F-ed Up: Buildings Get Failing Efficiency Grades Following Con Ed Snafu
Thanks to the utility company not submitting proper data, hundreds of locations that received F’s may not deserve them.
New energy efficiency grades have adorned the doors and windows of thousands of buildings this week, but more than a few of the F’s should stand for “false.”
That’s because some locations only received the failing grades due to errors associated with Con Edison’s data reporting. The F grades are meant to indicate a building owner failed to submit data to the city. But some buildings did submit data yet still received F’s.
In all, out of more than 20,000 new grades posted this month, 1,971 addresses, or about 9.8%, received F’s, based on preliminary Department of Buildings data obtained by THE CITY. It is unclear which or how many buildings were affected by Con Ed’s data reporting snafu. DOB spokesperson Andrew Rudansky said it was “several hundred.”
In a statement, Con Ed spokesperson Allan Drury said the company is “working to resolve” the issues.
“We are in regular contact with the New York City Department of Buildings about the progress we are making to address these issues,” Drury said.
Building owners may face a $1,250 fine if they didn’t post their grades publicly by the end of October. But property managers who are waiting for an adjustment from the DOB for a wrongful F grade won’t be penalized if they don’t display their letter grades, Rudansky said.
There are no penalties for poor grades apart from any shame associated with the letter.
“We are aware of a reporting issue with Con Ed that is affecting some property letter grades, and which is being resolved at the same time as we are undertaking the challenge process” in which building owners can contest their grade, Rudansky said in an email. “This year, Con Edison made internal updates to improve the quality of their data for some of the properties on the covered building list, which may result in grade changes for these properties during this ongoing challenge period.”
Enacted in 2018 and amended in 2019, Local Law 33 requires buildings 25,000 square feet or larger to measure their water and energy consumption and submit the data to the city annually. Building owners are required to post the grades, which are based on usage via an Energy Star efficiency score.
An A grade is given for a score of 85 to 100, and anything below 55 gets a D.
The issues — including what consultants described as incomplete meter readings or gaps in data entries — first became known to insiders around the time of the data submission deadline in May.
“It’s hard to do data quality checks the day before the submission,” said Charlie Read, director of operations at ReDocs, a firm that helps properties comply with environmental and energy laws. “I’m hopeful that the city will work with buildings and consultants to maybe modify the way things are moving forward. … Con Ed has been really airtight for years, so hopefully this is just a one-off thing on their end.”
Read said he heard that DOB would release updated scores in December.
One of the buildings that earned an A but is stuck, for now, with an F, is part of Terrace Gardens Plaza, a co-op complex in Midwood, Brooklyn, according to an email management sent to shareholders. The other two addresses associated with the complex have A grades, according to the preliminary 2022 data.
The management company did not return requests for comment.
This year’s preliminary data showed improvement citywide, with more buildings achieving A and B grades compared to the two previous years. Last year’s grades reflect data from 2020, a pandemic year that skewed typical energy use patterns.
The preliminary data also shows an increase in the number of F grades compared with the two previous years.
“We’ve picked up a lot of business in the last couple of weeks because buildings got F grades,” said Aron Parnes, director of operations at efficiency consulting firm IAG Energy, which is helping some owners improve their marks.
Of the 1,550 buildings that got preliminary F’s in 2022 and also received a grade last year, 563 or about 36% also received F grades in 2021. The remaining 64% of buildings with a F now had received an A, B, C or D last year.
Building owners who want to improve their grades can seek free guidance through the city’s Accelerator program and the Sustainability Help Center.