NYC’s Local Law 87: A Roadmap To Compliance

First introduced in 2009 with NYC Local Law 84, Benchmarking mandates that buildings over 50,000 square feet report their annual energy usage and water consumption. The year 2016 witnessed an extension of it under Local Law 133 to also include properties with an area greater than 25,000 square feet but lesser than 50,000 square feet. The two laws serve in tandem to increase the transparency vis-a-vis building’s consumption patterns with an ultimate goal of achieving optimum energy efficiency.

The compliance process has been standardized and requires building owners to use the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) online benchmarking tool, Energy Star Portfolio Manager. The Portfolio Manager enables owners to identify opportunities to make their buildings more efficient, thereby saving money.

The law was further amended in 2018 with LL 33 which is in relation to the energy efficiency scores and grades that are required for the applicable buildings to benchmark their water and energy usage. The scores and grades are to be obtained, assigned and disclosed in accordance with §28-309.12 annually based on Federal energy efficiency standards.

After the report is submitted, the building will receive a benchmarking score and failing to do so is deemed penal with a fine of $500 charged by the Department of Buildings.

How to measure carbon intensity?
This is a rather complicated procedure and is best handled by an expert. US EPA’s free Energy Star Portfolio Manager is a good place to start after having submitted energy benchmarking data onto it by May 1 to comply with the LL84. The tool will then convert the submitted data into the building’s energy usage into carbon emissions. These figures are not the entire prerequisite of LL97, but they are a good place to start to compare your carbon limits with those of 2024 and 2030 (as long as the units used don’t vary).

After finding the total carbon emissions in the Portfolio Manager, you’ll have to calculate the carbon emissions limit to gauge whether or not you’re complying. Find your building type and simply multiply the limit by the gross square footage, and you will derive the permissible limit. If the total is higher than the limit, then you are in the need of immediate interventions.

The benefits of benchmarking are plenty as it helps reduce the cumulative carbon footprint of buildings while increasing their efficiency & performance. Complying with the laws also helps examine the quality of operation. All of which if implemented properly aids cost reductions by up to at least 30%. The biggest benefit of benchmarking is that it helps buildings in the longer run also comply with the more consequential and stringent law of Local Law 87 which puts hard carbon caps on various building types.

What owners should be ideally aiming for is the successful union of Local Laws 84, 133 and 97 to optimize profitability and efficiency for proper compliance does not just help escape penalties but also addresses the pressing issues of climate change. The primary reason for the implementation of the package of these laws is to ambitiously reduce buildings-generated carbon emissions by 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050. Even though the Climate Mobilization Act strives to mobilize all stakeholders of real estate towards reducing carbon emissions, it is imperative to be viewed as an investment for the cost-effectiveness compliance brings in the longer run.

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