New York City has a daunting yet achievable goal to reduce citywide greenhouse gas emissions (GHGE) 30 percent by 2030. Its buildings produce a staggering 75 percent of all GHGE and, importantly, 80 percent of the buildings that currently exist will still be around in 2050. The obvious strategy to reduce GHGE is to improve the energy efficiency of existing buildings.

The nation’s Energy Star-certified buildings meet strict energy performance criteria and produce lower than average levels of greenhouse gases (GHG). They cost less to operate and produce on average 35 percent less greenhouse emissions than comparable buildings and use 35 percent less energy. Fifteen different kinds of commercial buildings may earn Energy Star status including retail outlets, office buildings, and educational institutions. These properties save the city hundreds of millions of dollars each year in energy bills.

Local Law 84 (LL84) is one of four regulations created by New York City’s Greener, Greater Building Plan, a part of New York’s 2030 target plan. LL84 requires owners of all buildings over 50,000 square feet or multiple buildings with combined surface of at least one hundred thousand square feet to conduct an annual analysis of energy and water consumption through the EPA benchmarking tool. This analysis provides building owners with the data to assess their energy consumption, costs and impact on the environment. The goal of LL84 Compliance is to decrease GHGs by five percent, a net savings of at least USD 7 bn. This plan also includes the creation of almost eighteen thousand construction jobs in order to accomplish the tasks associated with LL84.

The first benchmark report produced under LL84 was completed in 2011. The report focused on the city’s owned municipal buildings. The findings of the report were used to simultaneously guide and prioritize New York’s energy use and related retrofit projects for implementation.

The study and analysis of New York’s buildings provides an outstanding opportunity to simultaneously improve energy efficiency and performance. According to these benchmarking data, energy usage dramatically differs between the types of properties, locations, and their usage. For instance, some properties use an amazing three to five hundred percent more than other buildings with similar uses in the city. And, although many other factors and variables must be considered, newer buildings on average in New York consume more energy than the older structures.

With this knowledge comes the power to make lasting change. New York City will be able to achieve its goals and provide its citizens and the world with a sustainable city for generations to come.