Nine Next-Level Sustainability Moves

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Switching to energy-efficient lightbulbs and low-flow toilets—that’s been done. Big data is where the next big gains in energy efficiency lie.


Yesterday, more than 200 joined Bisnow at our New York Sustainability Summit at The Roosevelt Hotel, where Vidaris’ Bob LiMandri (our moderator and Bloomberg-era Department of Buildings commissioner) played a lively devil’s advocate for an hour and half to force the panelists to figure out how to spark the energy-efficiency spirit among building owners and developers.

1) NYC’s Massive Data Pull


New York City hosts almost 16,000 buildings larger than 50k SF, responsible for half the city’s greenhouse gas emissions, says Urban Green Council executive director Russell Unger. The City’s Greater Greener Buildings initiative has forced a massive reporting of energy-usage data for benchmarking, creating the largest such data set in the country, and the NYC Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability put out a report on the first wave of results. It turns out, Russell says, that older buildings tend to use less energy. (Just like old people.) But the data set also contained a lot of outliers, so first things first: The City has to take steps to help owners deliver accurate data before it’s actionable.

2) Drilling Down to Individual Buildings


Collecting data, though, is a worthy first step. TIAA-CREF’s Nick Stolatisnotes, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” His organization has been using the EPA Energy Star Portfolio Management tool for years but next plans to use data to examine individual properties. A Prius with a bunch of 50-pound bags of sand in the trunk won’t get the gas mileage the car marketer promised, he says, and a building that isn’t managed efficientlywon’t fulfill its promise, either. (Though this does solve the case of Nancy Drew and The Sand Stealer.)

3) Involving Building Staff


JPMorgan Asset Management executive director Cavarly Garrett, whose company invests in more than 23M SF of LEED-certified office buildings in the US, has been talking more with the chief engineers of buildings in which her funds invest. These folks love being part of the process, she says, after having been ignored for so long and having their projects slashed from operating budgets. JPMorgan also has been trying to engage brokers, she says, but has generally found less success.

4) New Age Meters


Each federal agency is required to reduce energy-use intensity by 3% (from the 2003 baseline) every year. GSA reduced by 24% in fiscal year 2013, says Public Buildings Service chief greening officer Eleni Reed, and from ’08 to ’13, it avoided $238M in energy bills. But the low-hanging fruit has been harvested. The next step, she says, is advanced metering, which measures energy and water use in 15-minute intervals, delivering real-time info on usage peaks and valleys. The water meters also help detect leaks. Plus the system enables remote energy audits. Eleni’s agency soon will have advanced meters in 400 federal buildings. Next up is GSAlink, installed in 50 buildings and coming to another 26 this year. It uses data from building automation systems to tell property managers where energy-usage surges are happening.


And the cost of smart meters is coming down, according to Code Green Solutions’ Chris Cayten. That, he says, will lead more owners to track granular-level before-and-after energy use of their retrofits to justify upgrade investments.

5) Give the Scarecrow a Brain


Each building needs its own operating system, says Rudin Management COO John Gilbert, so his company teamed with Columbia University and Finnmeccanica to develop the technology. Di-BOSS predicts energy consumption based on occupancy, weather, orientation of the sun, and even the previous day’s usage. Conventional wisdom used to prompt property managers to turn chillers on at 5:30am and turn them off at 6:30pm, John says. The Di-BOSS system narrowed that window at Rudin’s 345 Madison to 6:15am to 3:45pm without compromising comfort. That has reduced energy usage 7.8% and saves the property $1M a year. He figures that at today’s cap rates, Di-Boss has added $30M to the building’s value.

6) Government Incentives: Act 2


All of the City’s benchmarking and audits are great, says Consolidated Edison Co of New York’s Dave Pospisil, but action is needed, too. For a while now, $50M in Con Ed rebates have been available for building owners reducing their properties’ energy usage. That offer stands through 2016, but more are on the way in anticipation of the potential closing of the Indian Point nuclear plant. Now, there are demand-management incentives to the tune of $100M a year for owners that reduce usage on weekdays from 2pm to 6pm from June through September. Extra incentives also are available in Brooklyn and Queens, where there are restraints on energy transmission and where fewer building owners are institutional.

7) Next Gen Architects


young and excited designer pool is coming out of school with sustainability on the brain and advanced modeling capability, says Spagnolo Gisness & Associates’ Jacob Higginbottom. Corporations also are relocating back to dense, urban environments. In SG&A’s hometown of Boston, in particular, the suburban exodus is reversing, Jacob says. SG&A just completed Biogen’s HQ in Cambridge’s Kendall Square.

8) Motivated by the Competition


Europe still has the US beat in energy-saving design, but Asia is catching up, says RTKL’s Ray Peloquin. Every building his company is working on in China is either LEED or certified via China’s own three-star system. Architects there are considering factors like a building’s orientation to the sun, how to reduce heat gain, and the influence of daylight on the interior.

9) New Compensation Strategy


Ecosystem Energy Services CEO Andre Rochette (left) suggests using a building’s net present value as the metric for energy projects. The Integrated Energy Performance Contracting model, for instance, rewards innovative design and lean construction, and the performance guaranteesboost asset value. When energy-efficiency forms are incentivized to overperform, he says, the asset manager’s stake is maximized while the energy-efficiency firm takes on the risk.


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