How to Get Funding For Your Smart Building Retrofits

There has been a lot of talk recently around retrofits for old buildings to make them more sustainable. But as many building owners know, the costs of implementing these smart building technologies can be prohibitive, leading many to choose not to implement them.

However, there is no lack of funding for green infrastructure. Finding the right funding opportunities and grants can make starting these projects much easier (and cheaper).

Whether you’re retrofitting a residential or commercial building for environmental reasons or because your city mandated a greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction initiative, why not find out if someone can fund the upfront cost?

This post will help everyone from tenants to real-estate owners find funding opportunities to upgrade their residential or commercial buildings. By upgrading your building, you can become more energy efficient, meet new regulatory demands, and drastically increase the overall resiliency of your space.

Greenhouse Gas Reduction in the Built Environment

Smog in a city

Why are governments focusing on implementing GHG reduction initiatives? 

To put it simply, GHGs are killing the planet.

Across the globe, buildings are contributing up to almost one-third, or 28 percent, of all GHG emissions.

The buildings where billions of people lay their heads each night are a major source of emissions. The buildings where people go to work everyday are a major source of emissions. The buildings where students go to school, where products are manufactured, and where doctors take care of patients are all major contributors to the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Why? Oftentimes, it’s because these builds are old.

For example, my building was built in 1920 making it almost 100 years old, which is not all that unusual for NYC. I’m not surprised considering that the marble stairs in my 5-story walk-up are weathered from all the poor souls dragging their feet every day, including myself!

Old buildings are a major source of leaks, inefficiencies in water pumps, boilers, and energy usage.

“Old buildings are dirty, they must go”

Advocates of the Climate Mobilization Act

As a means of aggressively fight against climate change, cities and states are implementing disruptive GHG reduction policies in residential and commercial buildings. Why? Because we only have one planet and these old builds are a major source of pollution.

The World is Onboard With Saving the World 

The Paris Climate Agreement is an international agreement between many countries to keep global temperature from rising by 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels this century.

The agreement also aims to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Given this is a United Nations-led consortium, the agreement has no “teeth”, however it did give way to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

Paris Climate Accord Image

The SDGs are a separate agreement to directly tackle climate change and improve the quality of life for people everywhere. They consist of 17 separate goals, many of which are aimed to offset GHG emissions with various targets, such as goal 7 – Affordable and Clean Energy for all.

On a smaller scale, cities are also now competing to be the leader in reducing their GHG emissions. The goal is to not only increase the resiliency of the cities’ critical assets, but to be a model “smart city” that uses new technology like IoT to become more sustainable and inclusive.

Below are various cities’ current sustainability goals: 

  • London enacted the Policy 5.1 Climate change migration which aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 60 per cent (below 1990 levels) by 2025. 
  • Cape Town has a target to achieve a 37% reduction in carbon emissions by 2040 or a 13% reduction by 2022, as set out by the City’s Energy 2040 goal. 
  • Sydney is on track to reduce emissions in their own operations by 44% to 2006 levels and move to 50% renewable energy by 2021.
  • New York wants to achieve its goal of slashing overall greenhouse gas emissions by 80% below 2005 levels by 2050.

Building Retrofits: Financial & Sustainability Benefits

Now that you know a bit about the goals of various international and local organizations, let’s define what “smart” means for any piece of infrastructure.

“Smart” generally means connecting objects, assets, systems, facilities, and more to the internet with the goal of improving people’s lives, becoming more efficient, and reducing waste.

One way that this happens is through Internet of Things applications. For example, by adding connected sensors to your building’s elevators, you can gain actionable insights through real-time analysis and future sensor state predictions.

Imagine knowing there’s a gas leak the second it happens, and having the ability to shut it off remotely. These type of applications protect your tenant’s lives and your building.

By adding internet connected environmental sensors to your building combined with our Kosmos system, facilities managers can actively manage their assets, protect lives, and prove their building improvements are saving money.

What if your existing machines are not connected to the internet? Not a problem. Our Temboo team loves a challenge, and we are very good at finding flexible, cutting edge ways to ensure we leverage your existing assets to connect to our cloud.

For example, we are working with a city agency to connect their water pumps which are located underground in a basement with thick cement walls. Traditional wireless networks are not able to connect through the thick walls, but our engineers found a way to use power line communication to get connected at no additional cost.

Viola! Solution found.

NYC – If You Can Make It Here, You Can Make It Anywhere

NYC Skyline

Recently, NYC passed the Climate Mobilization Act which aims to reduce 40% of GHG emissions from residential and commercial buildings greater than 25,000 square feet by 2030 and 80% by 2050. This act is mandated by the city, and is the first law to demand changes from existing buildings.

The act is expected to require retrofits in about 75% of large buildings in the city. By 2024, NYC will start handing out financial penalties to real-estate owners that are neglecting their duties to offset emissions.  

Building owners might balk at these aggressive goals and worry about funding these energy reduction projects. However, there’s good news on that front:

“There are numerous sources of funding for green buildings that are available at the national, state and local levels for homeowners, industry, government organizations and nonprofits.”

