New York is entering an era in energy that will be as exciting as it is critically important. Faced with a long and growing list of unprecedented challenges – extreme weather caused by climate change, society’s increasing dependence on digital technology and demand for energy, and the aging of our existing energy infrastructure to name a few – the State’s leadership has been among our nation’s most proactive in embracing the urgent necessity of transition towards a new energy paradigm.
Enter the New York State Public Service Commission’sReforming the Energy Vision (REV) initiative. REV lays out a framework for energy innovation and poses a number of questions and challenges to the energy industry.
Recently, we were given the opportunity to comment on an aspect of the REV initiative that is near and dear to many of us here at Bright Power: data access. As those of you familiar with our EnergyScoreCards platform are surely aware, we are firm believers that electronically-accessible, standardized, high quality utility bill data is key to unlocking widespread energy improvements in buildings. Utility bill-based analytics enable us to find where buildings are wasting energy, and to follow buildings’ energy usage over time, providing the feedback that shows us what is working and where we need to improve.
Streamlined energy data access is good for energy consumers and good for business. Accurate energy usage data is currently difficult to track down and hard to process. Businesses that could be developing the next energy breakthrough are instead diverting resources to data gathering, processing and cleaning, or choosing not to even enter the field at all. Energy consumers, on the other hand, are wasting energy (and money) with no reasonable way of seeing that on their own. Both are real problems that we’re fighting to correct.
While we at Bright Power recognize that better access to data alone will not solve our energy problems or prevent the next energy emergency, it is an absolute necessity if we want to find the waste, fix the problems and follow the results to guarantee that we’re moving in the right direction.
Special thanks to Klaar de Schepper who led our efforts to respond to REV as well as our participation in the Mission:Data industry working group.
Local Law 87 waits for no one
Temperatures outside are soaring, so as we crank our A/C’s and remove our socks from the freezer, it’s hard to think about heating up our buildings. While the thought of cooler temperatures might seem like a distant dream, now is the time to make sure your building is ready to heat up. Not convinced? Well, it’s the law. Local Law 87 requires all New York City buildings over 50,000 square feet to undergo an energy audit, implement necessary changes (retro-commissioning) and submit an energy efficiency report, once every ten years to ensure its systems are performing as intended.
How can you know when your time is up? Just look at your tax block number. If it ends in ‘4’, this is your lucky year (if it ends in ‘5’, pay attention; you’re next!). Your report is due December 31, 2014.
Now let’s see what the process would look like if you started today:
August 15: Submit building and utility information. Over the next two weeks, we will enter your data into EnergyScoreCards to generate a scorecard to see where your building stands, get a baseline.
September 25: Site visit day! Once the data is in we need to see how everything is working. The energy audit is a required component of local law 87 and it’s a necessary step in making your building a top performer. Over the next four to six weeks our team will absorb the data collected and turn it into a personalized report for you, telling you which measures you need to take in order to meet the requirements of the law, and which optional measures you can implement to make your building an energy star.
October 1: Site visit #2. With the audit report completed, you can now enter the retro-commissioning phase. Our technicians return to your building to test the equipment against the LL87 checklist. Over the next three weeks our auditors will create a retro-commissioning scope of work (RCx SOW) which tells you exactly what needs to get done in order to get your buildings working as they were designed to.
October 10: With your RCx SOW in hand, you now have the tools you need to bring your building up to speed. Over the next two months, your building will undergo changes as prescribed by the RCx SOW. Some of the measures will be required by law, others you may choose to implement to further streamline your building’s systems.
December 1: Your work here is done. At this point the implementation phase needs to be completed and verified. The auditors will return to your building and make sure everything is running smoothly and as intended.
December 12: Congratulations! Thanks to your advanced planning, your Energy Efficiency Report has been submitted to the Department of Buildings and you have complied with Local Law 87 like the law-abiding building owner that you are. The best part? You have a decade to reap the rewards.
And much more, when you’re saving on energy. Take a page out of Via Verde’s book. Four years ago, Jonathan Rose Companies and Phipps Houses collaborated to redefine affordable housing standards in the South Bronx by way of sustainable design. The project was a success in terms of energy saved, but it’s what residents have gained that keeps Via Verde in the spotlight.
