Condo Board Moves to Comply with the Climate Mobilization Act

By Bill Morris in Bricks & Bucks For Habitat Magazine

When the condo board at 88 Greenwich St. decided to replace rather than rehab the aging cooling units on the roof of its 38-story Art Deco tower in the Financial District, it was determined to kill three birds with one stone.

First, the job would put an end to the constant stream of violations from the Fire Department of New York over an improperly filed Certificate of Compliance when the units were installed in the 1990s. Second, the new units would be properly sized for the jobs of cooling the upper-floor hallways and the elevator machine room. And third, the new units would cut the building’s carbon emissions and push it toward compliance with the looming caps set by the Climate Mobilization Act.

The board brought in Ray Locicero, a mechanical engineer with RAND Engineering & Architecture, to evaluate the system and prepare a proposal. “The resident manager, Tom Calandra, and the property manager, Shana Essig of FirstService, insisted on having equipment that would work toward those goals,” Locicero says. “Electricity has a more favorable carbon footprint than fossil fuels, so the city is encouraging buildings to electrify – in hopes that the electric grid will become greener.”

After determining that the unit that cooled the hallways was undersized and the unit that cooled the elevator room was oversized, Locicero proposed installing a 100% outside-air conditioner for the former and an air-cooled condenser for the latter. He suggested installing electric Mitsubishi machines, but when the contractor announced it could get Daikin machines at a lower price, the board decided to go with Daikin. One problem: the board had insisted that the job had to be done without using a costly crane – which would have added $80,000 to the price tag – and there was concern that the larger Daikin machines might not fit in the elevators or on the tight roof space.

“The machines had to be broken down so we could get them in the elevator, then carried up two flights of stairs,” Calandra says. “The project was very smooth, considering the size of the job and the difficulty of getting everything up to the roof without using a crane. There were no change orders.” The only hiccup was that the delivery of some parts was delayed by the pandemic.

The project was completed in April, and Essig, the property manager, says it came in right on budget, at $168,000, which was paid out of the reserve fund. “This board is ahead of the game big-time,” she says. “They like to plan ahead so the unit-owners don’t get hit with big increases or assessments each year.” She adds that the board has already gotten approval to participate in the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s FlexTech program, which shares the cost of a building-wide study to identify ways to reduce energy costs.

The engineer also has kind words for the five-member condo board. “They were proactive,” Locicero says. “They didn’t wait until they had an emergency. They were a joy to work with because they made it possible for us to do the job right.” 

PRINCIPAL PLAYERS – PROPERTY MANAGER: FirstService Residential New York. CONTRACTOR: New York Cooling Towers. ENGINEER: RAND Engineering & Architecture.

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