New Digital Resource Created by NYSERDA and Leading Empire Building Challenge Partners to Support Broadscale Building Decarbonization

May 22, 2024

Governor Kathy Hochul announced today 11 leading real estate groups were selected in the third round of the $50 million Empire Building Challenge to advance climate-friendly multifamily buildings in New York State. Today’s announcement also included the launch of “The Retrofit Playbook for Large Buildings”– a free online resource to support building owners advancing carbon neutrality in large commercial and multifamily buildings, which includes a suite of planning guides specifically geared towards enabling the decarbonization of commercial office spaces. New York’s Empire Building Challenge and complementary Playbook are integral to accelerating the State’s progress toward the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 85 percent by 2050 and the Governor’s goal to develop two million climate-friendly homes.

“Investing in new clean, resilient technologies is just one way that New York is advancing progress toward our ambitious Climate Act goals, and the Empire Building Challenge is one of the most successful programs in decarbonizing high-rise buildings,” Governor Hochul said. “This program continues to demonstrate how collaborative partnerships can develop solutions that lower harmful emissions from buildings, creating healthier spaces for all New Yorkers to live and work, and I look forward to what this new round will bring.”

New Partners

Through Round Three of the Challenge, administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), 11 real estate partners were selected to implement replicable, low-carbon retrofit demonstration projects addressing one or more barriers to decarbonizing their multifamily building(s). The newly awarded partners collectively own more than 1.7 million square feet of real estate and 133,500 residential units throughout New York State, including more than 18,700 affordable housing units. These partners are advancing 29 showcase buildings in the Empire Building Challenge program – 25 of which are in disadvantaged communities Link opens in new window - close new window to return to this page., as defined by the New York State Climate Justice Working Group. These awards will also unlock over $50 million in private investment from Challenge real estate partners while attracting solution providers globally to bring innovation and business investment to New York State.

The 11 partners and their teams will each receive $100,000 to support development of their decarbonization roadmap, charting the different pathways and projects they plan to implement. The awarded projects include:

Ascendant Neighborhood Development

  •  Team includes: MaGrann Associates and Paul A. Castrucci Architects
    • Three buildings:
      • 58 E 132 St., New York, NY*
        • Affordable residential, 61 units
      • 53 E 131 St., New York, NY*
        • Affordable residential, 28 units
      • 421 E 116 St., New York, NY*
        • Affordable residential, 63 units

Chartered Properties

  •  Team includes: LaBella Associates, Optimized Thermal Systems, Sunamp
    • Seven buildings, 95 units committed to carbon neutrality:
      • 1336-40 Bergen St., Brooklyn, NY*
        • Affordable residential, 24 units
      • 1342 Bergen St., Brooklyn, NY*
        • Affordable residential, 16 units
      • 226 Schaefer St., Brooklyn, NY*
        • Affordable residential, six units
      • 586 Wilson St., Brooklyn, NY*
        • Affordable residential, six units
      • 55 Arlington St., Brooklyn, NY*
        • Affordable residential, six units
      • 78 Herkimer St., Brooklyn, NY*
        • Affordable residential, 29 units
      • 462 Nostrand St., Brooklyn, NY
        • Affordable residential, eight units


  •  Team includes: Kelvin Systems and Inglese Architecture & Engineering
    • Up to seven buildings, leading with 45 W 139 St., New York, NY*
      • Affordable residential, 256 units; included within a seven-building campus of 1,790 units

FirstService Residential

  •  Team includes: Jaros, Baum & Bolles Consulting Engineers, LLP
    • One building:
      • 111 W 67 St., New York, NY
        • Mixed-use, 284 units


  •  Team includes: Steven Winter Associates
    • One building:
      • 27-40 Hoyt Avenue, Astoria, NY*
        • Affordable senior housing, 184 units

Joint Ownership Entity NYC

  •  Team includes: MaGrann Associates and CTA Architects
    • Four buildings:
      • 439 W 125 St., New York, NY*
        • Affordable mixed-use building, 21 units
      • 865 E 167 St., Bronx, NY*
        • Affordable residential, 55 units
      • 1203 Fulton Avenue., Bronx, NY*
        • Affordable residential, 29 units
      • 575 E 168 St., Bronx, NY*
        • Affordable residential, 9 units

