Many thanks to our hard-working clients and partners who made 2017 a record-breaking and inspiring year. We look forward to continuing our great work together in 2018!
This year, our footprint grew to include over $1.3 billion in annual utility spend, more than 980 million square feet, and over 900,000 units. Together, we implemented energy and water savings improvements at hundreds of buildings – existing and new construction – across the nation, that have increased net operating income, improved tenant comfort, and increased property value. This commitment to building and maintaining sustainable communities allowed us to expand our impact, completing twice as many new construction projects and twice as many on-site generation installations compared to last year.
We are proud to lead turnkey installations for many forward-thinking owners and managers across the country. While we can’t list every project here, the following are examples are some of the things we have accomplished in the last year.
L-R: Morgan Mickelson, Mercy Housing; Andy McNamara, Bright Power; Jeff Greenberger, Affordable Community Energy Services Company; Caitlin Rood, Mercy Housing; Jessica Esposito, Bright Power
In California, Bright Power completed several comprehensive projects. We implemented retrofits with Mercy Housing across 12 properties, including the installation of heat pump water heaters at 6 of the properties. These heat pump water heaters are 250% to 400% more efficient than a traditional gas-fired or electric system. By using EnergyScoreCards as the foundation of our work with Mercy Housing, we were able to assess performance on a portfolio-level, expediting project work and allowing us to advise on a procurement strategy to manage energy supply costs. To assist with financing, Mercy turned to Affordable Community Energy Services Company (ACE) for an innovative approach – “pay from savings” – allowing Mercy to pay for the upgrades from the energy and water savings over a 10 year period.
Workforce Housing’s 1380 University Avenue saw a 57% decrease in energy costs and 41% decrease in water costs after implementing 7 efficiency measures. See below for a snapshot of an EnergyScoreCards report.
At Manhattan School of Music, we converted most of the building to water source heat pumps and replaced an aging chiller with a new, more efficient modular chiller. We also installed controls building-wide and achieved a level of comfort that was unprecedented at the facility. This yielded a net reduction in carbon emissions of 585,000 lbs per year, 15% reduction in water usage, and 10% overall reduction in energy use intensity (EUI). All of these changes resulted in energy cost savings of approximately 12.6%. Our real-time monitoring MoBIUS (Management of Building Information, Utilities, and Systems) service allowed commissioning to happen continuously throughout the year, proactively identifying several opportunities for further optimization.
We also completed a turnkey retrofit at 6 California properties with Bridge Housing which included boiler replacements, controls, LED lighting, and low flow water fixtures.
MG Properties Group completed 8 strategic energy-savings improvements across 12 California communities.
Equity Residential wrapped up the first phase of a larger strategic retrofit project across their portfolio, completing efficiency retrofits at 8 assets in California and 4 in New York City.
In New York City, completed projects include: the design and installation of L+M Development Partners’ 479 kW solar PV system at Marcus Garvey Apartments, the design and installation of a 116 kW solar PV pergola system at BRC’s 233 Landing Road, and the design and installation of a 28 kW solar PV system at Postgraduate Center for Mental Health’s Shakespeare Avenue property in the Bronx.
We worked with Omni New York, LLC to wrap up a large-scale energy and water retrofit at River Park Towers, a 1,600-unit property in the Bronx. The project consisted of installing a new condensing boiler plant and hot water distribution system, LEDs, and new toilets. It also included the installation of a 1 MW cogeneration system that will provide electric and thermal savings to the property as well as power resiliency. The project is on track to deliver $2.7M in annual savings.
In partnership with Breaking Ground, we completed the turnkey installation of two 100 kW combined heat and power (CHP) units for The Times Square, providing backup power for the first time at the property.
Via Verde, Bronx, NY – Jonathan Rose Companies & Phipps Housing
This year also marked the beginning of many exciting projects. With Jonathan Rose Companies and Phipps Housing, we are continuing to create long-term resiliency by installing an 18 kW battery system at Via Verde in the Bronx. With battery storage, Via Verde will be able to store the energy produced from their 66 kW solar PV system and use it as backup power in the event of another superstorm like Hurricane Sandy, as well as take advantage of demand savings.
