Bring the Retrofit Market to Scale

U.N. HQ retrofit

Nearly 85 percent of existing buildings are likely to be with us in 2050, so driving down energy use in existing buildings is essential to addressing climate change. Urban Green uses all its levers—education, advocacy and research—to reach this formidable goal.

Anyone who has ever lived in a typical New York City apartment or worked in a standard New York office knows we are wasting energy. Windows open in the depth of winter. Buildings ablaze with light in the dead of night. Opportunities to save energy and money stare us down every day.

Fortunately, we know how to retrofit buildings. And we have many great examples to draw from. But knowing how to fix a few is different from tackling over one million buildings in New York City.

Before we can optimize the energy savings from retrofits, we need to simplify the process. A typical building retrofit involves at least 10 steps. In addition, our research indicates that each year, only about one percent of buildings may be reaching even current code levels through retrofits – but we don’t have 100 years to address the problem. We aim to improve the number of buildings that complete the process, while reducing time and costs.


  • 101-level Retrofit Guidance: Creating much-needed basic guidance for targeted owner groups on how to execute retrofits.
  • Researching & Improving the Business Model: Opportunities include fostering the development of audit-build firms that can both undertake and implement an audit, shaving months off the time of a typical project. Others include semi-automated building audits that rely on sophisticated data analysis to reduce the number of site visits or bypass them entirely.  


  • New York City Energy and Water Use 2013 Report:
  • Worldwide Lessons:
  • Spending Through the Roof:
  • There Are Holes in Our Walls:






Explore the systems, fuel types and materials used in thousands of NYC buildings.





Elevator shafts leak enough heated air to fill the Empire State Building 29,000 times.





The average room air conditioner leaks as much air as a six-inch-square hole.