Skip to main content

NYCHA: Using Energy Performance Contracts to Implement a Portfolio-wide Capital and Energy Plan

In 2016, NYCHA released the NextGeneration NYCHA Sustainability Agenda, a sustainability roadmap for the housing authority’s 10-year strategic plan to better serve today’s residents while preserving public housing for future generations. Among its 17 strategies, the Sustainability Agenda includes a commitment to raise $300 million in private financing for EPCs to serve all master-planned developments.

HUD’s EPC program offers housing authorities an opportunity to invest in capital upgrades without using their limited HUD Capital Fund dollars. In these instances, the EPCs are privately financed, using a forward commitment of the housing authority’s operating subsidies equivalent to the utility cost reductions resulting from the work.

Master-planned developments make up 87 percent of NYCHA apartments, which typically house about 2,700 residents each. The median energy use intensity (EUI) in NYCHA’s master-planned developments is 40 percent higher than the median EUI of multifamily buildings in New York.

NYCHA developed the following policies to maximize the effectiveness of its EPCs:

  • Required EPCs to maximize modernization of heating system controls in steam-heated buildings to eliminate overheating. Like most mid-century New York City buildings, most NYCHA buildings are heated by steam systems with controls that deliver heat when triggered by outside temperatures. The lack of indoor temperature feedback results in buildings where many apartments receive too much heat while some apartments receive too little. Modernizing heating controls eliminates overheating.
  • Required EPCs to minimize costly replacement of boiler plants. To ensure that modernizing controls reaches as many developments as possible, NYCHA chose to limit high-cost measures such as full boiler plant replacements, which can be funded by other capital programs.
  • Encouraged EPCs to pilot new technologies. Because of the large scale of these EPCs, NYCHA encouraged Energy Service Companies (ESCOs) to propose and pursue pilot installations of new technologies. You can review one such example in the Better Buildings Solution Center where NYCHA’s 344 East 28th Street property is showcased.

Energy Performance Contracts: Under HUD’s program, EPCs typically take two years of pre-construction planning, followed by up to 30 months of construction. NYCHA procured ESCOs through two large RFPs, opening up 147 developments for energy efficiency improvements through EPCs. To ensure smooth review and approval of the planned EPCs, NYCHA, HUD’s NYC regional office, the HUD Energy Center, and the NYC Office of the Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development initiated a series of bi-weekly conference calls to create strong working relationships and clarify any gray areas in policy interpretation. These conference calls continued for the full two years of the initial EPCs’ planning period.

Energy Planning: Based on more than seven years of benchmarking data and 20 years of pilot projects, NYCHA developed an early, rough model of greenhouse gas reductions for each energy conservation measure. These results were critical in establishing high-level parameters that have guided the scopes of work for each EPC. For example, the analysis revealed that more than 80 percent of the desired energy reduction would come through improvements in heating efficiency and domestic hot water efficiency. Because of the scale of the NYCHA portfolio and the long lead-times involved in capital projects, NYCHA determined that the most efficient use of its EPC program was to eliminate overheating by modernizing heating controls in steam-heated buildings.

Capital Planning: In parallel with EPCs, NYCHA convened an inter-departmental working group in 2017 to develop the capital investment policies that will guide future capital improvements of large boiler plants. The working group is comprised of senior staff members who oversee NYCHA’s 5-year capital plan, design and engineering of all capital projects, and heating management. With the support and facilitation of a sustainability and energy-consulting firm, the working group is creating a development-by-development plan that sets performance goals by year and will set parameters for all heating and hot water-related capital work. The working group has already determined, for example, that all future boiler replacement work must propose a hot water solution that allows the steam heating plant to be turned off during the summer.

External Partnerships: Since the release of the NextGeneration NYCHA Sustainability Agenda, NYCHA has aggressively pursued external partnerships to bring new ideas and funding to its energy and sustainability projects. Investing in strong relationships with utilities, as well as state and city sister agencies, has delivered additional subsidies to supplement EPC funds, resulted in deeper EPC scopes of work, and provided unique opportunities to test new technologies, such as Passive House for existing multifamily buildings.

NYCHA’s goal is to eliminate overheating in all large steam-heated developments. To that end, one metric of success is achieving an average indoor temperature of 72-74 degrees at each building. Indoor temperatures are measured by the control system and recorded on off-site servers, enabling analysis over time and comparisons across buildings and developments. Likewise, the number of heating-related work order tickets should decrease over time as the heat is equally distributed and overheating complaints are minimized.

Each EPC has specific performance metrics tied to annual measurement and verification for the validation of subsidy payments. NYCHA follows and complies with all mandated measurement and verification requirements for HUD EPCs.

New York City Housing Authority: 344 East 28th Street Showcase Project

New York City Housing Authority undertook a $2.2 million lighting, heating, and hot water modernization project, resulting in cost savings of more than $100,000 a year.