Environmental Exclusive Research Package

Public-Private Partnerships pave the way for NYC building owners to reduce pollution and save money

Plan ahead so you can save money and cool down with owner-friendly incentive programs by organizations such as NYC Cool Roofs, ConEd, NYSERDA.

Plan ahead so you can save money and cool down with owner-friendly incentive programs by organizations such as NYC Cool Roofs, ConEd, NYSERDA. This is one of five articles in Unbuilt Labs’ Research Package “Incentive programs to help NYC building owners comply with the Climate Mobilization Act (2019)by Deven Malone. We recommend clicking on the link above to familiarize yourself with the four pillars of what the NYC Mayor’s Office of Sustainability calls the “largest climate solution put forth by any city in the world”.

In New York, chronic heat exhaustion represents the greatest tragedy of the urban heat island effect and other negative externalities- anyone can fall victim and anyone can be held responsible, no matter their individual contributions to heat or greenhouse gases, but there are programs available to mitigate these risks. Dizziness and dehydration escalate quickly. Consequently, fainting can be unpredictable (Heat Illness and Deaths — New York City 2013). Building owners run the risk of lawsuits from heat-related complications.

An urban heat island is noticeably warmer than surrounding, rural areas. The primary cause is the albedo effect; darker surfaces, like concrete and paved asphalt, absorb more heat energy than lighter surfaces, like grasses, which reflect sunlight (US EPA, “Heat Island Impacts” 2014). This phenomenon is compounded by heat leaking from buildings, adding to the higher average temperatures. As a result, building owners need to be cautious if their buildings are surrounded by nothing but asphalt and other buildings and dark roofs. These properties contribute to the urban heat island effect, as they absorb heat.

Urban heat islands can have several direct health consequences. First and foremost, hotter temperatures place stress on the city’s inhabitants, namely the oldest and youngest of the population (US EPA, “Climate Change Indicators” 2016). This stress increases the need for water and therefore chances of dehydration or heat stroke. Heat waves kill more people, on average, than any other extreme weather event in the United States (Heat Illness and Deaths — New York City 2013). Between 2001 and 2011, an average of 447 patients were treated for heat illness each year, with 13 people dying from heat stroke. These are preventable deaths. Men are twice as likely as women to be hospitalized, largely due to a tendency to work outside in jobs like construction (US EPA, “Climate Change Indicators” 2016). It is important to protect these workers.

Furthermore, the sunlight and heat provide an optimal environment for the reaction of volatile organic compounds to form ground-level smog (US EPA, “Ground-Level Ozone Basics” 2020).  Although strong heat and sunlight prompt greater reactivity, tropospheric ozone production can take place even in winter months. Smog worsens bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma and triggers chest pain, coughing, and throat and airway irritation and inflammation. The presence of trees aids in decreasing the rate at which smog forms. Trees also have the added benefit of increasing land values.

The following programs offer both incentives to cover the cost of installations and retrofits and connections to qualified installers. These vendors often provide funding to the Retrofit Accelerator itself. The programs aim to not only reduce the building materials’ propensity to contribute to the urban heat island effect, but also reduce costs for the building owner. Likewise, incentives that increase access to HVAC systems can offset the effects of heat. Additionally, tree cover can reduce heat, which reduces the risk of any health hazards, and increase property value, helping both building owners and community members. Not only do investments that reduce contributions to the urban heat island effect save building owners money, but they provide a public good and can thus serve as socially-responsible advertising.


NYC Cool Roofs: training and service provider

  • Offers the installation of reflective roof coatings that help to reduce cooling needs at no- or low-cost.
  • No-cost installation for  buildings such as: non-profit, affordable/low-income housing, community or recreational centers, schools/colleges/universities, hospitals or medical care clinics, museums/theaters/other cultural centers, select cooperatively owned housing
  • Low-cost installation for building owners who either: cover the cost of the coating, which is provided at a discounted rate through vendors participating in the NYC Cool Roofs program; or Agree to share the coated building’s aggregate electricity consumption data with the Cool Roofs program. Data must be shared for a minimum of 2 years prior to and 2 years after cool roof installation.
  • View specific rooftop criteria and roof types here: https://www1.nyc.gov/nycbusiness/article/nyc-coolroofs

The Con Edison Multifamily Program

  • For buildings with 5 or more units, the ConEd Multifamily Program offers equipment rebates for energy-efficiency upgrades and energy surveys. The upgrades apply to both electric and gas-powered equipment.
  • ConEdison’s implementation contractor, Willdan Energy Solutions, will conduct an energy survey to determine buildings’ eligibility.
  • Customers must receive Con Edison gas and/or electric delivery service, be in good standing and contribute to the energy efficiency tracker charge (EE Tracker). EE Tracker is a New York State mandated fund for initiatives focused on environmental and other public policy programs such as energy efficiency
  • All qualified buildings are eligible for Market Rate Incentives ($0.60/kWh discount), while Affordable Housing units are eligible for further, Affordable Incentives ($0.75/kWh discount).
  • View details of the program and the owner’s application in the following PDF: shorturl.at/sRVX4

