Building Energy Use is Diverse and Little Understood

A new report by New York City’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability reveals the range of energy performance among NYC buildings, finding that some use up to five times as much energy as same-sized buildings used for similar purposes. This study of large buildings over 50,000 square feet is the largest collection of benchmarking data gathered for a single municipality, analyzing nearly 1.8 billion square feet of built space—which is equal to the built areas of Boston and San Francisco combined.

This reveals a huge economic opportunity for efficiency savings using existing technologies, not only in New York, but also across the country.

By raising the worst buildings to the median energy performance, New York could reduce energy consumption by 18 percent, and greenhouse gas emissions by 24 percent. Existing buildings of various types and uses can be made energy efficient through improved lighting, ventilation, and control systems, and selective deep energy retrofits. Going beyond building systems, a study of identical military housing in Hawai’i also found a four-fold difference in energy use based entirely on the behavior of the occupants.1

RMI’s Reinventing Fire finds $1.4 trillion of net savings as the total opportunity in the U.S. building stock by 2050, much of which comes from energy retrofits in major cities. New York City leads the way in implementing energy efficiency, most notably with the highly profitable deep energy retrofit of the Empire State Building.

Find our more information about the Reinventing Fire plan for buildings by watching this video.

Highlighted Resources

Reinventing Fire Buildings Executive Summary


Reinventing Fire: Building (Video)

1 Norton, 2010