You know that vast patch of parking lots you see right before you get on the Williamsburg Bridge? Take a good mental picture because it won’t be there for long. Instead, this is the future home of Essex Crossing, a development that will consist of nine mixed-use and mixed-income sites which will effectively reshape the face of the neighborhood. On top of that, the L+M Development Partners project was recently awarded an Affordable Green Neighborhoods Grant for their commitment to neighborhood sustainability, making the development an even greater upgrade from the current swath of pavement.
Sponsored by The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and Bank of America, the Affordable Green Neighborhoods Grant Program is in its third year of providing support and resources to developers of affordable housing projects seeking LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED ND) certification. This year, eleven winners were chosen based on their ability to elevate the design and sustainability of an affordable green neighborhood while meeting various environmental and social criteria such as creating a mixed-income community, redeveloping infill and previously developed sites, engaging stakeholders in the development process and revitalizing both the project area and the surrounding community.
Essex Crossing does just that. Not only will each building in the Seward Park mega-project pursue LEED ND certification, but as it is such a large project, the team has the opportunity to provide resources and foster sustainable practices that will envelop an entire neighborhood and improve the quality of life of residents for generations to come. The site-to-be will feature a slew of amenities including garden spaces, shops, a movie theater and The Andy Warhol Museum to name a few, but its sustainability plan is what nabbed the grant, and we are proud to be working with L+M on such an exciting and beneficial project.
Our response to the recent announcement of WegoScore, as reported by Energy Manager Today. Read the full story here.
Flashy dashboards are just that and numbers don’t make decisions. Our competitors seem to think that using their latest algorithm to give you a single number that describes the efficiency of your building is sufficient, while you’re left to hash out everything that comes after it (along with the billion other things you have to do this week). At Bright Power, we’ve got superb algorithms and a dashboard that is used by more multifamily square footage than any other, but we take issue with dashboard-only offerings because they only address a piece of the puzzle without providing you with truly actionable information.
In general, people need experts to help them set plans to achieve desirable results. Take CrossFit for example – a made-to-order fitness regimen that consists of many functional movements performed at a high intensity. The science behind why it works is interesting enough, but that’s not the reason why they’ve experienced an obscene amount of growth over the last few years. The reason for their success is simple: they lay out your workout for you, you do it (and don’t have to think about it), and it works. Most gyms have you figure it out for yourself, which is probably why my gym membership has gone largely unused since I first signed up 6 months ago. To property managers and building owners, energy management presents the same exact problem: they know that they should be doing it, and they know that if they do, they’ll see some great results. The problem is that they don’t have anyone laying out a comprehensive plan to help them get there.
Energy service companies have been using complex algorithms to describe the overall energy efficiency of their clients’ buildings for years now, but in order to make real changes and see real savings, you need a real plan. There’s no doubt that benchmarking plays a pivotal role in helping building owners better understand their energy and water consumption, but it’s not the end-all, be-all. What our competitors fail to realize is that a glossy dashboard alone isn’t enough to drastically reduce energy consumption, cut utility costs, and decrease carbon emissions. You need a team of experts whose mission is to not only monitor the performance of your buildings, but also to lay out a comprehensive energy management plan that will increase efficiency and reduce capital expenditures at your property. Simply put: you need someone who is going to take care of your energy problems for you so that you can get back to focusing on what you do best.
I always find it interesting when non-energy publications try to tell an energy story. The results are usually mixed. Earlier today, this short article about nation-wide electric price increases in the first six months of 2014 says just that. However it leaves out the meat of the story, the meat being why electric prices were so high. The answer lies in how the electric markets work.
Natural gas is the price setting fuel for electric generation in many parts of the US, particularly on the East Cost. This just means that because it is the main fuel source consumed, the price of electricity moves with the price of natural gas. Historically, wholesale natural gas prices are lower in the “spot” (a.k.a. cash) market where prices are determined shortly before the commodity is needed (say less than a month or even on a daily basis.) Electricity generators know this all too well and so they do not hedge very much of the supply. As a result, when natural gas prices spike as they did this past winter, the increase in natural gas costs are passed along to the electric market in their bidding process.
For consumers, this materializes in a price spike from both ends: heating costs and electric prices soar at the same time. With so many variables, it can be difficult to understand why these two seemingly-unrelated spikes would occur in unison but it’s actually because they are inherently related. Natural gas is calling all the shots.
Vice President, Energy Markets
The answer might surprise you.
While energy is essential to the livelihood of a building, it’s often taken for granted. For the most part, the lights turn on every day and water runs. We’re lucky enough to live in a time and place where that level of comfort is something we can rely on. So who can we thank? It takes a lot of time and effort from a lot of different people to keep a building up and running but it’s really difficult to pinpoint who is actually in control of the one thing that actually keep a building, well, up and running: energy.
Well, the Super’s job is to make sure that the building is running smoothly, sure. But he only knows when there’s a problem because 4A is yapping about it. The Super responds to tenant complaints and fixes problems accordingly. Energy is not at the top of his list and he has little incentive to make it a priority if no one is complaining. Next!
Sure, some energy-savvy tenants care about how much energy they use, especially if utilities are not included in their rent. They mayknow all about the benefits of LED lightbulbs and they may have installed low-flow aerators on their faucets, but they didn’t do it in every unit, it’s not their job. Moving along…
The Property Manager
Property Managers manage just that: properties. What does that consist of? Building safety, staff efficiency, rent collection, bill payments, resident retention, budgeting, etc. Property managers have to quantify energy use and they might even implement changes in the hopes of reducing it, but so much of their job is about juggling. If they have to choose one ball, odds are it’s not going to be energy.
The Energy Contractor
They came, maybe the installed, maybe they adjusted some settings, then they left. Set it and forget it just doesn’t work. They can bring your building up to speed and provide all of the tools necessary for energy greatness, but in order for those measures to keep working, and that is the most important part of the process, someone needs to stick around for the long haul.
Think about where you live. Is there someone there whose sole responsibility it is to make sure energy is doing its job and doing it well? Is there someone who knows what that even means? Considering how much we depend on light, water, heat, gas, etc., shouldn’t someone be watching the thing that makes it all possible?
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.