NYC Approves Green Buildings Plan

New York’s City Council passed landmark legislation yesterday to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from existing government, commercial, and residential buildings in New York City.

The package of four bills is expected to dramatically reduce the City’s energy usage, saving consumers $700 million annually in energy costs, while creating 17,880 green building jobs and reducing New York City’s carbon footprint by nearly 5%.

In addition to the four pieces of legislation, the six-point Greener, Greater Buildings Plan includes two PlaNYC programs that will train workers for new green building jobs, and help finance energy-saving improvements using $16 million in federal stimulus funding.

The plan will also result in cleaner air, since pollution from boilers, furnaces, and local power plants will also be reduced.

“While New York already has the lowest per capita carbon footprint of any major city in America, we recognize that every city must take action to fight climate change” said Mayor Bloomberg. “By requiring buildings to conduct energy audits and improve their energy efficiency, the Greener, Greater Buildings Plan will reduce the city’s total greenhouse gas emissions while creating thousands of jobs and dramatically reducing annual energy costs.”

Approximately 80% of New York City’s carbon footprint comes from buildings’ energy use, and 85% of the buildings that exist today will be in use in 2030. As a result, increasing efficiency in existing buildings is critical to meeting the PlaNYC goal of a 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Once implemented, the legislation passed today will reduce citywide greenhouse gas emissions by 4.75%, the largest reduction achieved by a single PLANYC program.

"Today we are taking tremendous steps towards creating a more environmentally friendly New York City,” said Speaker Quinn. “Our actions today, which set a new national standard for building energy usage, will bring our aging infrastructure into the 21st century, reduce carbon emissions, lower energy costs, and create thousands of green jobs.”

The six points include:

New York City Energy Code Bill: Currently, New York is one of 42 U.S. states using the standard energy code known as the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). However, the New York State Energy Code includes a loophole that allows buildings to perpetuate non-compliant systems if they perform renovations on less than half of a given building system. This legislation creates a New York City energy code that requires all buildings to comply fully with the IECC for those portions of a system being renovated. This means any time a renovation takes place in one of the City’s one million buildings, this work must conform to the full standards, a move that will lead buildings to greater energy efficiency as renovations take place.

Benchmarking Bill: This legislation requires a benchmarking standard for all private buildings greater than 50,000 square feet or public buildings greater than 10,000 square feet.  Benchmarking is the practice of evaluating a building’s energy efficiency so a building owner can see how efficiently their buildings function and enable prospective buyers and tenants to better assess the value of a building. Benchmarking provides the basis for empowering building owners to take steps towards minimizing energy use and maximizing the economic benefits of energy conservation. Building owners will be required to use a free online tool provided by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to track buildings’ annual energy and water consumption.

Lighting Upgrades and Sub-metering Bill: In New York City, lighting accounts for approximately 20% of the energy used in buildings and roughly 20% of a building’s carbon emissions. The legislation requires that lighting systems in commercial buildings over 50,000 square feet be upgraded to meet the requirements of the New York City Energy Conservation Code. The bill also requires that large commercial buildings sub-meter electricity usage in certain large tenant spaces and that building owners provide these tenants with a monthly statement showing electric consumption and the amount charged for electricity. This addresses the majority of electricity use that takes place in tenant-controlled spaces.

Audits and Retro-Commissioning Bill: This legislation requires existing buildings over 50,000 square feet to undergo an energy audit and undertake retro-commissioning measures (e.g., properly calibrating heating and cooling systems, cleaning and repairing ventilation systems) once every ten years. This bill would apply to all classes of buildings over 50,000 square feet and cover nearly half of the built square footage of New York City. The bill contains exemptions for buildings that face severe financial hardship. To lead by example, City buildings will also perform any building retrofits (capital improvements) that pay for themselves within 7 years.

Green Workforce Development Training: To address the increased demand for energy auditors, contractors, construction workers, and other related professionals, the City has been working with key stakeholders in the labor and real estate sectors, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, City University of New York, and the New York City Economic Development Corporation to identify the workforce needs and opportunities created by the legislation. This is meant to ensure that there is an adequate supply of skilled technicians to implement the legislation. The legislation will be a key economic driver in the green economy, creating an estimated 17,880 jobs as part of the Five Borough Economic Opportunity Plan.

Green Building Financing: Retrofits pay for themselves, reduce utility bills and improve buildings’ financial health. However, some owners may not have the ability to finance these improvements upfront. To begin to assist owners, New York City will establish a revolving loan fund using $16 million in Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Energy savings data will be collected to encourage private sector lending in the long-term.

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