By Alex Rippere
Courtesy of Local Law 87 of 2009, and codified in the 2014 Construction Codes, the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) requires Energy Efficiency Reports (EERs) on all buildings over 50,000 square feet or for multiple buildings on a single tax lot that total more than 100,000 square feet. EER filing must be done every 10 years, depending on the last digit of the block number. For instance, the first batch of EERs came due in 2013 for all blocks ending in 3, with each subsequent batch due in the next year. Halfway into the first 10-year reporting cycle, more building owners have started paying attention.
Many owners have failed to file EERs for multiple years in a row, triggering an additional fine every year of non-filing (and non-payment of the original fine). NYC building permit expeditors know that these missed EERs show up as violations in DOB’s system. While they don’t create the havoc triggered by a work-without-permit violation, they can still cause a headache for building owners and managers.
What’s a building owner to do?
Is the Property Exempt?
Check the building square footage with the Department of Finance, which uses this information to appraise property value and set taxes. For a single building over 50,000 square feet or multiple structures that exceed 100,000 square feet on a single (or condoed) lot, you’ll likely need to file an EER. In fact, the bottom of your tax bill usually includes a reminder of your EER due date.
An EER consists of two parts: a retroactive energy audit, filed with an EERC1 form, and a retro-commissioning of the building’s existing heating, air conditioning, and service water heating systems, filed with an EERC2 form. The tricky part is that both scopes of work have different qualifications.
Multiple agencies issue certificates for audits and commissioning, and a complete list of required qualifications can be found under 1-RCNY §103-07. To keep things simple, I’ll stick with ASHRAE’s certifications:
- For the audit, a High-Performance Building Design Professional (HPBD) or a Building Energy Assessment Professional (BEAP) certificate is required
- For the retro-commissioning, a Commissioning Process Management Professional (CPMP) certificate (or the more current ASHRAE Building Commissioning Professional BCxP)
The above certifications do not necessarily require the commissioning agent to be a registered architect or professional engineer. For example, BEAP certificates are available to persons without a PE or RA license, but require 3-8 years of general energy-related work experience for those without a seal, depending on education level. Upon obtaining a certificate, individuals without an NYS-issued PE or RA license can register their qualifications with DOB and file EERs. Note the distinction between being certified rather than licensed. If an RA or PE running an agency does not have the required certificates but another staff member does, the unlicensed-but-certified individual files the EER, and his or her certifications must be on file with DOB.
Now the Fun Begins . . .
The retro-commissioning and auditing requires extensive on-site observation and measurement. From visually inspecting the construction components of exterior walls to measuring the size of the central heating plant and assessing how it’s balanced and controlled, the auditor records all these values into spreadsheets (referred to as “tools”), which are submitted to the DOB. As with most things DOB energy, EER filings mostly take place via email. Payment requires mailing a physical check after DOB Energy Team confirms receipt of the EER submission.
The whole process then repeats itself every 10 years. The idea is that DOB, and therefore the city as a whole, will have specific breakdowns of how much energy large existing buildings are using from one decade to the next. This data will further inform the city’s strategy towards reaching its sustainability goals.
Later newsletters will discuss strategies for EER extensions, violation mitigation, exemptions (rare), etc., but the general rule applies to most building owners: hire a commissioning agent and an energy auditor, prep your EERs, and file them when due. Unlike most DOB violations that require a work permit to cure fully, the only way to cure an EER violation is to just file the EER already.
For more information, check out the DOB’s online guidelines on filing EERs.