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New York City’s biggest skyscrapers are scrambling for innovative solutions amidst their toughest challenge

Amidst plans to phase out natural gas in commercial buildings, some of New York’s largest buildings are demonstrating successful roadmaps to achieve decarbonization profitably. 

In case you haven’t heard, New York City’s biggest skyscrapers have been scrambling for their toughest challenge: trying to eliminate natural gas completely from their built environment. In response to a bill from the city council aiming to phase out natural gas from all commercial buildings, some of NYC’s biggest skyscrapers have risen to the challenge for a cleaner future. 

The Empire Building Challenge

Partnering with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), leading commercial real estate owners attempt to demonstrate how large buildings can successfully transition to low-carbon built environment improvements.  For instance, the Empire State Building has already invested $31 million into projects that can help drive a 40% reduction in its carbon footprint over 10 years. 

“We need 20,000 of those a year without displacing tenants and occupants that are moving energy, in some cases, 50 or 60 stories,” says Janet Joseph, NYSERDA’s senior vice president.

Apart from pouring in high investments, the Empire Building Challenge also presents a roadmap for successful transition that can be useful for most commercial buildings that do not possess such high levels of investment.

Decarbonization does not need to be a capital-intensive overhaul.

The Empire Building Challenge’s guide, “Planning for Resource Efficient Decarbonization” presents an actionable strategy for commercial buildings to transition to carbon neutrality. In case you’re still on the fence, achieving carbon neutrality through energy-efficient transformations can also result in increased profitability. With careful planning, profitability can be realized sooner without heavy upfront investments. 

The 4-step Resource Efficient Decarbonization model consists of 4 actionable steps:

  • Reduce energy loads as much as possible.
  • Reconfigure systems to create thermal networks and enable low-temperature distribution
  • Recover as much heat as possible form water, air, and wastewater. 
  • Replace equipment incrementally over time until full decarbonization is reached. 

While the guide provides multiple models and deeper insights for achieving the above steps, a key suggestion that the strategy revolves around is this: phased improvements one step at a time can help reach larger decarbonization goals more efficiently. Financial tools like Net Present Value can help determine the correct step which can maximize decarbonization goals as well as profitability. 

Let’s take an example from an industry we know best: water heating. While today’s heat pump technology may find it challenging to keep a large building warm in the coldest of days, heat pumps can still be adopted for other functions. Replacing gas-fired water heaters with heat pump water heaters can prove to be one small step in the larger decarbonization plan. Choosing tankless heat pump water heaters can prove to be a sustainable, profitable, and space-saving solution: one small step towards a larger decarbonization plan. 

From Skyscrapers to Stadiums: Using Data to Design Custom Commercial Hot Water Systems at Scale

Download this ebook to:
  • Discover the differences in hot water usage across N. American commercial properties of various types with insights from a database consisting of 19000+ facilities.
  • Learn about a simpler, data-backed approach to commercial hot water sizing that results in guaranteed and accurate results. 
  • Understand the standardized assumptions of traditional hot water sizing methodologies and ways to overcome them with a data-backed approach.