Few companies understand the challenges of owning, operating, and developing real estate in New York City these days like Rose Hill Asset Management Corp, or RHAMCO. They manage a portfolio of over 500 properties in Manhattan, the Bronx, and Brooklyn, offering owners and investors a comprehensive suite of services all while earning a sterling reputation for emphasizing excellent customer experience. We had the pleasure of working with RHAMCO for over five years and sat down to talk with them about their experience working with Runwise to make their buildings more efficient while keeping their tenants warm in the winter. Here’s a conversation we had with Nikki Lizzio, Managing Partner at RHAMCO.
Runwise: You guys manage a huge portfolio of properties in New York City. What’s it like heating all those buildings in the winter?
Rhamco: Every year we have new issues and the key to meeting those challenges is preparation. Our Runwise rep, Clodel, helps us run heating tests in all of our buildings before the season starts and helps us to diagnose issues throughout the portfolio before they become expensive problems in the dead of winter. For instance, our heating tests can tell us what sensors need replacement, if boiler coils aren’t getting hot, if return lines are leaking, etc. All of that helps us to start putting maintenance plans in place before the season starts. Not only does that help our clients save money by avoiding emergency fixes, but it also helps ensure that our heating systems keep our tenants warm when it’s coldest.
RW: For all their historic charm, older buildings tend to be a lot less energy efficient than new construction. Can you talk about the age range and energy efficiency of the properties in your portfolio?
Rhamco: Most of our buildings were built around 1930 and were originally heated with fuel oil before converting to natural gas. We’ve only got one building in the portfolio still heating with fuel oil. Installing a new commercial grade boiler is an expensive proposition, even though gas buildings always outperform oil buildings. No matter what the fuel source, making sure that a building’s heating system is well maintained and managed are key to keeping our buildings efficient and our tenants cozy in the winter.
With that in mind, we’ve insulated all the piping in our boiler rooms and each heating season we work on balancing our radiators, changing air valves and weatherproofing problematic apartments. We also offer to remove tenants' air conditioners to keep heat inside the building. You’d be surprised how much heat you lose by keeping an AC unit in the window all winter! Beyond heating, we’ve converted all buildings to LED lighting which has dramatically reduced electric consumption.
RW: How were you monitoring their performance for efficiency and comfort before working with Runwise?
Rhamco: Before we worked with Runwise we relied on every building’s super to control the boilers, which was, frankly, a disaster. Now, I can now control all my systems through my Runwise app with a push of a button! Not only is it significantly easier for us, our clients are more comfortable and it’s dramatically increased our building’s energy efficiency.
RW: New York City’s Climate Mobilization Act mandates big emissions cuts from large buildings. What would you say is the average efficiency rating for your properties now and what are some things you’ve done to get your properties into compliance?
Rhamco: Last year the city assigned building energy grades to every large property in the five boroughs. We’re all graded on a curve, so to get an A, you’ve got to be more efficient than 85% of all other comparable properties. As of right now, our average score is a B, which puts us in a good place to meet the challenges posed by the new law, and with Runwise we’re improving every year. I can’t stress enough how having a comprehensive heat control system has been the most important factor in getting us there.
RW: When did you first reach out to Runwise and what was the installation process like?
Rhamco: We’ve been working with Runwise for over five years and the installation process was painless. The biggest challenge was coordinating access to all of our properties. Given the size of our portfolio, coordinating access isn’t nothing, but it’s nothing compared to the gains we’ve seen from working with Runwise.
RW: How have you worked with Runwise since it’s been installed and what kind of savings have you seen since you started?
Rhamco: Runwise is my lifeline for the heating season. I have a rep who is dedicated to my portfolio who has a working knowledge of my buildings and I have easy access to all the info I need through an app on my phone. Since we’ve started working with Runwise we’ve saved at least 30% on our heating bills.
RW: Savings are great, but keeping folks warm and comfortable in the winter is still paramount. How have your tenants reacted to Runwise?
Rhamco: Our tenants love our ability to remotely control their building’s heating system. Their feedback helps us to balance temperature patterns and determine problematic areas that may need weather-proofing or radiators serviced. Best of all, Runwise makes it easy to make adjustments so we can deal with heating issues quickly and focus on other services that we offer building owners, investors, and tenants.
RW: This is a tricky moment for large property owners and managers in New York City. Do you have any parting advice you’d like to share with them?
Rhamco: You have to be willing to do the work in order to get good results. Having a good heating control system is paramount, but boiler maintenance, repairing leaking return lines, removing air conditioners, changing valves, placing sensors in correct areas, insulating pipes and weatherproofing problematic apartments are all equally as important. If you put in the work you will see great results. Runwise helps guide you and makes the process as easy as possible but a good control system can only work if you work with it!