Habitat Magazine-Here Are the First Steps to Cutting Building Carbon Emissions

By: Frank Lovece

Buildings are New York City's biggest polluters, which is why the Climate Mobilization Act will require most co-op and condo boards to reduce their buildings’ carbon emissions sharply in coming years. The first deadline is the end of 2024, which is not far away. The first step all boards must take is to figure out exactly how much carbon their building is emitting. 

Boards might want to leave that job to the same professional who calculates annual energy benchmarking for Local Laws 84 and 133. That's not only because the formula is complicated but also because it uses the benchmarking figures, which get entered into the federal Environmental Protection Agency's database and its measurement tool, the Energy Star Portfolio Manager

"The first step is to understand where you are right now," advises Kelly Dougherty, director of energy management for the FirstService Energy division of FirstService Residential. "Based on information readily available from your Local Law 84 benchmarking process, you can calculate what you're currently emitting." 

There are many variables to that calculation. Different "occupancy groups," like a co-op or condo's residential and retail spaces, are assigned different emission limits. There are also “coefficients" for each of five commodities: natural gas, No. 2 oil, No. 4 oil, electricity, and Con Edison’s district steam, which is created at three natural-gas-fueled plants. 

"If you take the square feet of the occupancy group and the [carbon] amount you're allotted times square footage of those spaces, that gives you your total emissions cap," explains Dougherty. "Then you go to how much energy your commodities used the previous year. You multiply each commodity by the coefficients provided in the law, and the difference is where you're above or below the emissions level." 

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