O&M Key to City’s CO2 Reductions

Source of NYC's GHG Emission Reductions

How is the City of New York going to reduce its carbon emissions 30% by 2017 (30x17)?  Ariella Maron and the NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services Energy Management (DCAS DEM) believe one key to significant reductions is improved operations and maintenance. Maron, Deputy Commissioner for DCAS Energy Management argues, “O&M practices are the day-to-day, low-cost yet high-impact activities that building operators can do to keep our facilities running effectively and efficiently.

New York City owns over 4,000 buildings, from schools and fire stations to government offices, making them one of the largest owners in the city.  And those buildings are responsible for a whopping 64% of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions released by the city.  New York City estimates it will need to reduce GHG emissions by 1.05 million metric tons per year to meet its 30x17 goal and that existing buildings will be the source of 57% of those reductions--substantially more than any other source.  To meet the 30x17 goal outlined in PlaNYC, DEM has laid out an ambitious Operations & Maintenance (O&M) plan.

The plan is based on lessons learned from a yearlong O&M pilot program that resulted in a 17% drop in energy use, at no cost. At least not any operational costs because the pilot focused on helping operators, managers, and building occupants improve performance by measuring energy use, developing equipment maintenance checklists, encouraging conservation, and refining best practices. DCAS DEM’s Energy Efficiency Operations and Maintenance Plan (EEOMP) is divided into three sections:

  • Repairing, maintaining, and operating existing equipment efficiently;
  • Increasing training and outreach to improve skills and raise awareness;
  • Providing management oversight, accountability, and transparency.

Through the implementation of the EEOMP alone, New York City expects to reduce energy use 10 to 15% annually, saving $51 million and 185,000 metric tons of GHG emissions.

This is both impressive and important. While we are all aware of the importance of greening our existing building stock, the focus often tends to be on building retrofits and infrastructure changes. Of the available real estate that will exist in 2030, 80% of it already exists today. The growth of certifications like LEED for Existing Buildings Operations and Maintenance indicates a shift in the thinking, which is positive.  Retrofits can be a major source of energy savings (NYC estimates 45% of its goal) but are not the only significant one.  Energy retrofits can be cost effective with a short return on investment but they are rarely free and can pose a challenge for smaller buildings.

Changes in operations and maintenance are easily applicable and scalable for multiple building sizes and typologies, assuming you know what changes to make.

Fortunately, DEM is sharing their plan, and Maron will be speaking about the challenges DCAS faced and strategies they developed to overcome them at Urban Green’s upcoming training, the Building Blocks of Sustainable Ops.  In addition, experts from Hines, Jonathan Rose Companies, and Jones Lang LaSalle will also be there to share strategies used in the private sector.

From her experience with city agencies, Maron notes engaging the operators and engineers working within the buildings is critical to the success of any program.  “These are the guys doing the work,” so she says their experience and opinions are invaluable.