Creating a More Energy-Efficient Garden

By minimizing our impact on the city's electrical grid and working year after year to streamline our use of resources, The New York Botanical Garden has become a leader in institutional sustainability. See how our ongoing work to modernize our buildings and infrastructure is making the Garden a cleaner, more efficient part of New York's cultural landscape.


Modernizing Lighting Infrastructure at the Garden

Interior Florescent Lamps

The New York Botanical Garden has been participating in the Energy Efficient Lighting Project since 1993, which introduced the retrofit of T-12 florescent lighting (lamp and ballast) to T-8 florescent lighting for interior application. The T-12 technology required 64 watts of electrical power for each 4-foot lamp. The newer T-8 technology only requires 32 watts of electrical power to produce the same amount of light (lumens). The T-8 technology carried us to the mid 2000s when an even newer, thinner T-5 florescent lamp was developed. These lamps were used in many of the new Garden construction projects such as the Pfizer Lab (2006) and the Peter Sharpe Parking Garage (2012). In 2015, as part of New York City’s ExCEL (Expense for Conservation and Efficiency Leadership) Program, the Garden began to utilize the most recent technological improvement, the LED (Light Emitting Diode) florescent tube. This lamp only requires 12 watts of electrical power for each 4-foot florescent tube and also produces the same foot candles of lighting as the T-8 lamps.

Compact Florescent Lamps

In 2003 the NYC Department of Energy Management sponsored a retrofit of existing incandescent lamps to compact florescent lamps. A typical 60-watt incandescent lamp was changed to a 14-watt compact florescent that was able to produce the same foot candles. Now the Garden is able to use LED lamps that use only 7 watts of electrical power to produce the same foot candles as the compact florescent.

Exterior Lighting

As part of the 1993 “High Efficiency Lighting Program” the Garden was able to retrofit existing High Pressure Sodium lights to the more efficient Metal Halide lamps and ballasts. Although there was not a significant reduction in electrical wattage, this resulted in 15% greater lumens produced for the same wattage. The ballasts that adjusted the voltage to each lamp in the metal halide lamps were more environmentally acceptable. Currently the Garden is replacing exterior metal halide lamps with LED lamps, showing a 50% reduction in wattage for the same lumens produced. In 2016 the Garden was awarded an ACE (Accelerated Conservation and Efficiency) Program by the NYC Department of Energy Management to replace the majority of the exterior lighting at the Garden from Metal Halide to LED. We anticipate a significant reduction in energy use (approximately 50%) to produce the equivalent lumens of light.

New Construction

The Garden continues to apply the newest technologies available in lighting to reduce energy use for all new construction projects.

The data and percentages shared are an average measurement of wattage and lumens; each fixture, lamp ballast and location is unique to location and use of the required lighting, fixture and lamp.


Peak Load Management

The New York Botanical Garden has participated in Peak Load Demand Response since 2006, when the first program was introduced by the New York Power Authority. This program is a pre-planned commitment of “Jumbo-Users” of electrical power to reduce their electrical demand on the hottest days of the summer months in order to preserve the electrical grid.

Currently the program is run by the NYC Department of Energy Management and the monitoring contractor NuEnergen. The engineers from NuEnergen visited the Garden and together with the Garden’s Engineering Team determined a program of “planned reductions” when an Activation is called by the NYISO (New York Independent Systems Operators). The Garden is usually given 24 hours’ notice (based on weather/temperature predictions) and we begin the process of pre-cooling buildings and notifying the staff of the impending event.

One hour before the Activation takes place, the Garden’s Engineering Department starts to implement the preset plan to reduce electrical demand by turning off secondary pumps and motors, turning off air conditioning equipment, and shutting off general lighting. The Garden staff is asked to reduce office lighting and use task lighting when possible, turn down any AC window units, and avoid using the elevators and high-demand equipment such as vacuum cleaners and buffing machines. The PLM event can last up to eight hours and the Garden is notified when the event will be completed.

There is a benefit for the Garden’s participation; the contractor, NuEnergen has installed “real-time data monitoring” electrical meters that are tracked by satellite. The Garden can follow its participation on the NuEnergen database, and we receive a financial incentive for our participation. Currently the Garden is committed to a 500 kilowatt (kw) reduction that is approximately 25% of the average daily demand in the summer months.

