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Organizations should act now on Local Law 87

Commercial buildings in the US consume 39% of America’s energy and 68% of its electricity. They further emit 38% of the carbon dioxide. Studies also show that lightning, HVAC, and office equipment are responsible for most of the energy consumption in a typical building, which is good news for these are readily manageable.


 

With the pandemic’s ill-effects receding an office building’s scope will begin to hold more relevance again. Therefore, it is a crucial time to rethink our engagement with buildings and their impact on the environment, especially with regard to Local Law 87 for compliance with the law is not a one-day process.

How are the NYCs office towers impacted?
The buildings account for more than two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions in New York. The problem was relentlessly addressed by environmental advocacy groups along with the City Council by forcing the government to pass legislation banning fossil fuel linkages to at least the new constructions & gut renovations. As per the press release, there might be a gas ban for the same by the year 2030.

However, fossil fuels only represent a small segment of the larger problem at hand. Most buildings in the city, old and new alike, lack enormous energy efficiency, which is why it has become the central factor while constructing the new buildings. Many buildings continue to rely on gas hookups, and window AC units with ancient HVAC structures. Even though retro-fitting and gut renovation can be expensive, especially post-pandemic, the costs tend to bear themselves in the long run. More importantly, there is a law passed in the name of Local Law 97 that ensures all of the above! 

An energy audit indicates the energy efficiency of a building after conducting an inspection, survey & analysis, along with curating a report of energy flows to improve the energy efficiency. It involves studying the base building systems- building envelope, HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning), conveying systems, domestic hot water systems, electrical and lighting systems, etc.

Retro-commissioning however, is a thorough evaluation of how optimally HVAC and lighting controls are actually functioning.

The Energy Conservation Measures (ECM) detected during retro-commissioning will typically demand re-programming controls, repairing dusty dampers, and replacing faulty actuators, valves, variable speed drives, and sensors. Building retro-commissioning will also thoroughly assess the building operators, and how their controls are being used because poor operational procedures imply energy wastage. The ECMS identified are mostly low-cost/no-cost measures. The purpose of retro-commissioning is to essentially optimize the existing system performance through fine-tuning and upgrades rather than relying on major equipment replacement (which energy audits might).

Besides, the analysis will help the owners make informed decisions when considering improvements to the facility and well, avoid costly pitfalls in the future.

What are building owners required to do?

Local Law 87 NYC explicitly mentions that the compliance date is determined by the last digit of the buildings’ tax block numbers. If the block number ends with 3, the report is due in 2013; similarly, a number ending in 4 will indicate 2014 as the due date, and so on. Post filing the initial report on the due date, Local Law 87 NYC demands that the building files an ‘energy-efficient report’ every 10 years. However, non-submission of the same will automatically indicate its violation, which will further imply a fine of $3,000 in the first year & $5,000 every year after.

Exemptions from Local Law 87 if

The building has received an EPA Energy Star label for 2/3 years before the audit due date

The building has received LEED certification for existing buildings within 4 years before the audit due date.

Benefits of early compliance

1. You start saving energy earlier and enjoy lower energy bills

2. Plenty of grants and rebates are available as incentives, which already experience avid competition

3. You enjoy legal flexibility to an extent

How to Select LL87 Provider?
Navigating the compliance landscape can most understandably seem overwhelming, all the more with regard to finding an expert. Here’s a list of all the questions you should ask along with the kind of answers you should expect:-

1. How long have you been providing LL87 services?
Ideally, you should look for people who have around 5 years of experience as that inevitably mandates a deep understanding of the subject – how it’s evolved, current processes, actionable ideas, etc.

2. How quickly can you get the energy audit & retro-commissioning done?
Be wary of providers that promise speed. It takes much longer than a mere couple of weeks to comprehensively complete the study. We recommend a safe time of 6 months.

3. Does your staff include Professional Engineer (PE) and/or registered architects?

The amendment done to the LL87 explicitly requires one as all the reports need to be ultimately signed off by them.

4. What is your approach to energy auditing and retro-commissioning?
An experienced provider looks at the building interconnectedly – all of the building’s systems, are dynamic as a part of a living being. That is, improving one aspect inherently impacts the other. No changes must be made in isolation.

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