Construction is starting at LeFrak City on new boiler plants and combined heat and power (CHP) systems for 2 of the community’s 20 apartment towers in Corona, Queens. Omni New York, LLC’s Morris Ave Phase II initiated construction on one of the largest passive house projects of its kind in the country and will provide apartments for formerly homeless residents. River Terrace Apartments, a cooperative in New York City, is closing out the construction of a deep and multifaceted retrofit that includes solar PV, CHP, lighting, fuel conversion, ventilation overhaul, toilet replacement, and heating system steam balancing. We will start installing HELP USA’s Crotona Senior Housing 91 kW solar PV array atop a pergola steel framing system – a project nominated for NYHC’s Community Impact Award. We are midway through installing a 575 kW solar PV system across 20 buildings at Ocean Bay Apartments, 1,395-unit complex located in Far Rockaway, New York.
Congratulations to This Year’s Honorees and Nominees
We’re elated client and partner of Bright Power, OMNI New York LLC is being honored as Developer of the Year at this year’s NYHC & NHC Awards Program. OMNI New York has been a fantastic partner we’ve worked with on projects such as Morris Avenue (pictured above), Archer Green, and 10 Richman Plaza.
We are also incredibly proud that Bright Power has been involved in so many impactful affordable housing projects. We wish all of our clients and partners nominated for the Community Impact Competition the best of luck.
Settlement Housing Fund / The Briarwood Organization & Edelman Sultan Knox Wood / Architects LLP – 1561 Walton Avenue: We provided new construction services including Enterprise Green Communities certification and NYSERDA Multifamily Performance Program (MPP) Partner Services.
Unique People Services & MAP – 2050 Grand Concourse: We are working as the energy efficiency and green building consultant for this supportive housing new construction project. As part of our services, we are helping the development team target a LEED Platinum certification and design on-site energy generation systems that will be able to power critical loads in the event of a disruption to the electric grid.
The Bridge, Inc. & the Leviticus Fund – 3500 Park Avenue: We are currently working as the project’s solar design consultant, continuing the solar design and installation services we have provided for The Bridge on other projects including 918 East New York Avenue, which is currently under construction.
Radson Development & MAP – Creston Parkview: We are providing Enterprise Green Communities certification and commissioning services.
HELP USA with SAGE USA & Magnusson Architecture and Planning (MAP) – HELP Crotona Senior Housing: We consulted with HELP USA starting with their tax credit funding application and are providing energy efficiency, green building, and mechanical system commissioning services including NYSERDA New Construction Program and Enterprise Green Communities consulting. We designed and will install a 90.72 kW solar PV array atop a trellis-pergola steel framing system.
BFC Partners, Marvel Architects, SAGE USA – Ingersoll Senior Residences with SAGE USA: We consulted with the development team as part of their successful response to a NYCHA RFP. We are providing energy efficiency, green building and mechanical system commissioning services, including NYSERDA New Construction Program and Enterprise Green Communities consulting.
MDG Design + Construction, LLC – Michelangelo Apartments: We served as the project’s energy efficiency consultant, beginning with an energy audit to identify cost-effective energy and water efficiency measures. The energy scope for the project includes converting from electric baseboard to hydronic heating which will produce significant energy and cost-savings. We are providing the services to procure incentives from the NYSERDA MPP, commission the new hydronic boiler plants, and set up monitoring equipment that will allow us to track the performance of critical building systems in real time through our MoBIUS offering.
RDC Development (MDG Design + Construction, LLC and Wavecrest Management) – Ocean Bay Apartments: We served as the project’s energy efficiency, power resiliency and on-site generation consultant, conducted an energy audit of the 24 building property, and provided an on-site generation feasibility study to assess the viability of solar PV, co-generation and energy storage technologies. After determining that solar PV was the most cost-effective on-site generation technology, we designed a system that will significantly reduce the property’s electric costs. We are now installing the 575.52 kW solar system, the third largest system on an affordable multifamily property in New York State. Read more about our work here.
Monadnock Development & Bernheimer Architecture – One Flushing: We consulted on and are in the process of installing a 116.1 kW solar PV system.
Georgica Green Ventures, Stephen B. Jacobs Group PC, Glenwood Management & Concern for Independent Living – Surf Vets Place: We work as the energy efficiency and green building consultant for this new construction project. As part of our services, we help the project meet the guidelines of Enterprise Green Communities as well as commission its mechanical systems.
Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation (WHEDco), Edelman Sultan Knox Wood / Architects LLP, Peter Franzese – Urban Horizons (UH): We conducted the energy auditing portion of NYC HPD’s first Green Physical Needs Assessment (GPNA).
We think all of the nominees are winners for their dedication and commitment to positively influencing each community they touch!
The sweltering summer shows no signs of slowing down both in temperatures and headlines. We’ve compiled some of our favorite blogs covering many aspects of the heat wave including price spikes, future forecasts, the impact of air conditioning, boosts in solar, and even historic cooling methods. Check ’em out!
California Powers 6 Million Homes With Solar Energy, Slays Record
Believe it or not this heat wave is having at least one positive effect. Huffington Post reports that California solar panels hit a new record for electricity produced, 8,030 megawatts to be exact. And that’s just for large solar plants. Read the full article on Huffington Post here.
The Global Environmental Impact of Air Conditioning is Big and Will Get Even Bigger
The world loves air conditioning. And now, more than ever before, people can afford to have one or several units in their homes. But what does this mean for the global demand for electricity to power those air conditioners? Quartz explores this question in depth. Read the full article here.
New York City Electricity Spot Price Spikes by 1,000%
The heat wave is not confined to outdoor temperatures. A particularly hot streak took its toll on the New York City electricity spot price per megawatt hour which reached $1,042, up from the average price of $94. Electricity bills were not directly affected but the price jump is definitely something to keep an eye on. Read more here.
How Houses Were Cooled Before Air Conditioning
Air conditioning is a relatively modern invention but heat has always been a problem. How did people deal with it before electricity? Curbed goes way back to explain some of the more creative ways to beat the heat. Read the full article here.
Get Used to These Extreme Summer Heat Waves
We’re already on track to surpass the record breaking temperatures of 2015 and scientists says unless we reduce our fossil fuel consumption, we’re looking at the new normal. “If we continue with business-as-usual burning of fossil fuels, and warm the planet by [3 degrees Celsius] by the end of this century, then what we today call ‘extreme heat’ we will instead call ‘mid-summer'”. Read the full article on Huffington Post.
Today’s interconnected, tech-enabled world has unleashed a powerful wave of optimization in most sectors of the economy. However, much of the energy and building operations infrastructure, particularly in the multifamily realm, is still ripe for innovation. In 2015, it’s hard to believe that some utilities still get away with employing human meter readers and sending bills by fax, but we see it every day!
The energy management landscape is primed for technology disruption. Who are our favorite companies doing just that? Read on for our list of companies to watch as the energy industry embarks on an age of transformation.
LogCheck‘s app connects maintenance staff to upper management more efficiently than ever before. The digital logbook modernizes the way maintenance staff run buildings on a daily basis by allowing them to create and maintain records, review historical data and easily share that information with building management, bringing operations and maintenance into the 21st century.
Geli, short for Growing Energy Labs, Inc. provides software and business solutions to design, integrate, network and economically operate energy storage and microgrid systems. At its core, the Geli Energy Operating System (EOS) is a software platform that brings together energy storage, distributed generation, EV charging and building controls as part of the Internet of Energy. Their EOS can even make decisions on when and how to run different energy assets. For example, based on the current price of power and energy, Geli’s software automatically makes decisions on when to sell energy back to the grid, to ensure you’re getting the best possible value.
Enertiv is a new breed of electricity monitoring company. Their software platform allows you to see real-time energy performance and provides actionable insights. Using a combination of proprietary meters and sensors, as well as by integrating with existing building systems, Enertiv makes real-time energy consumption in buildings 100% transparent down to the equipment level and provides round-the-clock access to fine-grained data. By helping owners, operators, occupants, etc. visualize and digest their consumption, Enertiv empowers change in an unprecedented way.
Urjanet addresses a fundamental market need for quick and easy access to uniform utility data. By providing an automated data feed of detailed and structured utility data to energy service and software providers, Urjanet eliminates manual energy data collection and cleansing for these companies and allows them to focus their time and resources on analysis and action. It’s hard to underestimate the value of reliable, structured utility data, especially when you realize that there are 35,000 different utility companies worldwide, each with their own utility bill format!
These are just a few of our favorites, who are yours? Tell us in the comments section below!
