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New York’s Net-Zero Pioneers

What Drives the RetrofitNY Project Teams

Pioneering design-build teams across New York State participating in the first pilot projects for RetrofitNY have completed initial designs of net-zero or near net-zero retrofits that will help set the standard for high-performance building renovations for decades to come.

Teams shared their motivations for why they felt it was important to pursue these projectsand why others in the building design space should be pursuing them as well.

The teams currently working with the RetrofitNY program to develop net zero retrofit designs for affordable multifamily properties are:

Team Lead Building Owner Size Location
ICAST Beacon Communities Two stories (18 units) Troy, NY
The Levy Partnership JOE NYC Six stories (21 units) New York, NY
Bright Power Volmar Five stories (42 units) Bronx, NY
SWBR Conifer Real Estate Two stories (24 units) Portville, NY
King + King Architects Rock PMC Two stories (40 units) Phoenix, NY
Chris Benedict, RA RiseBoro Four stories (46 units) Brooklyn, NY

Taking action on climate goals

All teams recognize the tremendous opportunity to tackle a critical challenge that stands in the way of meeting the ambitious climate goals of New York State and New York City: the challenge of making the existing building stock carbon neutral.

“It has become clear that our largest hurdle to overcome in the building industry is devising a pathway to economically and feasibly take on deep energy retrofits of existing structures. Without this, the global goals and initiatives set to curb carbon emissions by 2050 will not be possible,” says Tom King, designer at King + King Architects. “It is our responsibility as designers, builders, financiers, and owners to step up and challenge ‘business as usual.” 

Sara Bayer, Senior Associate at Magnusson Architecture and Planning, echoes the sentiments around taking on the challenge of existing buildings. “With almost 1 million existing buildings in New York City alone, we have a huge challenge that needs to be addressed in order to fight global warming. Net zero targets are the clear next step in our efforts to contribute to the health of our planet, health of our communities, and the health of the people who live and work in our buildings.”

Addressing an underserved market

Ravi Malhotra, founder and president of the International Center for Appropriate and Sustainable Technology (ICAST) recognizes the potential that retrofits of multifamily affordable housing can have on improving the economic security and well-being of low-income renters.

“We believe every tenant should have access to affordable housing that is healthy, efficient, and safe. When facing high utility bills, seniors on fixed incomes, persons with disabilities, and other low-income tenants are often forced to choose between going without food, medical care, or needed prescriptions just to keep their utilities on,” says Malhotra. He adds, “If climate change goals are to be taken seriously, then net-zero retrofit models for existing multifamily affordable housing will be instrumental in achieving these goals.”

Preparing for the future

Ultimately, all RetrofitNY teams recognize the business opportunity of getting in on the ground floor of net zero retrofits before they become the norm, and they seek to become or maintain status as leaders in the field.

“The net zero market will only grow, and those getting their feet wet now will have a much higher level of working knowledge of barriers and opportunities as the industry grows,” says Malhotra. “Getting ahead of the curve and becoming more involved as soon as possible is the best recommendation I can give, as it will not only build credibility for your business in this fast-growing space but will provide proof of concept of whatever specific solution you are providing.”

If you are a building owner, developer, solution provider, manufacturer, lender, or regulatory agency, contact NYSERDA to find out how you can stay ahead of the game in this net zero revolution.

New York’s Net-Zero Pioneers