NYC skyline

Many large apartment buildings in New York City have old windows, outdated heating systems, and lack insulation in their exterior walls.

“A vast majority of them were built in the years immediately post-war when energy was kind of cheap, and we certainly didn’t understand the climate change implications of energy use,” says Yetsuh Frank of the nonprofit Building Energy Exchange.

He says the city aims to eliminate 80% of its carbon pollution by 2050, so making these buildings more efficient is a priority.

Retrofits, such as new windows and HVAC systems, typically pay off over time because of the energy saved. But Frank says building owners have been slow to make changes because of the upfront cost.

So the city is putting the pressure on. Earlier this year, it passed a law that sets emissions limits for buildings larger than 25,000 square feet.

“It essentially says if you go over this limit of carbon emissions per square foot, you will be assessed a fine,” Frank says. “It’s going to impact about 75% of buildings, so it’s really asking for very significant steps down in energy use by 2030.”

He says the law will encourage more property owners to start investing in energy efficiency.


Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.