or feasibility study,” says Dave Sachs, a technical expert at Bright Power. “It’s meant for folks who don’t have the budget for that to identify their particular building type and see what opportunities exist.” 

It’s simple and makes so much sense. 

• First, find the tearsheet (there are eleven of them) that describes your building. They are listed by age, system, and type. So, for example: “Pre-War Gas Low-rise,” “Post-War Oil,” or ”Post-War Gas High-Rise,” and so forth. 

• Then, check out the typical retrofit costs for this type of building. They are ordered in three columns based on financial considerations – measures that are lower cost and simple to do; low-to-medium-cost measures that may require some financial planning; and long-term investments tied to refinancing underlying mortgages that offer deeper savings.

• Finally, review the color-coded  chart on the back of the tearsheet. It pinpoints specific retrofit measures to take at optimum times in your building’s financial lifecycle. 

It works like this. Let’s say you live in a pre-war, low-rise building of up to seven floors, and it’s heated by oil. Your tearsheet points to low-cost fixes that could come out of your operating budget and include things like insulating pipes and tanks and installing low-flow showerheads. A typical $19,580 investment yields $8,900 in energy savings each year – so your investment is paid back in 2.2 years.

The next level of retrofits is a bit more expensive but could be paid for out of reserves, or maybe assessments. They include items like sealing windows, installing lighting sensors, and increasing roof insulation, which if tackled would cost $90,000. With $18,000 saved each year, your investment is paid back in five year.

Improvements to include when you refinance would total $567,000 and save $54,000 annually, with a 10.5 year payback. These improvements are for expensive items like boiler upgrades, solar panels, and so on.

Worthy of your time. Reducing your building’s energy usage is one sure way of lowering your building’s operating budget, and the roadmap offered by these tearsheets is a terrific way to begin. What makes this approach so helpful is how the retrofit measures tie into the real-life economics of your building. Easy stuff comes out of your day-to-day operating budget, while more expensive measures that offer bigger paybacks are suggested when your building refinances.

To get your hands on the report and tearsheets, go to

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