Commercial Offices Present Opportunities for GHG Emissions Reductions

This article was written for NYSERDA’s Commercial Tenant Program (CTP), which offers financial assistance for energy studies in tenant spaces. For more information on the program visit the NYSERDA CTP website.

In New York City, commercial tenants account for 40%–60% of a building’s energy consumption. Furthermore, offices account for 77% of NYC’s commercial energy use. Commercial tenant spaces, especially offices, have traditionally been a hard-to-reach sector for energy efficiency incentive programs. In many cases, the split incentive issue, lack of data, and poor landlord-tenant collaboration prevent tenant spaces from being as efficient as possible. Landlords are not inclined to make efficiency upgrades to their spaces when they will not realize the financial benefits; and, on the other hand, tenants who are not direct-metered also have very little motivation to improve the efficiency of their spaces. As long as the space is meeting a tenant’s economic and procedural needs, energy has typically been put on the back burner.

However, recent policy and regulatory shifts might encourage more buildings to address efficiency in tenant spaces. In recent years, NYC has been blazing the trail for sustainability-focused legislation. With the advent of the Climate Mobilization Act and associated local laws, commercial buildings in NYC need to start addressing energy efficiency beyond base-building systems. Recent legislation is proposing to set guidelines on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from existing buildings. Though building owners and landlords will be primarily responsible for compliance, this legislation might be the impetus for tenants to improve the efficiency of their spaces.

Many companies, especially those with their own corporate sustainability goals, have already begun making advances to reduce their energy use through traditional efficiency measures – like lighting retrofits – and less traditional approaches – such as rethinking office layouts and expected work hours. Insurance companies like Swiss RE, recognizing the impact of carbon emissions, have redesigned their NYC offices to be even more energy efficient. Other companies, such as United Technologies Corporation (UTC), have designed new spaces that incorporate mindful design with efficiency. These companies along with many others have leveraged consultants from NYSERDA’s Commercial Tenant Program to achieve energy savings that will contribute to overall building compliance with GHG emissions guidelines. The NYSERDA program not only provides funding for energy studies for tenant spaces but also supports planning and implementation of projects and initiatives. Additionally, NYSERDA’s Commercial Tenant Program has increased opportunities for participation, encouraging qualified consultants to think creatively about approaching portfolios and integrating behavioral and other innovative techniques for energy savings. This program is a great asset for buildings looking to comply with upcoming rules on building carbon emissions.