The Environmental Protection Agency

You Got This One, Uncle Sam? 

Washington DC

Simply because you may be a real-estate owner in NYC, or in any other city, does not automatically mean these new mandates have to hurt your pocketbook. The United States has a robust list of funding opportunities to retrofit existing buildings to reduce GHG emissions.

These retrofits to existing infrastructures can make your building more resilient, and increase the property value. 

The EPA, DOT, and HUD also have comprised a list of funding sources that include grants, tax-credits, loans, or others. Below are a few links to help you orient where to start looking at the federal level.

Source Website Description Eligibility
General Services Administration Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance The online Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) provides access to a database of all Federal assistance programs. Government, Consumers, Industry, Nonprofits
Numerous Federal Agencies allows organizations to electronically find and apply for Federal grants. is the single access point for over 1,000 grant programs offered by all Federal grant-making agencies. Government, Consumers, Industry, Nonprofits
Federal Grant Opportunities More Information HUD, DOT, EPA, and several other agencies have made available millions of dollars in funding to support the planning and implementation of projects that promote sustainable communities. Community planning, affordable housing finance, technical assistance, research, and capital infrastructure investments

Uncle Sam is a Fan of Green Building Opportunities, Too

Source Website Description Eligibility
Department of Energy Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Financial Opportunities The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) works to increase the use of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies. EERE offers financial assistance opportunities for their development and demonstration. Government, Consumers, Industry, Nonprofits
Enterprise Green Communities Green Communities provides grants, financing, tax-credit equity, and technical assistance to developers who meet the criteria for affordable housing that promotes health, conserves energy and natural resources, and provides easy access to jobs, schools and services. Industry, Nonprofits
The Funders’ Network Funders’ Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities The Funders’ Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization that exists to inspire, strengthen and expand philanthropic leadership and funders’ abilities to support organizations working to improve communities through better development decisions and growth policies. Government, Industry, Nonprofits
The Home Depot Foundation Building Health Communities The Home Depot Foundation provides grants to eligible nonprofits, three times a year, under two different programs: the Affordable Housing Built Responsibly Program and the Healthy Community Trees Program. Nonprofits

Other State and Local Programs

Getting Ahead of The Curve in NYC

If you are a building owner in New York, you have until 2024 to start implementing GHG reduction practices into your existing infrastructure.

The New York State has a variety of grant programs through the Environmental Facilities Corporation that can benefit you.

Source Website Description Eligibility Funding Amount
NYC State EFC More Information The Green Innovation Grant Program (GIGP) supports projects across New York State that utilize unique stormwater infrastructure design and create cutting-edge green technologies. Municipalities, Private Entities, State Agencies, Soil and Water Conservation Districts Varies

New York City also has a variety of funding opportunities through multiple organizations. Below is a list of a few core funding opportunities:

  • The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYC DEP) has a list of water conservation grants to help lower your water and sewage bills every month.
  • New York City’s Department of Finance has Industrial & Commercial Abatement Program (ICAP) programs that can help with construction and or commercial renovations. 
  • The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERSA) has a variety of programs that can be found here. For residence and homeowners, information can be found here. 
  • NYSERDA also has a list of Current Funding Opportunities, PONS, RFPs, and RFQs here. These funding opportunities can assist with energy audits, residential electric photovoltaic (PV) systems, renewable heat programs, etc.
  • The Directory of NYC Housing Programs is a comprehensive list of funding opportunities for many applicants. Type in “ homeownership, housing stability, and quality” and a list of programs will appear to assist with issues such as homeowner repairs.

Building Greener Rooftops In The Big City

Green roof

New York City’s Department of Finance recently passed the Green Roof Tax Abatement program that will help real-estate owners cover up to $4.50 per square foot of green roof space. If your building is in a “high priority” area, you can get up to almost $15.00 per square foot.

Why is this of interest to you?

Because green roofs are more than a visually appealing feature on a building. Green roofs can improve a variety of city living issues, and below are a few examples:

  • Reduce your energy bill by insulating your building to keep it cool or warm, depending on the season 
  • Improve stormwater management by reducing runoff and improve water quality 
  • Mitigate the urban heat island effect 
  • Increase the resiliency of your roof 
  • Reduce noise 
  • Reduce air pollution 
  • Sequester carbon 
  • Increase biodiversity

For residential and commercial building owners, The University of Michigan conducted a study showing that green roof can save around $200,000 over its lifetime.

Combining the Green Roof Abatement program with its benefits, means that a green roof may be worthwhile for your monthly bills, can improve the resiliency of your building, and could be an incredible asset to leverage to your tenants and future tenants.

Temboo Works With You to Get Someone Else to Pay for Your Retrofits 

People working together

We are currently working with a nonprofit organization to help them acquire data that will allow them to get even more grant funding. Together, we’re monitoring water absorption rates in tree beds with our Kosmos IoT Platform, and they’ll use the data collected in their grant proposals. 

We can leverage Kosmos with your existing assets to provide you with the same power to apply for these funding opportunities and retrofit your building on someone else’s dime.

For more information about how Temboo can help you acquire funding opportunities, reach out to our team.