Chelsea New York Realty Company LLC

  •  Team includes: RE Tech Advisors
    • One building:
      • 776 Sixth Ave., New York, NY
        • Mixed-use, 387 units

RiseBoro Community Partnership

  •  Team includes: Steven Winter Associates
    • Two buildings:
      • 43 & 63 Central Avenue, Brooklyn, NY *
        • Affordable residential, 98 units

Syracuse Housing Authority

  •  Team includes: Cycle Retrotech, Taitem Engineering, and Hydronic Shell Technologies
    • One building:
      • 418 Fabius St., Syracuse, NY*
        • Affordable residential, 54 units


  •  Team includes: SWBR, Open Market ESCO, and Rocky Mountain Institute
    • One building:
      • 471 John James Audubon Pkwy, Amherst, NY
        • Affordable residential (senior housing),65 units

Sisters of Charity Housing Development Corporation

  •  Team includes: KOW Building Consultants, Purpose by Design Architects, and Ettinger Engineering
    • One building, with an additional pledge of 10 percent reduction in fossil fuel use on all its properties in Staten Island (seven buildings in total, 451units) by 2035.
      • 150 Brielle Ave., Staten Island, NY
        • Affordable senior housing, 80 units

* Project is located in a disadvantaged community.

NYSERDA President and CEO Doreen M. Harris said, “New York’s groundbreaking Empire Building Challenge demonstrates the value of public-private partnerships and how large buildings are an important part of the solution to tackle climate change through planned capital investments. The Retrofit Playbook for Large Buildings in conjunction with this new round of partners will serve as inspiration to other building owners as they modernize their buildings.”

The criteria NYSERDA used to evaluate proposals included a project’s scalability and feasibility in addressing the major challenges of decarbonizing multifamily buildings, as well as the building owner’s willingness and ability to implement solutions across their portfolio of buildings. Additional details can be found on all retrofit projects on NYSERDA’s Empire Building Challenge website.

With this announcement, the Empire Building Challenge now has partnerships with 27 real estate leaders who control over 400 million square feet of commercial and multifamily real estate in New York, with public commitments to decarbonize over 128 million square feet. In total, these partners control over 20 percent of commercial office space in New York City and more than 200,000 units of housing throughout the State. This represents a clear signal from New York real estate for high quality, low carbon solutions for commercial high-rise buildings, and all multifamily buildings.

State Senator Kevin Parker said, “Investments through the Empire Building Challenge are transforming how the building industry develops and implements climate-friendly solutions – a crucial part of our efforts to modernize our buildings, improve air quality, and provide more energy-efficient workspaces for of New Yorkers. I applaud Governor Hochul, NYSERDA and the leading groups announced today, for continuing to support our climate and clean energy goals.”

The Retrofit Playbook for Large Buildings

The Retrofit Playbook for Large Buildings Link opens in new window - close new window to return to this page. capitalizes on the success of the first playbook, Empire Building Playbook: An Owner’s Guide to Low Carbon Retrofits, which was launched on Earth Day 2022 and was created through a partnership between NYSERDA, Empire State Realty Trust, Inc. (ESRT) and other Empire Building Challenge real estate partners. The original Playbook has been re-imagined including new case studies focusing on the challenges of decarbonizing multifamily buildings, and now includes an expanded resource library to support building owners and their technical teams in planning and implementing low carbon retrofit projects. The new and improved online Retrofit Playbook for Large Buildings also showcases examples of best practices in decarbonizing commercial tenant office spaces in New York City, a key sector to engage in building decarbonization.

The Playbook now includes case studies for different building types, including commercial and multifamily buildings; specifically, affordable housing, residential, and high-rise buildings. Most of these new projects are in disadvantaged communities and the strategies highlight cost-effective approaches to decarbonizing complex buildings over time, project-specific technical information, and best practices for building owners to achieve deep energy and carbon reductions at their properties. It also helps support an equitable transition to clean energy and the comfort and health of low- to moderate- income residents.

Significant findings from the Playbook include:

  • Focus on heat: reducing, recycling and storing heat is a primary way to drive down a building’s greenhouse gas emissions and achieve a strong return on investment.
  • Small steps create a large impact: incremental investments achieve significant carbon reduction over time.
  • Traditional energy audits are not enough: decarbonization requires a rigorous systems analysis of whole-building heating and cooling, ventilation, domestic hot water and envelope.
  • Tenants are key: building owners will accelerate investments in climate-friendly office spaces if tenants demonstrate demand.

