NEW YORK CITY – New Yorkers are a discerning ilk. We seek out grocery stores, restaurants, gyms, schools, cafes, boutiques, banks, gurus, and landlords that share our interests all because we can. These days, more and more of our interests tend to be aligned with sustainable goals as a greater number of consumers seek out organic, local, and free-range foods, or green dry-cleaners, or apartments that compost. For these reasons, many New Yorkers will be pleased to learn which property owners are walking the walk and not just talking the talk when it comes to how they consume energy and water.
New York Local Law 84, part of the Greener, Greater Buildings Plan, mandates that New York City’s large properties, which account for half of the city’s square footage, submit quarterly reports of their energy and water use and greenhouse gas emission. This “benchmarking” process allows energy use to become measurable and manageable for building owners and tenants through the EPA’s Energy Star Portfolio Manager. Since Local Law 84 went into effect in 2009, office buildings and multifamily homes have shown continual decreases in median energy use.
Great! But, how can the public find this information? Until recently, benchmarking reports have been archived deep within the city government website as raw data. Non-profit Urban Green Council analyzed this data and assembled Metered New York, a user-friendly website that provides report cards for registered buildings that include their current energy performance ranked among similar types of buildings, as well as progress over time and general building information.
Let’s say I want to see if the Whole Foods building on Houston is as green as its kale? I enter its address “95 Houston Street” into the search bar and results suggest the registered building address. It tells me that the entire building (primarily a multifamily property) is in the 75th percentile for its property type, lists and defines energy use, water use, GHG emissions and projected energy savings. I can see how its energy use has progressed from 2012 to 2013. Then I can compare this building’s energy use to that of my own building.
The Metered New York website is neatly littered with helpful explanations, info-graphics, and featured properties. Urban Green Council’s Director of Policy Laurie Kerr presented the new website to several of the organization’s new members (consisting mostly of professionals in the Engineering, Architecture and Construction Industry) at a breakfast hosted by Dagher Engineering, PLLC last week. Dagher Engineering, a MEP engineering firm that specializes in sustainable design and LEED consulting, noted the potential impact that energy benchmarking transparency may have for new building and retrofitting alike.
Another economical result of energy benchmarking information being made available to the public is that concerned patrons and renters are free to favor higher performing buildings. Much in the same way the transparency of restaurant letter grading has motivated restaurants to meet higher standards of cleanliness, the underlying ideology of the Greener, Greater Buildings Plan is to let consumers create a demand in the market for more efficient buildings, thus motivating building owners to compete for greater efficiency. With the help of Urban Green Council’s Metered New York this is becoming a greater reality.