We at Bright Power read the news of Tesla’s Powerwall with unbelievable excitement. For years, energy efficiency has been treated as either an obligation or a lofty goal, both of which has made it difficult to adopt for consumers and businesses, but it seems we’re at a turning point. Like Nest did for the thermostat, the Powerwall makes batteries sexy, cool, desirable. The reason this product will succeed is at least in part because people will want it. That’s something the efficiency market hasn’t seen and it’s something we need. The mass production of renewable technology means we are finally at a point where efficiency meets desire.
Getting the public on board is a necessary hurdle which must be crossed in order to reach the decision-making building owners who often block out the energy company ‘noise’ because it’s complicated, it’s confusing and there’s just so much of it.
Luckily, the necessary pieces to make this a sound business decision are already in place. Like the Powerwall, Bright Power’s Resilient Power Hub deploys batteries, but combines them with solar photovoltaics (PV) and combined-heat-and-power (CHP) to provide instantaneous, long-term backup power. And it pays for itself over time! The Resilient Power Hub was designed for small businesses as a part of the RISE:NYC competition (which we won, by the way) but it’s scalable to multifamily and commercial buildings where waste is big and opportunity is bigger. Bigger fish, here we come.
Can you remember what was going on in your life exactly one year ago? I sure can because the energy markets were nuts. At this time last year, we were in the middle of a winter that brought historically cold temperatures, incredibly high natural gas consumption, and record high energy prices. The result was record low amounts of natural gas in storage. Low storage levels – a storage deficit – leads to high prices and high volatility. We reasonably expected that storage levels would recover slowly over a 36 month period, as would price volatility. This prediction was blindsided by a mild summer with low electric demand (requiring less natural gas-fired generation) and unexpected, record-setting natural gas production. Natural gas prices gradually declined until a large sell-off in late December led to natural gas prices falling off a cliff to a new, lower trading range (see Chart One).
Economics 101 tells you that with a storage deficit, we see an increase in prices while a surplus causes prices to decrease. The two charts below show historic and forecasted storage levels. The lower portion of each chart – the red bars – shows the relative deficit and surplus levels. The reversal of market conditions is evident by looking at the regions circled in red. In March 2014, storage deficits were expected to continue well into 2016, but by January 2015, storage deficits were erased and are expected to continue that way for quite some time, even showing a slight surplus by November 2015.
The unforeseen improvement in storage levels has reduced natural gas prices from the high of approximately $5.00 per dekatherm (DTH) to the current low of $2.65/DTH (50% decrease). On the electric side, we have seen accounts that received 12 month fixed-price offers of $0.12 per kilowatt hour (KWH) in April 2014 receiving the same contracts at a rate of $0.085/KWH. The past year has perfectly demonstrated the impact that natural gas storage has on energy prices. The question is no longer how did we get here, it’s where are we going?
Dan Levin, VP Energy Markets
But it should be!
Luxury, low-income, high-rise, low-rise, pre-war, modern, condominium, or coop – regardless of borough or building type, there is something we New Yorkers have in common: we are all deprived of fresh air!
I’m not saying that fresh air is an endangered species in NYC, nor am I trying to portray those scenes from Total Recall where anyone who steps outside turns into this guy. In fact, as part of the City’s Greener, Greater Buildings Plan, New York progressed by leaps and bounds with respect to overall air quality (Thanks, Bloomberg!). What I’m talking about here is indoor air quality (IAQ).
Based upon this engineer’s experience, more than 95% of all buildings – at least those which possess mechanical ventilation – are not properly ventilated. This is caused by simple physics: air, just as all other gases, will take the path of least resistance. No matter how large a fan you put on that shaft, air will always want to travel from the upper floor registers and leakage areas before it will travel from that farthest register (i.e., typically those on the first three floors). As a result, most buildings as a whole are grossly over-ventilated while tenant spaces on the lower floors, such as kitchens and bathrooms, are not ventilated at all. Not only is this a major health and safety concern, but it is (technically) illegal.
If you live in a multi-dwelling building, you have the right to proper ventilation. What gives you this right? Well, it’s the combination of the following three policies:
- New York City Building Code
- New York City Mechanical Code
- And most importantly, the Multiple Dwelling Law (MDL), which is usually the most stringent.
