Energy Audits and Retro-Commissioning: What Boards Need to Know about Local Law 87

Posted on Wednesday August 05, 2015 |

NYC Local Law 87 is a complex and potentially costly law that requires property owners to audit energy use and retro-commission their buildings every 10 years and submit an Energy Efficiency Report to the NYC Department of Buildings (DOB) documenting the results. Part of the movement toward a more sustainable city, the law impacts buildings over 50,000 square feet. Here are answers to the most common questions about the law that will help ensure your building’s compliance.

What is an energy audit?
An energy audit is a systematic analysis of a building’s energy equipment and systems to identify improvements and enhancements that will improve your building’s energy efficiency. Auditors assess systems and maintenance schedules — including heating and cooling, lighting, ventilation, hot water systems and the building envelope — and consult with maintenance personnel and residents for feedback on potential issues.
 
How is retro-commissioning different from an energy audit?
A retro-commissioning study makes recommendations on how to optimize the existing building systems to confirm they are a) operating as designed and reflect current facility requirements, and b) are performing as efficiently as possible. Retro-commissioning commonly identifies operations, maintenance, and calibration errors that are easily corrected and, when implemented, typically amount to significant energy savings and improvement in equipment reliability. Common practices include boiler tune-ups, valve and sensor adjustments, and programming heating and cooling systems to optimal settings.
 
What is an Energy Efficiency Report (EER)?
An EER consists of an ASHRAE Level II energy audit and retro-commissioning study of base building systems. Both the audit and study must be completed within four years prior to filing the EER with the Department of Buildings.
 
When is my building due to comply?
The last digit of your tax block number determines the year your Energy Efficiency Report is due. You can also complete work up to four years in advance of when your report is due, as long as you submit the report in the proper year.

Last Digit of Tax Block Number 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Year First EER is Due 2020 2021 2022 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019

How do we select the right consultant for this work?
Your property manager should research service providers and obtain multiple quotes from consultants to conduct the audit and study. Many buildings refer to NYSERDA’s Multifamily Performance Program Partners who have proven experience in performing this work. Ultimately, you should choose a consultant with experience undertaking LL87 in buildings that are similar to yours in size and type. To help gauge the quality of their work, ask potential consultants for a client list, past Energy Efficiency Reports (EERs), and examples of energy savings from clients who followed their recommendations.
 
Should we conduct the audit and study at the same time?
Because there is substantial overlap between the two, conducting them simultaneously means building staff will spend less time compiling information. Performing the energy audit and retro-commissioning at the same time will also help ensure that the capital projects are actually necessary. For example, an energy audit may suggest that you replace a piece of equipment that is underperforming, whereas retro-commissioning could mandate improving the equipment performance through better operating procedures and control sequence.
 
What are we required to do with the energy audit findings?
While you are not required to execute any of the efficiency findings revealed in the energy audit, you should certainly consider implementing any conservation measures that are low-cost or have a quick payback (i.e., installing lighting sensors or replacing inefficient light bulbs.) For recommendations that will be more expensive to implement, conduct a careful analysis of the payback and borrowing costs.
 
What are we required to do with the retro-commissioning study findings?
You are required to implement measures revealed in the retro-commissioning study prior to submitting your report by December 31 of the year in which your building is due to comply.
 
How long does the process take?

Typically, an energy audit takes three to six months. The retro-commissioning study could take 12 to 18 months because it must be conducted throughout all four seasons. You should contract with a reputable energy auditing firm at least a year in advance of your due date.

How much does it cost to comply?
The cost is typically determined by the size of the building and its type of systems. Based on information we have collected, the average cost per building for LL87 compliance is $9,500.

For more information on Energy Audits or Local Law 87, please contact FirstService Residential New York.

Share This: