Startling Variations in NYC Benchmarking Data Underscore Need for Improvement

08/23/2012 |

New York City’s first analysis of energy consumption in commercial buildings reveals a large variation among like building types. Bringing poorly performing buildings up to speed will help the city reach its goal of 30% energy reduction (over 2005) by 2030.
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New York City’s first analysis of commercial building energy consumption data demonstrates startling variations in energy performance, with some larger buildings performing three to five times better or worse than similar structures in their category.

Collected under a 2009 city ordinance, the data covers the energy and water usage of nearly 1.8 billion square feet of built space. The ordinance requires individual buildings over 50,000 square feet and multi-dwelling properties with a combined footage of more than 100,000 square feet to participate.

Buildings in New York generally consume less water and energy than the national average, but a savings of roughly 18% is possible by performing the bare minimum of efficiency upgrades on the poorest performers, the study authors note. That would result in a 20% reduction in the city’s greenhouse gas emissions.

However, if the inefficient buildings were brought up to the 75th percentile of performance for their category, it would create savings of 31% for energy and 33% for greenhouse gas emissions.

Nearly 75% of greenhouse gas emissions in New York City come from commercial building energy consumption, more than double the nationwide average. Almost half of the emissions come from 2% of the city’s biggest properties, underscoring the importance of bringing the worst-performing buildings up to speed.

Other findings from the initial benchmarking period include:

  • New York City buildings perform similarly to other Northeast commercial buildings.
  • Newer office buildings generally use more energy per square foot than older office buildings.
  • Smaller multifamily developments tend to use more energy than larger structures.

The measurements were required as part of the city’s Greener, Greater Buildings Plan, launched in 2009. In addition to benchmarking requirements, the law provides for financial assistance for energy efficiency projects and skills development for building workers.

Read the full benchmarking report at


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