The solution is simple – balance the ventilation system! In the majority of cases, balancing can be accomplished with a basic 3-step process:
- Clean the shaft/duct – remove all dirt, debris, and grease
- Seal the shaft/duct – now that the shaft is clean, repair the shaft and seal all leaks
- Test, adjust, and balance (TAB) the system – this is an iterative process which begins with the installation of constant airflow regulators (otherwise known as CARs) within each register followed by flow testing and fan adjustments (increase or decrease speed)
However, in order to be successful, owners must treat the situation like any other substantial alteration: HAVE IT PROFESSIONALLY DESIGNED AND MONITORED!
Remember: no matter what your contractor tells you, this work DOES require permitting, and per NYC Building Code, a balancing report for close out! This means that any design/filing should come standard with these requirements in addition to performance specifications.
It’s time to start getting your buildings ready to look and feel good…for the rest of their lives.
I don’t know about you but every January I tell myself things are going to be different this year. The new year inspires us to set goals for healthy living, financial success and lasting relationships. In fact, there is an entire industry of resources and technologies focused on making our goals easily attainable. Running your building is no different.
We look at thousands of buildings across the country each year and hear the same problems. Even worse, we see the same short-term solutions implemented year after year. If tenants are complaining about their apartment being too cold, crank up the boiler. If the hallway lights are dim and they keep burning out, replace them with the same light bulb. Every year we end up paying more and more for electricity, gas and water because the approach to energy management just isn’t evolving anywhere near as quickly as consumption is growing. However our dependency on energy, and the price we pay for it continues to climb.
Just because your building was built in the 1900’s doesn’t mean you have to operate it that way. Energy was less expensive when these buildings were built and conservation was not a goal or a necessity. Times have changed! This year, it’s time to bring your building into the 21st Century. There are simple ways to start managing energy that will help you provide your tenants with a healthier space to live and work, reduce your operating expenses and keep happy tenants in your building for years to come.
The first step is to measure your usage. Whether you are trying to lose weight or earn more money, knowing where you stand is crucial to success. This will also help you understand how your building uses energy and where you should focus your time, money and effort. This is a fundamental metric that is imperative to evaluating and recognizing your success.
Now it’s time to make some changes! But like any resolution, start small and build up throughout the year. Here’s a simple change that can produce big results: upgrade your lights. Most of the buildings we see still have incandescent lighting, which is the same technology that Thomas Edison invented…in the 1800s. Even fluorescent lamps are outdated; you can typically achieve a 40%-50% energy reduction by switching to LEDs. By leapfrogging straight to LEDs, you can quickly reduce operating costs, maintenance costs and will usually increase light levels, making your building safer.
Lastly, and here is the most important part, you have to watch the results – good or bad! Proper energy management can’t be done by installing new devices alone because set it and forget it doesn’t work. You think losing ten pounds is tough until you realize what you have to do to keep it off. Your building’s energy health is as much a journey that needs monitoring as your own.
To bring your building into the 21st Century, the most important advice to follow is to be strategic. Working with a personal trainer is effective because it means having a long-term plan and someone who can hold you accountable. Set goals for your building or your portfolio and work with a strategic partner that will help you achieve what you set out to do. You don’t need to stick to old tactics just because your building is old. New, strategic approaches to operating will help create healthier, more profitable and longer-lasting buildings. So let your building’s six pack fly free this summer. Start now to make 2015 the year you finally see results, because with buildings, it’s beach season all year long!
Domestic energy sources have been subsidized in the U.S. for almost as long as we’ve been an independent nation, dating all the way back to 1789 when our new leaders first implemented a tax on the sale of British coal. Today, the debate surrounding federal support for the energy industry is as contentious as ever. The months leading up to Congress’s passing of the Fiscal Year 2015 Omnibus Appropriations Bills have been filled with an excess of rhetoric, half-truths, and whole-lies regarding the different ways that our government supports the energy sector. Instead of adding more fuel to the fire, here we will present empirical data detailing where and how much our government subsidizes energy and the future implications of federal support of the renewable energy sector.
The table below is the result of a study that analyzed the distribution of subsidies among the many ways in which the federal government has supported energy development for the entire industry from 1950-2010. The study estimated that federal support for the energy industry over that 60-year time period totaled over $837 billion (in 2010 dollars). Their findings show that the coal, oil, nuclear, and gas industries have been the major beneficiaries, having received close to 80% ($666.5B) of federal subsidies since 1950; while hydro, renewables and geothermal comprise the remaining 20% ($170.7B).