Con Edison Appliance Rebates

  • The Con Edison Appliance Rebate program provides rebates for the installation of ENERGY STAR appliances, including room air conditioners.
  • Rebates are available for bulk purchases in master-metered multifamily buildings, or for individual purchases by residents in direct-metered units.
  • $25 cash rebate on an ENERGY STAR A/C and up to $40 rebate on applicable ENERGY STAR appliances
  • Learn about savings here: https://www.coned.com/en/save-money/rebates-incentives-tax-credits

NYSERDA Ground Source Heat Pump Rebate Initiative

Consolidated Edison Commercial Direct Install Program

  • Services offered to: Healthcare & Fitness Centers, Restaurants & Food Store, Retail, Offices, Warehouses & Manufacturing
  • Con Edison will cover approx. half the cost for Willdan Energy Solutions consulting services and the subsequent, appropriate HVAC and lighting upgrades.
  • Schedule a free energy assessment by Con Edison here: https://conedee.force.com/CIPCPortal/s/leadgeneration

Consolidated Edison- Steam Air Conditioning Incentives

  • Incentives are offered to whole buildings.
  • The Con Edison Steam Air Conditioning Incentives Program offers incentives for purchasing and installing steam powered chiller equipment.
  • To be eligible for this program, building owners are required to sell excess steam to Con Edison for a minimum of 10 years.
  • The application involves a PDF application and a pre-installation field visit. Installation must be completed within 12 months after the application has been approved, though you can submit a written request for an extension. A post-installation field is also required.
  • Details of the program can be found here: https://www.coned.com/en/commercial-industrial/steam/sell-your-extra-steam

The Building Performance Institute Multifamily Building Operator

  • The Multifamily Building Operator certification is a program detailing the fundamentals of high-performance buildings for multifamily building operators.
  • The course is offered by the Building Performance Institute in partnership with the Retrofit Accelerator
  • The course costs between $0 (for members of Service Employees International Union) and $1200; the exam costs between $250 and $500, at a discounted rate. The course takes between 35 and 40 hours to complete. To become a certified Multifamily Building Operator, one must pass both the online exam ($250) and the field exam ($500).
  • The Multifamily Building Operator course details the following: Heating and cooling system operations and maintenance, including airflow and ventilation management and preventative maintenance, electric energy efficiency, water conservation, green cleaning, recycling, and integrated pest management.

Building Operations Certification (BOC)Level I or Level II

  • Building Staff can earn a Level I or Level II BOC
  • Level 1 courses detail HVAC systems, energy efficiency in ventilation, efficient lighting, and performance measurement. Level 1 Certification requires six core classes and one supplemental course (74 hours).
  • Level 2 courses detail troubleshooting, system optimization, and motor management. Level 2 Certification requires four core classes and two supplemental courses (61 hours)
  • Both course sets are at a discounted $2150, but Local 94 members can receive a further discount to pay $300 per certification course load.
  • Details of the courses can be found here: https://www.theboc.info/building-operator-training/course-descriptions/
  • Training eligibility for both courses can be found here: https://www.theboc.info/building-operator-training/boc-eligibility/


Gonzalez, Sarah. “Without AC, Public Housing Residents Swelter Through the Summer.” WNYC News, 28 July 2016, https://www.wnyc.org/story/life-new-york-public-housing-no-air-conditioning/.

Heat Illness and Deaths — New York City, 2000–2011. www.cdc.gov, August 9, 2013, https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6231a1.htm. Accessed 4 Aug. 2020.

US EPA, OAR. “Climate Change Indicators: Heat-Related Illnesses.” US EPA, 1 July 2016. www.epa.gov, https://www.epa.gov/climate-indicators/heat-related-illnesses.

US EPA, OAR. “Ground-Level Ozone Basics.” US EPA, 29 May 2015. www.epa.gov, https://www.epa.gov/ground-level-ozone-pollution/ground-level-ozone-basics.

US EPA, OAR. “Heat Island Impacts.” US EPA, 17 June 2014. www.epa.gov, https://www.epa.gov/heatislands/heat-island-impacts.

Browse the research package “Incentive programs to help NYC building owners comply with the Climate Mobilization Act (2019)” by Deven Malone:

About the Author


Deven Malone, Summer Policy Analyst

Deven has long been interested in communicating for influence. He recognized the importance of social discourse for project momentum during his time as an Associate at Partnership International. There he has researched regulatory landscapes and written project proposals as well as grant applications on behalf of US bilateral and multilateral aid agencies. His focus has been on solar energy, water purification, and hydroelectric fields. At Unbuilt Labs, he is exploring behaviour change communication strategies in housing codes and climate-oriented legislation. Deven is also a beekeeper and a Board Member at Georgetown University’s Hoya Hive.

  • Georgetown University, B.S.F.S. Science, Technology, and International Affairs ‘22

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