Here are five amenities made possible by the green initiatives taken on site, proving that affordability and sustainability are two peas in a pod:
Rooftop apple orchard
At Via Verde, green roofs go beyond just grass. Not only do they complement the staggering solar array in terms of efficient design, they also provide ample space for residents to garden. Bonus feature: community gardening club.
In terms of affordability, staying in beats going out every time. The amphitheater hosts community organized events, keeping residents happy, occupied and local.
Pavement doesn’t need watering. Just imagine what the urban landscape might look like if we not only had more flora and fauna, but also the systems in place to keep it thriving.
Your building is trying to tell you something. Do you have the tools to hear it? A real-time solar production dashboard is on display for residents and visitors alike at Via Verde, because you can and should be connected to the systems that make your building a place to live.
Peace of Mind
Streamlined energy usage means more money in your pocket at the end of the day, and the day after that.
In response to Living on Earth’s “A Green Building Blooms in the Bronx” featured here.
I came to Sunset Park two years ago. Three months ago I realized that I was a South Sloper. I haven’t moved. One thing is clear, the neighborhood is changing. I was tipped off by the freshly planted trees on the sidewalks and the new compost bins at the curbs. Since when did beautification become a priority on the same block as an abandoned White Castle? That plus the influx of new, trendy businesses in bordering neighborhoods is a sign of what who is to come.
Whole Foods, Royal Palms, Brooklyn Boulders and the like may be entering the territory beyond 4th Avenue at just the right time. Developers are snatching up lots left and right, with the intention of giving this Park Slope-shadowed area something it’s never seen before: a skyline.
But at what cost? With Superstorm Sandy a receding but still vibrant memory, have we thought about which energy initiatives can be implemented with the revitalization of this area? Energy initiatives should be a part of the developing infrastructure, they can also be an incentive. In nearby Park Slope, a triplex is for sale…complete with Tesla. Free car with purchase might be pushing it for most, but other more cost-effective sustainable features might be able to draw in potential residents. If we bake energy consciousness into the neighborhood vision now, we can create an environment that is primed to preserve the environment. Can the idea of efficiency evolve from costly perk to necessary investment? Let’s see what you’ve got, Brooklyn.
Once you’ve accepted the ice bucket challenge, there’s no turning back. You have signed a verbal contract with your friends, followers and your own conscience to dump a perfectly good bucket-full of ice water on your head for the sake of awareness. The challenge has been an enormous social and financial success for the ALS Association, but what about all of that wasted water?
Amid a drought crisis in California, The Daily Currant posted a satirical article stating that ice bucket challenge participants in California would be fined for their insensitivity to the drought. While the article was a farce, the issue of water waste still stands.
Facebook reports that over 1.2 million buckets of ice water have been dumped on their site since June 1st, when the challenge took off. With the challenge’s exponential pay-it-forward component, there’s quite a bit of water at stake. Is it possible to reverse the trend and save water?
In short, yes. Energy and water consumption in multifamily buildings across the U.S. cost owners and residents an estimated $22 billion each year – at least 25% of which is unnecessary waste caused by inefficient building systems (these numbers were calculated in a pre-ice bucket challenge era and do not account for challenge-related waste). There are plenty of programs out there implementing energy and water conservation measures to eliminate that waste, but there was no way of knowing whether or not these programs actually worked. As it turns out, they do. Bright Power and The Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future’s recent study, Energy and Water Savings in Multifamily Retrofits,analyzes pre- and post-retrofit data to determine the effectiveness of two savings programs. With regard to water, efficiency upgrades saved properties an average of 26%, and paid for themselves after only a year.
Although the ice bucket challenge continues to gain momentum, water waste can be counteracted. We have the tools we need to find the leaks, fix the kinks and keep water flowing to you in the most efficient way possible. Of course, you could always donate instead of getting dunked, but we understand and appreciate the value of a good home video.
To read the full report, click here
If you’d like to make a donation to the ALS Association without the bucket, click here
Bright Power and SAHF unveil results of the largest national multifamily retrofit study of its kind.
Industry professionals and efficiency proponents often lack data to verify that energy conservation measures live up to their claims. As an organization dedicated to preserving affordable housing, the Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future (SAHF) recognized the need for more robust and accessible multifamily retrofit programs. Efficiency retrofits have the potential to dramatically decrease operating costs, stabilize the cost of living for residents, and in turn, pay for themselves. In the world of affordable housing, those benefits are worth investing in.
