Energy Code? A Study of Large-Scale Multifamily Residential Buildings in NYC Before and After the Adoption of the Current Energy Code

Objective

Based on case studies and information available from the NYC Department of Buildings, determine the effect of the NYC Energy Code on the energy performance of large-scale multifamily residential buildings in NYC. Draft a report that critically analyzes the results of the study.

Background

            The New York City Energy Conservation Code (the “Energy Code”), in a form roughly similar to its current form, has been with us since 2011. The Energy Code consists of New York City local laws together with the current Energy Conservation Construction Code of New York State. State law requires that all local government energy codes, including NYC’s Energy Code, must be more stringent than the State code. Moreover, New York City is committed to an ambitious greenhouse gas reduction target in the form of “80 by 50”—a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050.

                Nonetheless, in actual building practices energy conservation and efficiency often does not appear to be a priority. The last decade has seen an extraordinary growth in New York City residential structures with building facades made almost entirely of glass. The dominant means of heating and cooling NYC buildings is still the packaged thermal air conditioner and packaged thermal heat pump, systems that essentially create large holes in the building envelope. Buildings larger than 50,000 square feet can avoid testing for air sealing. How do these buildings, some of which exhibit poorer energy performance than similar structures built almost a century ago, comply with the Energy Code?

                This project will examine recent and projected multifamily housing developments bracketing the adoption of the Energy Code. How has the Energy Code affected the design and performance of these structures? How have architects and engineers responsible for the design demonstrated compliance with the Energy Code? What improvements could be made?

Suggested Approaches

(a)  Conduct thorough background research into the Energy Code.

(b)  Identify buildings to use as case studies, obtaining information on the architects and engineers of record through the NYC Department of Buildings.

(c)  Obtain and analyze filing documents for recent buildings (public access at the DOB).

(d)  Reach out to designers and engineers, both those involved in particular projects, and those doing similar work, to see if they will share their information and analyses, and discuss their obstacles.

(e)  Possibly connect with the Town+Gown program to engage with city agencies, in particular the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability and the Department of Buildings.