New York buildings are slowly becoming more energy efficient — but with nearly half earning Ds or Fs on city report cards, many are still struggling to make the grade.
That’s the conclusion of THE CITY’s analysis of preliminary data obtained from the city Department of Buildings, offering a glimpse into the grading system’s second year — even as the pandemic skews typical energy usage patterns.
Across the city, nearly 20% of buildings 25,000 square feet or larger received A grades, compared with about 16% in 2020, the data shows.
Like last year, lackluster Ds proved the most popular grade, though the share fell from 44% in 2020 to about 39% this year. And over 9% of buildings — up from about 7.5% last year — earned Fs, meaning the building owner failed to submit data to the city.
Overall, more than 20,000 buildings — from pre-war apartment complexes to skyscrapers — were graded. Poor grades carry no penalties, but failing to post the letter marks could mean a $1,250 fine.
Environment boosters saw reason for hope in the latest collective report card.
“Building owners care so much. We’ve never seen anything have as high an impact,” said Donnel Baird, CEO of the company Blocpower, which upgrades buildings for improved energy efficiency, mainly through electrification. “Even the threat of fines has not created as much of a reaction as these letter grades on the front of the buildings.”
On a per-borough basis, Manhattan’s building stock had the largest share of As compared to all its grades: 23%, up from almost 15% in 2020, when the borough came in third behind Brooklyn and Queens.
Gina Bocra, DOB’s chief sustainability officer, attributes the overall improvement to the visibility of the energy efficiency information, which motivates property owners to do better.
“Owners have been acting on that information, so the transparency is working, and we’re getting them to be more familiar with what’s happening in their building,” Bocra said. “They’re beginning to make alterations to the building to change what’s happening there.”
The grades and the focus on energy efficiency are part of the city’s effort to slash greenhouse gas emissions from buildings — the city’s largest source of emissions — 40% from 2005 levels by 2030 and 80% by 2050 in the race to mitigate climate change.