With funding from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Bright Power was happy to dive head first with SAHF into what would become the largest analysis of pre- and post-retrofit data from multifamily energy and water retrofits to date. The study focused on two programs: HUD’s nation-wide Green Retrofit Program (GRP) and the Energy Savers program offered by Elevate Energy and the Community Investment Corporation (CIC) in Illinois. One year each of pre- and post-retrofit utility bills were collected for 236 properties, totaling 24 months worth of usage data per property, uploaded into Bright Power’s proprietary benchmarking software,EnergyScoreCards, and analyzed by dedicated members of our research team.
After all was said and done, what did we find? Retrofits work. Both programs showed significant cost, energy and water savings. The GRP reduced building energy consumption by 18%, resulting in a $3.1 million annual savings for the properties surveyed. On top of that, water savings generated a combined annual savings of approximately $1.2 million. In the Energy Savers program, gas consumption was reduced by 26% on average and an estimated annual savings of $381,000 for the 57 properties analyzed. In the most energy-intensive properties, Energy Savers reduced excess waste by an average of 47%.
Despite the overwhelmingly positive numbers, not all projects showed savings. This was in part due to changes in scope after projections had already been calculated which impacted the post-retrofit results. Further analysis of the specific measures taken at the property level is needed to pinpoint areas for improvement, a process which is crucial improving future programs and scaling up energy and water efficiency. We believe that our broader, results-oriented study opens the door for future studies to do just that.
With the results unveiled, our President, Jeff Perlman stated, “This study of the national data set shows that a wide variety of retrofit projects produced real, measurable energy, water and cost savings”. The report ultimately determined that these programs are saving energy and money and in doing so, helping affordable housing owners keep their communities efficient and affordable in the long run.
Bright Power and The Netherlands’ energy experts explore the Brooklyn neighborhood
On the heels of New York Energy Week, Bright Power and a delegation of Microgrid experts from the Netherlands teamed up for a bicycle tour of the Brooklyn neighborhood of Red Hook. Even two years after Superstorm Sandy, Red Hook has not completely recovered, but where they’ve seen hardship, there is also opportunity.
At home, the Dutch have mastered comprehensive energy planning for entire communities, leading the global energy sector in smart microgrids, energy storage and electric mobility solutions. The Dutch delegation of energy experts, convened by the Consulate General of the Netherlands in New York and Energy Transition New York, included progressive grid operators Alliander and Cogas, and other advanced battery storage experts. Recognizing the need for a local advocate, Bright Power invited Gita Nandan, Red Hook resident, founding partner of sustainable architecture firm Thread Collective and co-chair of the Red Hook NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program, which recently released a comprehensive plan for making the neighborhood more resilient against climate risks.
Joined by Bright Power’s Henry Misas and Klaar De Schepper, the team took to the streets in traditional Dutch fashion, on Dutch bicycles. The team toured the neighborhood from IKEA to New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA)’s Red Hook Houses while stopping along the way to hear first-hand accounts of Red Hook’s tumultuous history. The community stands to see an economic and cultural resurgence. Ideally, these efforts would revitalize the neighborhood through an influx of jobs, affordable housing and new businesses. A large-scale energy project is the perfect catalyst for holistic changes such as these.
It’s important to modernize Red Hook’s energy profile not only to revitalize the neighborhood, but also to protect it from the next storm and preserve it for generations to come. This global team of innovators is well-positioned to consult on protecting cities against future climate risks, as demonstrated by fact that four of the five winning projects of New York City’s “Rebuild by Design” competition are US-Dutch collaborations. The forward-thinking neighborhood is making resiliency a priority and we are excited to see how strategic energy solutions can shape this promising neighborhood.
It has been a fruitful award season for Bright Power and our dedicated partners. We are always proud to contribute to the success of our partners’ innovative projects, especially when they are recognized by our peers. Help us raise a glass and congratulate the visionaries at Hudson Companies and Hebrew SeniorLife who made these award-winning projects possible.
Gateway Elton – Association of Energy Engineers’ (AEE)
2014 Renewable Energy Project of the Year
Gateway Elton Street, Hudson Companies’ 3-phase, 8-building, multifamily housing development located in Brooklyn, has been recognized as AEE’s 2014 Renewable Energy Project of the year. The site’s solar electric system will, upon completion of all three phases, contain 1 megawatt of generating capacity, making it the largest residential solar photovoltaic installation in New York State.
