Owners Retrofit Harlem Buildings To Save Energy Costs

Harlem-HeritageA partnership between Brookfield Property Partners and Urban American is pouring more than $16 million into energy-efficient retrofits for 3,000 units in Harlem.

They plan to replace about 6,000 windows and seal cracks and leaks that allow heat and air conditioning to escape at the five buildings. The firms will also build cogeneration systems, which will function as mini power plants, producing roughly 15% of the heat and hot water for at least three of the buildings.

“About 35% of carbon emissions are generated by residential buildings in New York City, and so as a large owner and operator of multifamily buildings, we have a responsibility to reduce the amount of energy our properties are producing,” said Joshua Eisenberg, executive vice president at Urban American, a Manhattan-based property owner and manager that has signed on to the de Blasio administration’s New York City Carbon Challenge to reduce emissions.

The enhancements will also end up saving the firms cash. At the five buildings, located across east, central and west Harlem, they expect the changes to save $4 million a year, and reduce emissions by up to 29%.

The retrofits, which also include installing energy-efficient appliances, will cost about $11 million and be largely completed next year. The cogeneration systems, which will use natural gas to produce heat, electricity and hot water, will cost about another $5 million.

“Cogeneration is the smallest type of local power station,” said David Davenport, managing principal at Urban Greenfit, an arm of Urban American that carries out energy retrofits. “If the main electric lines were to go out at any one of these buildings, we would have the capacity to generate electricity on-site that could be used to power critical systems.”

Typically, buildings get their electricity from an overburdened power grid, natural gas from a separate line and then oil to power a boiler that generates heat and hot water. While Urban American and other property owners can get all three from natural gas and reduce reliance on the power grid, it typically is not enough to power or heat an entire building.

Urban American has already made similar investments on Roosevelt Island at a 1,003-unit project called Roosevelt Landings, where it has been trying to reduce the amount of energy used by tenants. The firm spent $8 million on cogeneration and other upgrades that limit the amount of air conditioning or heat used by tenants during the day when no one is home. Since completing the project in 2014, Urban American has saved $2 million.


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