The Garden also participates in the “Winter Demand Response” Program that is similar to the PLM summer program. The electrical demand in winter seldom approaches levels that can damage the electrical grid, but in preparation for an unplanned incident (i.e. a prolonged snow storm) the PLM team created this program to ensure preparedness among the participants. Currently the Garden is committed to a winter reduction of 425 kw.


Consolidating Office Supply Purchasing

In order to prevent large delivery trucks from visiting the Garden on a daily basis for office supplies, the decision was made to work with one main vendor, and have that vendor deliver all NYBG orders on a single day of the week. By consolidating deliveries, NYBG has taken one further step in reducing its carbon footprint.


Optimizing HVAC Equipment

In 2007, New York City implemented PlaNYC, an energy reduction plan with a goal to reduce consumption of electricity and subsequently reducing Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions by 30% by 2017. The plan showed that by replacing older reciprocating air conditioner systems with new “scroll” compressors, replacing pneumatic temperature controls with digital controls, installing new condensing units, and utilizing VFD (variable frequency drive motors), the Garden could achieve the goals set forth by this plan.

The Department of Energy Management (DEM/DCAS) also developed funding opportunities to assist in the funding of these new systems. The Garden was able to calculate the cost of energy savings by using this new equipment and, over a period of time, the savings not only paid for the equipment and installation but also reduced GHG emissions substantially.

To date the Garden has installed new AC equipment and controls at the Watson Building, the Pratt Building, the Library Building, the Garden Terrace Room, and the Visitors Center. Every construction project from 2007 onward implements advanced controls and equipment to meet the requirements of PlaNYC. The Garden has shown significant reduction of GHG (up to 24%) and is a leader in the city to meet the goals of the plan.

More recently, a new Mayoral program—“One City Built to Last”—has been implemented with the goal of reducing up to 80% of GHG emissions by 2050. Subsequently, the Garden has found even more innovative applications of energy reduction programs and also received funding from the DEM ExCEL program.

Between 2015 and 2016, the Garden installed Permafrost©, a nanotechnology oil treatment for chillers that increases efficiency and thermal exchange, and Adsil©, another innovative product designed to reduce energy consumption and GHG emissions. The utilization of these two products is showing an approximate 25% reduction of energy usage without any major shut-down of equipment or construction of new equipment. Another new installation that has proven effective in our Plant Science Center is known as ELECTROchem©. This unit significantly reduces the amount of water needed in the building’s cooling tower, reduces chemical demand, assists in the reduction of bacteria build, and thus saves energy and GHG emissions.

The Garden has also received a Grant from the DEM/IDEA Program (Innovative Demonstrations for Energy Adaptability) to install HTF Nano Thermo Fluids©, another one-time additive to the water used in thermal application, at the Pfizer Building. Findings show that this additive can result in energy reduction of up to 15%.

Note: all new equipment and product installations require professional “Measurement and Verification” to ensure that the products meet the estimated goals for pay-back as set forth in the funding requirements. The Garden continues to search for new and innovative products and with the assistance of the staff (by reducing energy demand) is a leader in energy conservation in New York City.


Electric & Natural Gas Vehicles

In 1997 the Garden installed one of the first Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) stations in the Bronx. This station is able to take the natural gas delivered by Con Edison at 60 psi and compress and store the gas at up to 4000 psi, making it available to fuel internal combustion engines converted for its use.

To date the Garden has converted the entire fleet of eight trams that are used to transport our visitors to destinations around the Garden, reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 48% compared to the older diesel models of the tram. The Horticulture Department was also able to convert two of its larger vehicles used by the arboretum crew to CNG. As CNG vehicles become more readily available in the marketplace, the Garden is in a unique position to add these vehicles to its fleet.

As the Garden continues to expand its visitation, excellence in educational programing, horticultural displays, and science, the staff continues to grow and requires transportation on our 250- acre facility. Subsequently, the Garden began utilizing electric utility and golf carts to reduce the number of gasoline and diesel vehicles. With the GHG reduction goal in mind, we are constantly thinking of ways to utilize alternative methods of producing electricity, including solar, wind, and fuel cell technology.