Sure, greener buildings in New York City (such as the newly renovated Empire State Building) help to cut back on the city’s carbon footprint. But to achieve deeper reductions of greenhouse gases, building managers and urban planners need to go beyond better light bulbs and more efficient HVAC systems and work together to address the big picture issues of energy usage at the city level, according to a Bianca Howard, a Ph.D. student in mechanical engineering at the Columbia University School of Engineering and a lead author of a new study in the February edition of Energy and Buildings.
The study, built on the work of researchers and collaborators from Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs, the Earth Institute at Columbia University, and the Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability, offers an unprecedented level of information concerning energy use in New York City across the five boroughs. The statistical model it employs makes use of ZIP code-level energy consumption data to estimate the average annual energy use for every tax lot—at practically the level of the building—throughout the city.
In this study, energy use is further broken down into what each building uses for space heating, space cooling, water heating and base electric applications such as lighting. With this information in hand, the Columbia engineering team created an interactive Web map that shows what type of energy is being used, for which purpose, and in what quantity, across the city.
This information was intended to accomplish a number of things, the first of which is to simply get a conversation started with the average New Yorker about how their energy usage compares to that of their neighbors—apartments to apartments, townhomes to townhomes. This, in turn, is expected to provide a clear incentive for those who can benefit the most from energy efficient improvements to make those improvements a reality.