Additional case studies will be added to the Playbook over time, showcasing the work of Empire Building Challenge partners.

Building Energy Exchange, Rocky Mountain Institute, and the Urban Land Institute (ULI) were integral partners throughout the website design and building process, bringing industry expertise to provide input through design iterations and leveraging the best-in-class user experience (UX) and graphic design consultants to conceptualize the Playbook. These partners will continue to support the dissemination of the Playbook, the development of new content, and management of the resources and case studies submitted by the public.

Building Energy Exchange Executive Director Richard Yancey, FAIA, LEED AP, said, “For over two years, BE-Ex has supported the EBC through our educational programs and resources, sharing the amazing stories from the EBC partners and their ground-breaking projects. We're thrilled to be launching this new knowledge platform, which not only explains a critical approach to large building decarbonization, but also provides building owners, managers, and solution providers with blueprints for strategic decarbonization through real world case studies, details from these projects, and trustworthy tools and resources.”

Rocky Mountain Institute Principal Brett Bridgeland said, “The Retrofit Playbook for Large Buildings presents a strategic three-step decarbonization approach, proven effective by real estate industry leaders and expert consultants. Building owners and their teams can use this approach to enhance their properties through integrated engineering solutions strategically paired with long-term capital planning for effective decarbonization. The technical resources are what make this Playbook standout.”

ULI Randall Lewis Center for Sustainability in Real Estate Co-Executive Director Marta Schantz said, “Retrofitting large assets is hard. Add in the complexities of electrification and a cold climate, and it's even harder. ULI is thrilled that NYSERDA is educating the market on strategic decarbonization with its new Retrofit Playbook for Large Buildings resource.”

Buildings are one of the most significant sources of greenhouse gas emissions in New York State. Through NYSERDA and utility programs, over $6.8 billion is being invested to decarbonize buildings. By improving energy efficiency in buildings and advancing statewide installations of onsite storage, renewables, and electric vehicle charging equipment, the State will reduce its carbon pollution and achieve the State's ambitious target of reducing on-site energy consumption by 185 TBtu by 2025, the equivalent of powering 1.8 million homes. Building owners, solution providers, manufacturers, and other interested stakeholders are encouraged to visit NYSERDA’s website Link opens in new window - close new window to return to this page. for additional details on the Empire Building Challenge and to learn how to partner with NYSERDA, reduce carbon emissions, and get involved in the clean energy economy.

This program is funded through NYSERDA’s 10-year, $6 billion Clean Energy Fund (CEF). More information about the CEF is available on NYSERDA’s website.

New York State's Nation-Leading Climate Plan

New York State's climate agenda calls for an orderly and just transition that creates family-sustaining jobs, continues to foster a green economy across all sectors and ensures that at least 35 percent, with a goal of 40 percent, of the benefits of clean energy investments are directed to disadvantaged communities. Guided by some of the nation’s most aggressive climate and clean energy initiatives, New York is advancing a suite of efforts – including the New York Cap-and-Invest program (NYCI) and other complementary policies – to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030 and 85 percent by 2050 from 1990 levels. New York is also on a path to achieving a zero-emission electricity sector by 2040, including 70 percent renewable energy generation by 2030, and economywide carbon neutrality by mid-century. A cornerstone of this transition is New York's unprecedented clean energy investments, including more than $28 billion in 61 large-scale renewable and transmission projects across the State, $6.8 billion to reduce building emissions, $3.3 billion to scale up solar, nearly $3 billion for clean transportation initiatives and over $2 billion in NY Green Bank commitments. These and other investments are supporting more than 170,000 jobs in New York’s clean energy sector as of 2022 and over 3,000 percent growth in the distributed solar sector since 2011. To reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality, New York also adopted zero-emission vehicle regulations, including requiring all new passenger cars and light-duty trucks sold in the State be zero emission by 2035. Partnerships are continuing to advance New York’s climate action with more than 400 registered and more than 130 certified Climate Smart Communities, nearly 500 Clean Energy Communities, and the State’s largest community air monitoring initiative in 10 disadvantaged communities across the State to help target air pollution and combat climate change.