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Baby It's Cold Inside

Can NYC Buildings Protect Us from Severe Weather During Blackouts?


What happens if the next New York blackout happens during a cold spell? 

Typical buildings would be between 32°F and 43°F indoors. New buildings are a little better, but still not resilient. A high-performing building that has better windows, fewer air leaks, and more insulation would do much better. Without power, these buildings would stay at 54-66°F for a week or more.


Without electricity, buildings are dependent on whatever protection is provided by their walls, windows, and roof. In today’s buildings, that protection is modest at best. If it wore clothing, the typical New York City building would have a light jacket on—not what you’d wear outside in winter, and certainly not performance gear.

Only some buildings are constructed well enough to maintain their indoor temperatures without power. But to protect all New Yorkers, these resilient, high-performing buildings must become the new normal.

Read coverage in the Wall Street Journal (February 3, 2014) and Real Estate Weekly (February 21, 2014). See addtional PRESS.

Explore the interactive graphic below to compare indoor temperatures during a New York City blackout for buildings at three levels: representative existing building (typical), new buildings under 2010 requirements (current code), and buildings with better windows, air sealing, and insulation (high-performing).

Computer models were created by Atelier Ten and based on six representative residential building categories to find indoor temperatures after a blackout within a single apartment. Summer and winter scenarios were defined by recent New York City weather data. The full report describes these models in detail.