New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide



Power Progress: Tales of Energy- Saving Solutions


Lincoln Square Condominium

The Future Condominium

Co-op and condo buildings enrolled in Con Edison’s energy demand response programs are seeing payouts of thousands of dollars for lowering electricity use during peak demand events over the summer — thanks to a little help from AI. The programs deliver cash rewards to customers for lowering electricity use during specific peak demand windows, typically for three or four hours during summer heat waves, when the grid might otherwise be overwhelmed. Individual owners can sign up for demand response programs, but there are also enrollment options for buildings. 

The Lincoln Square Condominium, a 57-story, 281-unit condo in Manhattan, will receive $15,951 for lowering its energy use during peak demand events last year. This was enabled under a contract with Logical Buildings, a climate technology firm that provides energy data tracking through SmartKit AI. Logical Buildings gets a portion of the cash rewards — in the case of Lincoln Square Condominium, about $9,000 — in return for providing building-specific actions resident managers can take during these peak events. “We are helping the environment and putting money back in the building’s pocket,” says Mickey McCreesh, the resident manager at condo.

Some managers are going above and beyond to conserve energy. “It’s four hours nonstop — I’m sweating because I turn off my office AC and run around the building turning things off,” says Marat Olfir, a resident manager for AKAM who oversees the Future, a 165-unit condominium in Kips Bay. He led efforts to reduce energy use at the building during three specific peak demand windows and earned the board a check for $8,408. 

Benefits aren’t limited to the annual rebate. Con Edison charges buildings a demand delivery rate determined by peak demand usage. Lowering the peak usage rate, measured in kilowatts, can have a huge impact on electricity bills. Olfir estimates that he saved residents at the Future a further $22,000 by reducing peak usage.

“It’s good practice for any building to reduce peak demand,” says Kelly Dougherty, the president of FirstService Energy, an energy advisory affiliate of FirstService Residential. 

Con Edison typically notifies customers of a peak demand event at least two days in advance. “It’s a planned inconvenience,” Olfir says. He does a communication blast to unit-owners explaining that the gym, laundry room, locker rooms and playroom will all be out of bounds because AC, lighting and electrical equipment will be switched off. “I know what I can turn off without compromising the safety and comfort of unit-owners,” he says. 

Buildings with large common-area electricity use will generate greater demand response revenue from the program, but smaller buildings where energy use mostly comes from residents’ apartments can also benefit. 

At the Future, porters are told not to vacuum or use compactors, moving is rescheduled, only one elevator runs and the lobby’s swing door is even closed in favor of the revolving door to prevent additional heat from coming into the building. Olfir encourages unit-owners to postpone cleaning services or running appliances in their apartments. 

“You are helping emissions, and these efforts help with building grade,” Dougherty says. The letter grade, known as benchmarking, is a measure of relative energy use, and lowering your energy consumption, especially during peak events, improves the grade. In addition, if your building has electricity provided by an energy service company, your past involvement in demand response programs may help you negotiate a better rate for energy supply in the future. 

Both Olfir and McCreesh are looking for ways to get more money for their buildings in the coming year. “I already got $8,400,” Olfir says. “Now I want to get $10,000.” This summer, getting buy-in from the building’s commercial tenants will be part of his efforts.

“Gamifying the practice should get building staff excited about it,” Dougherty says.

The program enrollment deadline is March 31.


London Towne House

The London Towne House is getting an energy boost thanks to high-efficiency motors and “smart” temperature tools — as well as a boost to its bottom line. The new technology installed at the 16-story, 217-unit co-op in Chelsea has modernized its two-pipe heating and cooling system, making it much more variable and efficient. “Until this year, systems in the building ran at 100% all of the time,” says Richard Cariello, a resident on the building’s energy committee. Now, heating and cooling can be adjusted depending on factors like external temperature and demand within the building. 

With the help of the free city-run program NYC Accelerator, the co-op’s energy team figured out that this fine-tuning could be done by installing high-efficiency motors for the building’s 26 exhaust fans, variable frequency drives (VFDs) for the pumps, and real-time energy management (RTEM) for the entire system. 

Motors in a two-pipe hydronic system are responsible for driving pumps to circulate water for heating and cooling. High-efficiency motors feature variable speed control. “If you scale back the speed of a motor, it saves energy when it doesn’t have to run at full speed all the time,” says Corey Harris, a technical engineer with Parity, the company that installed the VFDs. 

VFDs allow for the frequency of equipment to be adjusted. For example, the building’s cooling tower fan spins to produce adequate condenser water for the chiller in summer and the new VFD allows the fan to be operated at a lower frequency. “Instead of running it at 60 hertz to reach the set point for the condenser water, it’s possible to run it at half speed for longer and generate savings,” Harris explains.

With the support of the building’s management team at Halstead, the board signed a five-year contract with Parity to monitor energy use and make real-time adjustments. This means that motor speed and water temperature are constantly being tweaked based on data retrieved from the building. “We are looking at the energy load with respect to the weather conditions and things going on in the building to make an analysis of when you can reduce the load,” Harris says. So instead of sending 150-degree water to circulate at all times, the temperature can be lowered when demand slows. 

The equipment was installed for around $76,000 and generates annual savings of $40,000 on energy costs. Spring and fall are when the building reaps the most savings. “After the changeover to heating, Parity can ratchet down the heat when it’s still relatively warm, and after the switch over to cooling, Parity can do the same when it’s still relatively cool,” Cariello says. Automating the process helps alleviate the workload for building staff. 

As for the return on investment, handsome incentives made adopting the technology a no-brainer, according to Cariello. The VFD and RTEM installation was priced at $123,900, but a $66,000 incentive from Con Edison slashed the cost to $57,000. The dual installation will save the co-op about $32,000 a year; factoring in Parity’s annual service fee, the upgrade will pay for itself within three years. 

In addition, a $24,000 Con Edison incentive trimmed the price tag for the new motor equipment, which was installed by DMV Industries, from $43,000 to $19,000. Annual savings from the high-efficiency motors are estimated at $10,000 per year. “So we are getting a payback in the second year,” Cariello says.

Thanks to the tech upgrades, which were financed from the co-op’s reserve fund, the 229,000-square-foot building is currently projected to meet Local Law 97 emission requirements until 2035. Even so, the retrofits are just the start of London Towne House’s energy journey.


75 Wall St.

The board of 75 Wall St., a 346-unit condo in Manhattan’s Financial District, is reaping big savings in energy costs by signing up for a unique subscription program offered through Con Edison. Community Distributed Energy Generation (CDG) allows buildings to receive monthly credits from electricity generated by clean energy facilities like solar farms and fuel cell facilities developed by private energy companies. Electricity produced through these programs is added to the grid, and the credit the energy producers receive from Con Edison is then transferred to subscribers.

The program allows buildings to take advantage of local clean energy production, which spares them from the high costs of installing and maintaining new technology at their buildings. The 75 Wall St. condo receives its clean energy from Bloom Energy, a fuel cell facility in Staten Island. “Instead of having to invest in some of the infrastructure, we are able to rely and work with a community to come up with the outcome,” says Dhwani Srivastava, the board president. And the sign-up process is simple; it can be done online in just a few minutes.

FirstService Energy (FSE), an energy advisory affiliate of the property management company FirstService Residential, administers the program for 75 Wall St. “The savings depend on what each of the producers can afford to give,” says Kelly Dougherty, the president of FSE. However, thanks to the large number of buildings under the company’s management and its ability to source multiple subscribers for CDG programs, FSE has been able to negotiate a higher percentage of savings for clients. 

“FirstService Energy has been great about communicating the benefits of CDG,” Srivastava says. “They’ve articulated what it can mean for the building, and they’ve delivered on that.” 

The benefits are primarily financial, but Dougherty points out that the local production also allows less line loss or wasted energy, which happens during transmission and distribution. “This reduces carbon emissions from the waste of that electricity,” she adds. 

The subscription at 75 Wall St. began a year ago, and Srivastava says the building saw positive returns almost immediately. “When we decided to opt in, it supported the goals of delivering value and keeping up with the times on sustainability,” she says. ​​A CDG subscription can’t be used as a tool for buildings to meet Local Law 97 requirements, but FSE encourages clients to apply the savings they receive to any retro-commissioning projects to help them meet their carbon emission reduction goals.

Thanks to CDG, the condo is saving $50,000 a year. At 75 Wall St., the monthly electricity bills — which, along with insurance, are the most expensive items on the budget for most buildings — average $50,000, which means the program essentially gives the building one month of free electricity each year. 

While most of the available subscriptions have been taken, buildings can sign up for the waitlist. NYSERDA says there is no regulatory cap on the amount of CDG projects that can be built, but developing the projects takes time, and the demand for subscriptions downstate currently exceeds the amount of available projects. Building eligibility is driven by developers meeting NYSERDA requirements.

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