How condo and co-op boards can combat rising energy costs

Board member education
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March 30, 2022
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min read
How condo and co-op boards can combat rising energy costs

Did you hear that New York City is contemplating the construction of wind
turbines in Central Park?

Don’t panic. There is no such plan. But did it seem vaguely credible? That’s because New York’s embrace of fighting climate change is part of our collective DNA. It’s been true for decades, and that passion is heightened at this very moment by the war in the Ukraine.  

Energy prices are rising as a result of sanctions – and economy-wide inflationary pressures -  but we don’t have to accept the bottom-line implications of that reality. On the contrary, and with full pun intentionality, the power is in our hands, and to a greater degree than you might recognize.

Let’s start with what buildings themselves can do – on the Board level – to proactively address the upward pressure on energy costs. And proactively is the operative word. For example, there are lock-in strategies you can aggressively pursue – which include negotiating and locking in a fixed rate for your oil and gas costs with your provider.

Our experience is that buildings have more leverage than they might think; if you’d like to chat about what we’ve learned about the best negotiating strategy with provider bureaucrats, reach out to us here. Another path to a cost-saving lock-in is to work with an energy broker, whose role is to find the lowest priced provider given your buildings’ particular circumstances. Since January of 2021, New York State requires that all brokers be registered, which makes it easy to find the trustworthy players.

Even if you aren’t able to realize enormous savings from locking in your rates, it will provide you with predictable stability with regard to energy costs, enabling you to strategically allocate resources for capital expenses and other requirements.

Additionally, the energy shock from the restrictions on Russia should result in endless investigation of new technologies that efficiently reduce energy consumption, like remote monitoring and control of your existing HVAC infrastructure. There’s no reason to walk into a lobby during an unseasonably warm winter day, and be assaulted by gusts of hot air. Or to overheat apartments and lobbies in general. We’ve actually heard stories of air conditioners operating in the middle of the winter, because there’s no way for residents to control the heat in their apartments.

The good news: There’s a great deal of innovation in this vertical. The challenging news: This  makes it difficult if not impossible for board members to keep pace with the space. Rendering it essential that you work with a property manager who is focused on identifying, vetting, and implementing partnerships that combine innovations in the IoT and the cloud.

And this innovation is desperately needed! When you consider all the distressing waste of energy that happens every day - the heat blasting on unseasonably warm winter days, overheated and over-air-conditioned lobbies - it’s clear that smart environmental monitoring is the future of 21st century buildings.

What’s more, remote monitoring isn’t limited to HVAC.  The innovation revolution extends to water and lighting too! Smart leak detection systems alert management before a drip becomes a gush. All these initiatives signal that you are active stewards of your building’s expense line, demonstrating that you treat every penny that you spend, as if it were your own. When your apartment owners discover that their Board is acting with strategic preparedness, it builds the community – note that “unity” is part of the word – which is part of Daisy’s mission.

As part of that mission, we believe that creating a pervasive, building-wide culture of sustainability brings everyone together in pursuit of a shared vision. A building, after all, is an organic entity that – like any organism – expends energy. But unlike organisms that evolved to conserve energy, buildings have no such adaptive mechanisms in place.

Hence it is incumbent on those who live in these vertical ecosystems to take the steps we all know about, but too seldom employ. Smart water, active thermostats and LED lighting shouldn’t be limited to building common spaces. The same with sensors that automatically dim the lights when the sun is working its magic.

We all need to reduce water usage, be vigilant about leaks, and install water shut-off valves. Motion-sensing lighting is another behavior change we need to adopt; if you’ve traveled to Europe, you might recall that planet-friendly click when leaving or entering a room.

There are many other “efficiency hacks”, in fact – one of our favorites is that a ceiling fan should turn clockwise in the winter to make the space feel warmer. Similarly, use a toaster oven when you can, rather than fire up the oven – the parsimony principle of Occam’s Razor, at work.

In short, boards can and should play a vital role in leading and inspiring their buildings to adopt behaviors that can simultaneously reduce the economic impact of energy prices, and encourage us to make sustainable behaviors part of our everyday lives.

The key to that is a platform we’ve built, that allows smooth, regular communication between the Board and the building community. That’s something that Daisy prides itself on; our platform was created so that everyone can “live their best building life” – as we like to say – which means connectivity is the key to cooperation.

Building by building, block by block, street by street, we can make the micro-changes that together can have a big impact on macroeconomic changes. Aslong as we think of ourselves as having control over our fossil fuel destiny – not victims of it -  we can keep Central Park free of wind turbines!

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