The vision of Aaron Koffman from Hudson Companies was to maximize the power capacity and annual energy production of a roof top solar system for this large-scale affordable housing complex. Pulling off an installation of that magnitude in an urban setting was no easy feat, but the Bright Power team was happy to accept the challenge. To achieve the desired scale of the system, we attached a series of monolithic tilted steel dunnage structures to the building rooftops, spanning the four buildings included in Phase 1 of the project.
To ensure that the solar panels are always working properly, we included an online monitoring system, allowing us to dynamically measure production. Using this tool, we’ve found that the system is offsetting 42% of the total electricity usage in the residential common area and retail spaces, putting it on track to pay for itself in just four years. Additionally, the system is exceeding its performance expectations with virtually no maintenance requirements. We look forward to continuing to work and innovate with this high-performing team for the next phases of this project and beyond.
Jack Satter House – Winner of Two EBies from the Urban Green Council for Achievements in Energy and Water Saving Projects
Double congratulations are in order for the Jack Satter House and its Executive Director, Stephen Post. The Bright Power team stood by proudly as Stephen accepted two awards at The Urban Green Council’s EBies- the Grammy’s of energy efficiency- at the Hard Rock Cafe on June 9th in NYC. Funded by HUD’s Multifamily Green Retrofit Program, Jack Satter House, in Revere Beach, MA, won in two categories, “Take Me to the River: Winning Water Savings”, and “Power to the People: Exceptional Energy Savings”. Bright Power, in partnership with Hebrew SeniorLife, West Mechanical Contractors and KOW Building Consultants, had the honor of having our contribution recognized on two EBie-winning projects. The energy and water retrofit at Jack Satter House was a success thanks to the collaborative efforts of all those involved, including the low-income elderly individuals and families who call Jack Satter House home. In just twelve months, the site achieved a 21% reduction in source energy and a remarkable 48% reduction in water use through conservation measures large and small. A combination of high-efficiency technology upgrades and improved system controls as well as residents’ cooperation and enthusiasm for efficiency took the savings realized from good to award-winning. By keeping the residents, management, and maintenance staff engaged in the process from the initial development phase to final system commissioning, the occupants at Jack Satter House will have the knowledge and the know-how to maintain the energy and water savings for years to come.
Want to see more photos from the event? Click here!
Put your benchmarking results to use!
NYC’s energy benchmarking law, Local Law 84, was created with the intention of bringing energy usage to the forefront of building owners’ minds. By revealing how inefficient some buildings are compared to their peers, the City is hoping to spur energy efficiency increasing measures.
In order to help turn the benchmarking results into action, Bright Power has released a short white paper that shows how NYC multifamily buildings compare to their peers. This tool utilizes the Energy Use Index (EUI) provided by the benchmarking results to put your building performance into context. Download your copy here.
REMINDER: 2014 Benchmarking is due May 1st!
Don’t let the energy markets take you for a ride.
If you’re looking at your utility bills from this past winter, chances are you’re not too pleased. Not only did you face skyrocketing energy prices, but also angry tenants and shareholders demanding answers. Does that ring any bells? So why was this winter so jaw-dropping? Blame it on the rain (and the snow and the cold). Unforeseen storms and temperatures sent demand through the roof, severely depleting our country’s natural gas reserves. The drastic decrease in storage created a volatile market which is still in recovery. And, because electricity prices follow natural gas prices, your electric bills shot up, too.
But you don’t need to be so exposed to the wild fluctuations of the energy markets. You can stick with your local utility company to cover your energy supply and ride the energy market rollercoaster… or you can work with a valued partner to bid out to multiple Energy Supply Companies (ESCOs), find competitive rates and develop pragmatic strategies to accommodate your energy needs and protect you from future price spikes. For example, by buying your energy ahead of time – at the right time – you can mitigate risk for you, your building, and your tenants and shareholders.
How can Bright Power help? Bright Power’s newly expanded Energy Procurement team will evaluate your past, present, and projected energy usage. That assessment, along with a deep understanding of the energy market, will form the foundation of your customized energy procurement strategy. Our trusted advisors are continually monitoring the markets to seize opportunities to save while simultaneously managing and reducing risks on our clients’ behalf. Start preparing for tomorrow, today.