Daylight Retrofits: Saving Money for Your Facility and City

04/30/2013 |

Increased daylighting controls in NYC offices could provide $70 million in annual savings

Retrofitting New York City office buildings with daylighting controls may soon be urged by legislation and sustainability initiatives. But good news: incorporating these controls at your facility can significantly reduce energy and costs.

Broader deployment of daylighting controls could save $70 million annually, or enough electricity to power 16 Empire State Buildings, and New York City has over 540 million square feet of office space within “daylight zone availability,” according to Green Light New York (GLNY).

GLNY, a non-profit organization founded by the mayor’s office to help implement the Greener, Greater Buildings Plan, recently released Let There Be Daylight, a 40-page report sponsored by the Natural Resources Defense Council and written by Adam Hinge of Sustainable Energy Partnerships and Yetsuh Frank and Richard Yancey of GLNY.

The report highlights opportunities presented by retrofitting New York City office buildings with daylighting controls. It also helps building owners navigate the challenges of doing so.

The city’s Lighting Upgrade Law will ultimately impact over 1.25 billion square feet of office space in New York City, which by itself accounts for over 10% of the country’s total commercial real estate. Hinge called the implementation of daylighting controls a “perfect storm of opportunity for market transformation in the world’s largest office environment,” noting other city legislation like benchmarking and auditing laws.

Hinge emphasizes that interior office lighting is typically the largest use of electricity. It also has a direct effect on air conditioning, which is a large energy consumer during summer months.

Challenges include a lack of data about how daylighting systems are presently functioning and very few case studies about the cost benefits of daylighting controls. The systems themselves can be expensive, and operational problems have been documented. There are several moving parts to these systems, from controls and shades to dimmers and ballasts, and educating tenants, landlords, and facility managers is an ongoing difficulty.

To overcome these hurdles, GLNY is using the New York Times building’s post-occupancy study as a springboard. It will also work with the Mayor’s Office and organizations like NYSERDA to craft financial incentives for these retrofits. Through training and demonstration projects, GLNY hopes to deploy a broader daylighting program across every borough within three years.

The report is available at

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