Benchmarking Requirements Expand to Mid-Sized Buildings (Plus, Public Grades for All)

By George Crawford


As previously reported, Local Law 84 of 2009 (LL 84)—the NYC Benchmarking Law—has expanded with the addition of Local Law 133 of 2016 (LL 133). Until now, energy and water benchmarking requirements were limited to buildings 50,000 square feet and larger. LL 133 has extended these requirements to buildings that are 25,000 s.f. or larger, adding approximately 11,000 buildings to those already required to benchmark—for a combined total of 26,000 buildings.


Benchmarking Reports Due on May 1, 2019

While LL 133 was enacted two years ago, 2018 is the first year that mid-sized buildings will be required to file benchmarking reports, due on or before May 1, 2019. Last year, these buildings were encouraged to file reports on an optional basis. Now, failure to file for the year 2018 will result in penalties, the same ones faced by non-compliant LL 84 buildings:

  • $500 fine for failure to file on or before May 1, 2019
  • Additional $500 penalty for failure to file for each three-month period thereafter

The maximum penalty for any one filing year is capped at $2,000. (Note: This penalty structure differs from Local Law 87, Energy Audits & Retro-Commissioning, which has no cap and allows annual penalties for failure to file to continue indefinitely.)

Benefits of Benchmarking

Upon filing the annual benchmarking reports, each building receives a benchmarking score that ranges from 100 (best) to 1 (worst). These scores measure the energy-efficiency level of a building as compared to like buildings. In this context, benchmarking scores provide a valuable tool for evaluating your own building. Remember that every dollar saved in energy costs is a dollar that drops to the bottom line and increases cash flow.

As a general guide, a benchmarking score of 60 puts your building in the middle of the pack, as 60 is the average score for New York City buildings. A higher score equates to above-average energy efficiency. A score of 75 and above qualifies your building for Energy Star designation. Conversely, scores below 60 indicate lower-than-average energy performance. Low scores should raise concerns; very low scores, big concerns.

Easy Efficiency Boosts

Low scores should be fixed fast to stop the flow of wasted cash. Two quick remedies to consider:

  1. If your building has not upgraded to LED lighting, start now. You will soon need to upgrade to LED to comply with Local Law 88, so you can kill two birds with one fix.
  2. If your building does not have stand-alone, domestic hot water production, convert now. Stand-alone production has a quick payback and will give boilers a rest in warm weather, thereby extending the useful life of your boiler.

If your building still has a below-average benchmarking score after implementation of these two fixes, the next step is to engage an engineer to conduct a targeted energy audit. The audit should initially focus on the boiler and heating system controls.

All these measures have quick paybacks and will have a meaningful impact on improving your building’s energy efficiency.

Public Report Cards

Now for coming attractions . . . Get ready for Local Law 33. Enacted in 2018, this local law builds on LL 84 and LL 133 by requiring that benchmarking scores be converted to letter grades and then posted “in a conspicuous location near each public entrance.”

The following guide shows how numerical benchmarking scores convert to letter grades:

  • Grade A – Numerical scores of 90 and above
  • Grade B – Numerical scores of 50 to 89
  • Grade C – Numerical scores of 20 to 49
  • Grade D – Numerical scores of less than 20

From a practical perspective, very few buildings will receive an “A.” Most buildings that benchmark will be in the “B” category. From a marketing standpoint, “B” buildings will be the norm.

As these grades must be posted starting in 2020, owners and managers should check their building scores. If a building has a benchmarking score of 49 or below, there is still time to achieve an improved score by implementing energy saving measures, including the two simple remedies covered earlier in this article.

George Crawford leads Green Partners LLC, which identifies money-saving solutions for owners of commercial and residential properties in New York City. For help with your energy needs, please contact George by email at