While these numbers seem to tell us that government energy subsidies heavily favor fossil fuel production, things start to look differently when we dig a little deeper. When we take into account the amount of energy that is actually being generated relative to the amount of subsidization received, renewables in the U.S. technically receive 25 times the subsidy that fossil fuels do. In the United States in 2010, in order to generate a billion BTUs of energy, the renewable industry received $1,724, while the fossil fuel industry received just $68.72. To that end, it would appear that renewables are more federally-favored than we thought. Considering the fact that we are comparing markets that are in completely different states of maturity, the future of the renewable sector may be more dependent in its ability to match the fossil fuel industry’s infrastructure, rather than federal subsidization.
Even still, federal support of the renewable energy sector is working. The cost of renewable energy has dropped dramatically since the 1970s, especially over the last 5 years, as we are now buying solar and wind energy for prices lower than coal. As for future policy, the road ahead looks positive but it would be a mistake to expect drastic reform in the ways that we subsidize our energy in the near term. One thing is for certain; the U.S. has an opportunity to deliver reliable, affordable, and environmentally friendly energy that we can’t afford to miss.
We applaud the thrust of David Bench’s November 10 article on ArchDaily.com “The Other ‘Green Way’: Why Can’t New York Build More Quality Affordable Housing?”, but take issue with some of his conclusions. Via Verde has been a smashing success in delivering high quality affordable housing that’s also remarkably sustainable, and New York should be building more quality affordable housing like it. But the fact that more could be done shouldn’t blind us to the quality affordable housing development going on around us. Bench opens with, “Two years after the completion of Grimshaw and Dattner’s acclaimed Via Verde (“Green Way”), no successors have even been proposed for this supposed model for the design and construction of new affordable housing.” Not so!
For those of you who think nothing innovative has been happening in quality and sustainable affordable housing, keep reading. Sustainable affordable housing is on the rise even as rental apartment construction in New York City hit a 27 year high last week. One needs to look no further than the La Central development on the Bronxchester site literally next door to Via Verde. La Central is a 985 unit, 5 building complex that is 100% affordable. Developed by Hudson, BRP, The Kretchmer Companies, and Common Ground with FXFowle and MHG as architects, La Central will draw upon many of the celebrated features of Via Verde including a green roof and photovoltaic (PV) array over 5 times the size of Via Verde’s. La Central pushes innovation further by incorporating the PV array into a resilient microgrid complete with batteries and cogeneration – all of which pays for itself and enhances the economics of the development while providing tangible electrical and HVAC services to residents in the event of an outage. The courtyard and rooftop landscape design by Future Green Studio stands to continue the ribbon of landscaped attractive outdoor space that began at Via Verde. Not convinced?
La Central is far from the only innovator – Bright Power’s roster of projects includes affordable housing projects pursuing the Passive House Standard, which typically reduces energy use by 80% when compared to typical code-minimum developments. Via Verde and Dumont Green, two icons of energy efficiency of the past decade on which Bright Power worked, comparatively saved 30% and 26% respectively. Or look to Essex Crossing, a mega development currently under design located in the heart of New York’s Lower East Side that will include 1000 units of housing, of which 50% is affordable. Essex Crossing won an Affordable Green Communities award at Greenbuild 2014 in recognition of the 9-building neighborhood development’s groundbreaking achievements in establishing a vibrant and equitable neighborhood, and is projected to be 20-30% more energy efficient than the typical building under today’s codes. These are just a few of the dozens of projects Skye Gruen, our Director of New Construction & Sustainability, and her team here at Bright Power are actively working on in an effort to to improve the quality and sustainability of new affordable housing development.
While high quality and sustainable building qualities is seeping into the fabric of New York’s affordable housing development, building better affordable housing is just the beginning. The key to sustainable buildings isn’t just building them right – it’s about tracking their energy use from the start and proactively managing them throughout their lifecycle, too. We disagree with David Bench – sustainable, affordable housing is getting built. The real challenge – a challenge Bright Power is tackling now – is how to make sure today’s cutting-edge buildings continue to perform after construction wraps.