Pratt Center Project

Completed in 2016
Building Resilient Communities

Retrofit Standardization Initiative

Pratt Center is working to dramatically expand the residential energy efficiency market through an innovative study to standardize retrofits.

New York State invests millions of dollars annually in energy efficiency financing and marketing programs to encourage residential retrofits, reduce energy consumption, and foster a more sustainable economy. While these programs have enabled hundreds of local residents to green their homes, they remain chronically underutilized in NYC where retrofit implementation lags far behind other parts of the state.

For example, New York’s signature residential retrofit program has a market penetration rate well below 1%. Retrofitting half of NYC’s small homes would save homeowners $255 million annually and create 1,500 jobs, but thousands of low- and moderate-income residents in communities burdened by energy costs and an outdated building stock have struggled to secure retrofit financing and take part in these programs.

To address this, Pratt Center launched the Retrofit Standardization Initiative, an innovative project to ramp-up residential retrofits through a simple standard package of five energy efficiency measures that can be implemented in hundreds of thousands of similar small homes. Our on-the-ground experience and data suggested that a standard package can minimize the costs, time, and complications of retrofits by streamlining the energy audit process homeowners are currently required to go through in order to access retrofit financing.

Energy audits typically recommend several different packages of energy efficiency measures that homeowners can implement. Yet audits are costly and time-consuming, yield no direct energy savings, and create cumbersome paperwork for contractors and homeowners. Auditing all of New York City’s small homes would require at least 650,000 days of labor, and cost at least $230 million before any energy-saving measures had even been implemented. Audit reports are also difficult to understand and can make recommendations for measures that are ineligible for financing. Consequently, audits are extremely prohibitive to bringing residential retrofits to scale.

Most crucially, Pratt Center’s analysis of hundreds of audits found that similar homes require the same retrofit measures and that they therefore do not need in-depth audits as a precursor to retrofits. By eliminating audits, a standard retrofit package can make it easier for community based organizations to ramp-up retrofits in their communities, easier for homeowners to access retrofit financing, make it more profitable for small businesses to implement energy efficiency, and generate more retrofitting jobs for local residents.

As part of the Retrofit Standardization Initiative, Pratt Center developed such a standard package for two-family, gas-heated brick homes, which are a prevalent subset of the energy inefficient residential dwellings in NYC’s low- and moderate-income communities.  With over 100,000 small brick, gas-heated homes in all five boroughs, we believe that the standard retrofit package can be widely applied to multiple dwellings without a costly, complicated, and lengthy energy audit. 

For this Initiative, Pratt Center worked closely with energy efficiency companies, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), and local community-based organizations. The initiative was overseen by an advisory group that included representatives from the U.S. Department of Energy, Con Edison, National Grid, and numerous other non-profit, for-profit, and public sector stakeholders. In conjunction with our partners, we are also developed community-based marketing strategies, innovative retrofit contracting approaches, and mechanisms to deploy existing retrofit financing to support implementation of the standard package. While we focused on one building type in New York City, we believe that retrofit standardization can be applied to many urban communities with redundancies in their small building stock, and we are forming alliances across the retrofit sector to replicate our success moving forward.

Click here to learn more about our methodology for identifying a specific building type with great potential for a standard retrofit package.

Click here for the Interim Report released in April 2014 and here for the Phase 2 Report released in December 2015.  The results of the Retrofit Standardization Initiative have built the foundation for Pratt Center’s EnergyFit NYC Pilot  launched in January 2016.

The retrofit standardization initiative was made possible by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Citi Community Development, Mizuho US Foundation, The New York Community Trust, The David Rockefeller Fund, The New York City Council, State Farm, and the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute.