Bridge Builder: New York City School's John Shea
Part 2: Coordination Across City Organizations Drives Sustainability Success
Coordination Across City Organizations Drives Sustainability Success
By Greg Zimmerman, Executive Editor - October 2010 - Energy Efficiency
But the real challenge, says Shea, was posed by the fact that his organization doesn't actually pay the energy bill — a job performed by another organization called the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS). So because Shea's group doesn't see any of the savings for energy upgrade projects, there was no real incentive to spend his operations and maintenance dollars on capital energy projects. "It was a huge problem," says Shea. "Because I don't manage the bills, I don't see the payback. The tradition in New York has always been to turn the heat on in October and turn it off in May, and if you're too hot, open the windows."
Part of PlaNYC, though, is for the city to set aside an approximately $100 million fund per year (a yearly percentage of the city's annual energy bill) administered by DCAS (and now supplemented with stimulus funds) to perform energy efficiency projects in schools.
But, given the sheer size of the portfolio and the fact that energy efficiency had been neglected for so long, where to begin? How to prioritize?
What's more, a third organization called the School Construction Authority (SCA) is also a critical piece of the puzzle. SCA is responsible for all capital improvement projects, as well as major renovations (like roof replacement, etc.) and new construction, and so because neither Shea nor DCAS would want to perform expensive energy upgrades in school buildings that are soon to be fully renovated anyway, frequent consultation with SCA about their plans is critical.
"So we have three different groups with three different perspectives on building equipment and operations with regard to energy conservation," says Shea. "We all have slightly different goals, but we share a common ethos."
Fortunately, that energy-saving ethos is enough to bond all three closely enough that they get along quite nicely.
"Working with SCA and DCAS, there is actually an unexpected amount of coordination that happens between the agencies," says Ozgem Ornektekin, DSF's director of sustainability. "We're all on the same page regarding energy saving, partly because of the mayor's goals in PlaNYC."
Still, getting these energy projects done is quite the exercise in communication and coordination. One facet of new legislation called the Greener, Greater Buildings Plan passed last December in New York City is that every municipal building must have an energy audit every 10 years. So Shea figures that setting a goal of working on 10 percent of his buildings per year means every building is given its due attention every 10 years. "It's a rolling process, like painting a bridge," he says.
Shea and his team began the process by analyzing the Energy Start Portfolio Manager data. They threw out every school already at 75 — the city's goal — and also those under 25 — probably would be renovated soon — and concentrated on the middle. And the short version of what happens after that goes like this: DCAS, SCA and DSF sit down and identify buildings based first on the Energy Star score, and then on other criteria, like geography (making sure money is spread evenly to each of the five boroughs), deferred maintenance needs, capital projects plans, and whether a building is heated with No. 4 or No. 6 fuel oil. Shea says it's a high priority to replace No. 4 or No. 6 oil burners with natural gas or No. 2 oil.
With buildings identified, Shea checks with his deputy directors of facilities responsible for the schools that made the list to make sure there are no anomalies in the data or anything else outstanding that he, DCAS and SCA should know about.
Once a building is a go for energy improvements, DCAS engages a third party to do an energy audit. The audit comes back with a list of project recommendations for highest impact savings, like boiler replacement, new lighting, occupancy sensors, etc. These projects generally should have a payback of 10 years or fewer, but Shea says that it's not like they take the top 20 projects with the best paybacks and draw the line. They still examine each project on an individual basis. DCAS and Shea then approve the list and turn the project over to the New York Power Authority, which "manages the process soup to nuts," according to Shea.
Since fiscal year 2008, the Department of Education has saved about 11 percent total on energy — from a total of about 6.5 billion MBTU to 5.7 MBTU. (See "School Energy Use: 2008-10" on this page.)
But that systematic process is not nearly the extent of the tripartite collaboration. Shea relates a story to illustrate the level of cooperation and trust amongst the agencies. He says DCAS called his office in February and asked if he could use $3 million for small-measure energy conservation, the only caveat being that he had to spend it by the end of June. The money came from part of DCAS's tax levy and had to be spent by the end of the fiscal year — June 30.
"We had credibility in that we had already prepared lists of deferred maintenance projects for City Hall, and had the most data in Portfolio Manager of any of the other city agencies," says Shea. "We also had contracts already in place, so we were positioned to spend the money expeditiously."
Shea and his staff put together a list of buildings that had a deferred maintenance backlog of steam trap work, as well as a list of buildings that had recent lighting upgrades but did not get occupancy sensors.
"After my staff went through that exercise, we met with SCA to review our list of potential buildings with their capital program planning group. After eliminating those buildings scheduled for major renovation, we narrowed down the projects to a manageable number."
They then took the final list back to DCAS for approval. They also developed a reporting process to illustrate that they were spending the money for its intended purpose.
"In the end, DCAS sent us the money, and we completed the work on time with our own contractors," says Shea. "It was a huge undertaking that required all three agencies to be on the same page."
School Energy Use: 2008-10
FY 10: Borough Total Energy Use (MBTU)
With percent change from previous fiscal year
FY 09: Borough Total Energy Use (MBTU)
With percent change from previous fiscal year
FY 08: Borough Total Energy Use (MBTU)