Elevator shafts a major source of heat loss in New York City

A typical New York apartment building loses thousands of dollars worth of energy every year from leaky elevator shafts that vent warm air at the top of the building and draw in cold air at the bottom, according to a new Urban Green Council report.

March 29, 2015 |
Elevator shafts a major source of heat loss in New York City

The report, “Spending Through the Roof,” says that apartment building owners pay an average of $3,400 a year to replace heat lost through the roof. In taller buildings, the cost can be more than $20,000 a year. Illustration: Urban Green Council 

New York City should focus on elevator shafts to improve the energy efficiency standards of its high-rise residences, according to a new report from the Urban Green Council.

A typical New York apartment building loses thousands of dollars worth of energy every year from leaky elevator shafts that vent warm air at the top of the building and draw in cold air at the bottom.

The report, “Spending Through the Roof,” says that apartment building owners pay an average of $3,400 a year to replace heat lost through the roof. In taller buildings, the cost can be more than $20,000 a year.

Plugging this type of air leak can cost from $500 to $15,000. If the leaks were plugged on 4,000 tall apartment buildings in the city, landlords would collectively save $11 million a year, while keeping 30,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere.

Elevator shafts and stairwell openings were required to vent smoke in the case of fire. But construction practices and firefighting techniques have changed, so the vents now "are needlessly open all the time."

Codes governing stairwell vents haven't changed since 1929 so there's no legal way now for building owners to fix the problem. 

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