In December 2012, Governor Andrew Cuomo initiated Build Smart NY, the largest state-government energy-efficiency program in the United States. Lloyd Kass, the director of Build Smart NY at the New York Power Authority and an adjunct professor at Columbia University in New York, spoke to us about the challenges and thrills of running the ambitious program.
gb&d: Your job requires you to coordinate with more than 46 agencies and their staff. What process did you use to develop guidelines for such a massive program?
Lloyd Kass: It was very much a participatory process. On numerous occasions during the summer of 2013, we engaged large numbers of agency representatives in productive, face-to-face discussion. It was very much a bottom-up, top-down exchange of ideas. Where possible, we pulled from prior experience. The New York Power Authority has been investing hundreds of millions in public-sector energy-efficiency projects for two decades. We also pulled from best practices and the experiences of other states and cities. We learned from everybody. When you’re trying to move quickly, there’s no point in reinventing the wheel.
gb&d: How do you prioritize projects?
Kass: Our methodology is based on best practices. It’s really data driven. You look at where the energy use is greatest, where the risk of increase is greatest, and where opportunities exist. We’ve identified two levels of prioritization. Where facilities and equipment are in good stead, we focus on better operations, and we have a data-driven method to do that. In other instances, where infrastructure investment is necessary, we identify the most critical needs. We focus largely on the agencies with the highest energy costs. It all comes down to dollars and cents.
gb&d: What types of projects offer the lowest-hanging fruit?
Kass: Lighting is a big one. We’re increasingly moving to LED technology because the economics are so attractive, the lighting quality is good, and the reliability is there. Also, boilers and chillers are prime upgrade candidates, and we do a lot of work with building control systems. You can really have more granular control with these systems. You can accomplish more with fewer staff when buildings are controlled automatically, allowing agencies to redeploy resources to other aspects of their businesses.
gb&d: How do you see the program affecting New York’s economy?
Kass: I think in a number of ways. Build Smart NY is about accelerating activity. There’s been a solid services and construction industry around energy projects in New York for some time. Build Smart NY is opening things up more. There are demonstration projects galore coming out of this for emerging technologies. The private sector can borrow from this just as the public sector borrows from them, and there’s further investment by the private companies as well. I think it’s steadily encouraging growth and investment in the building-energy technology sectors in New York. New York Power Authority is encouraging private-sector partnerships and technology development through complimentary programs like our Energy Efficiency Innovation Collaborative (EE-INC). The Build Smart NY program and the spotlight we shine on the agencies are all contributing to that.
gb&d: What do you consider your biggest triumph to date?
Kass: Seeing government bringing solutions to scale. New York is a big state. Everyone is pitching in, and it’s happening simultaneously and organically. It’s exciting to witness the groundswell of activity. The buy-in has been very gratifying. People see Build Smart NY increasingly as a core part of their business and appreciate how it enhances what they’re already doing.