Navigating Pandemic And NYC’s Decarbonization Mandates Doubly Difficult For CRE

Navigating the reopening period after the worst pandemic in a century would seem a daunting enough task for commercial building owners. But in New York City, that’s not the only obstacle commercial property executives face.

They’re also dealing with the Climate Mobilization Act’s Local Law 97 (LL97) and its initial deadline of 2024. New York City buildings of more than 25,000 square feet must notch a 40% reduction in emissions by 2030.

Failure to do so could result in fines from the city amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars yearly per building. Faced with such punitive levies, most building ownership will find it simpler and wiser to invest in the necessary energy-efficiency improvements to meet the mandates.

But they must do so while dealing with the pandemic. “With the COVID-19 pandemic, there is now a demand for increased indoor air quality (IAQ) and the incorporation of more outside air across all buildings, not just hospitals and healthcare facilities,” says Robert LoForte, president of Veritas Solutions Group, a provider of smart infrastructure solutions used by management of new and existing buildings seeking to hike energy efficiency, optimize MEP systems and meet capital goals. “This is not just to make occupants comfortable, but to also ensure their safety and the mitigation of airborne transmissions throughout the facility. To achieve this, buildings need to open air dampers, increase air changes and incorporate additional conditioning through heating and cooling, all of which [are] extremely costly to do.”

Enough time

Because the first deadline toward the 2030 40% reduction is not until 2024, when LL97 was introduced last year many building owners believed they had time to strategize and prepare.

But the novel coronavirus has injected some uncertainty into the process.The pandemic, LoForte says, “created an unpredictable situation, reducing emissions this year and making it difficult to determine the full impact it will have on emissions and energy use in 2021. This has created an increased sense of urgency and concern among building owners, who need to make changes now in order to meet the upcoming deadlines — but aren’t sure when to start.”

The double whammy delivered by the pandemic and decarbonization mandates have many commercial property owners wondering if they possess either the financial resources or personnel to tackle both at one time, says Mark Pipher, vice president and general manager of FacilityConneX.

“Building owners are worried, since there was the recent drop in energy use that will eventually spike as we enter into a new normal,” observes Pipher, whose company provides industrial and commercial building management real-time continuous monitoring and fault detection.

“Within this new normal, increased IAQ practices, equipment optimizations from the shutdown and building system recalibration will take time and capital . . . However, some building owners are taking advantage of this time to simultaneously incorporate technologies capable to addressing both concerns.”

Light fantastic

Building owners are finding it is possible to enhance air optimization and aid decontamination without additional conditioning of outdoor air, LoForte says.

Options to achieve that goal are several in number. One is high-efficiency air filtration, the second introduction of Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI) light that neutralizes biocontaminants like COVID-19. A third is use of bipolar ionization to neutralize contaminants within a space, LoForte says.

Building owners and managers are also eyeing total energy consumption with the incorporation of more complex technologies. They include Monitoring-Based Commissioning (MBCx) solutions. “These technologies are easily implemented, customizable, and enable a more strategic approach to reducing overall energy goals,” Pipher says. “Just introducing a basic MBCx system has proven to reduce energy use upwards of 10%, with the potential to save even more on proactive and preventative equipment maintenance.”

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