Strategic Decarbonization Assessment (SDA)

Capital planning is a critical tool for any real estate asset manager looking to project his or her long-term investment plan. As such, capital planning should be an important step in the decarbonization roadmap process. Performing a Strategic Decarbonization Assessment (SDA) that compares decarbonization-focused capital plans to business-as-usual scenarios is a key step in quantifying and sharing decarbonization plans with decision makers. The goal of the SDA for decarbonization planning is to shift financial analysis from payback-oriented and individual measure justification, toward identifying the lowest “net-present-cost” or highest “net-present-value” decarbonization pathway inclusive of a variety of uncertainties and broader real estate considerations.

The SDA Tool

The Strategic Decarbonization Assessment (SDA) calculator is a valuable tool that allows building owners and retrofit teams to align their asset decarbonization strategies with their capital investment strategies. The SDA is designed to integrate assessment of multiple requirements including optimizing net present value, replacing equipment close to end of life, avoiding compliance fees, and coordinating electrification of fossil fuel equipment with future electric grid decarbonization. The SDA is a long-term financial planning tool for building owners to manage carbon emissions and energy use. During the EBC program, the tool guided the participants in refining their decarbonization scenarios and identifying the most cost effective decarbonization plans. Several teams were able to show positive net present value for their decarbonization plans compared to business as usual. This process can benefit many buildings and property owners in New York.

The SDA tool was built by Arup and Ember Strategies. It was previously developed for the San Francisco Department of the Environment and modified for NYSERDA use in the Empire Building Challenge.

Below are the principle directions to perform a strategic decarbonization Assessment:

  • Develop your decarbonization term (years)
  • Feed in your baseline starting point
  • Define a business-as-usual path and analyze divergence from it
  • Develop a discounted cash flow model of different investment scenarios with as much detail as possible
  • Value non-energy benefits
  • Near-term years require more accuracy and detail
  • Long-term years are more directional
  • Phase-in is critical 

User Advisory for EBC Partners

The SDA tool was created as the one stop shop for development and modeling of the business case that supports your EBC submission. The current EBC version of the SDA tool was developed based on ASHRAE Standard 211 normative forms with a variety of users and use cases across the country in mind; as a result, the SDA tool contains functionality and modules that are not required for EBC submissions. This guidance provides EBC participants with an understanding of the minimum requirements for using the tool for EBC submission.

The EBC team can respond to business case/SDA questions up until the submission deadline.

The tables and charts on the “Summary (Print Me)” tab form the basis of NYSERDA’s review of EBC proposals. This tab summarizes assumptions, costs, savings, decarbonization trajectory and alignment with LL97 requirements.* The bar charts and trajectories on this tab should be a graphical representation of the narrative explanation of your plan and business case from the “Narrative & Measures” and “Alternatives” tabs. The “Carbon emissions per year, before offsets”  and the “Relative NPV of Alternatives” charts on the “Summary (Print Me)” tab should illustrate the sequencing and timing of equipment replacement, relationships between ECMs and savings/costs. Your alternatives, which are strongly encouraged but not required, should be made clear in your narrative submission. The landlord and tenant breakout charts will not be considered unless they are part of your narrative.


The updated SDA tool is available for download below, including a Blank SDA Tool version and a completed Sample Building SDA Tool version with data from a sample building.

Blank SDA Tool

Sample Building SDA Tool

Instructional Videos

Four instructional videos (one for each step in the process and tab in the tool) are available here

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