Report Details NYC’s Ambitious Environmental Plan

New York rolls out strategy for reducing the carbon footprint of its buildings.

TWGreport_04212016New York—New York City’s energy future lies in “deep” reductions in building energy use and carbon emissions, and the city will get there through a wide array of measures, including mandates for aggressive upgrades and retrofits, especially to heating systems, according to a report released Friday.

Titled “One City, Built to Last: Transforming New York City Buildings for a Low-Carbon Future,” the report is a major step in a 10-year process that began in September 2014. That was when the city government rolled out its “One City, Built to Last” plan, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 80 percent from 2005 levels by 2050, a so-called 80 x 50 target.

The report, developed by the city’s Buildings Technical Working Group, was based on what the city calls “the most comprehensive analysis of energy use in New York City’s buildings to date,” drawing on energy audits from several thousand large buildings. It noted that buildings are responsible for 73 percent of the city’s GHG emissions (transportation takes a further 21 percent).

New York City’s buildings have already cut GHG emissions substantially over the past 10 years, but the new report emphasizes the need, considering further disruption from global climate change, to accelerate the city’s GHG reductions even further.

In response to the report, the Real Estate Board of New York, Rent Stabilization Association, Building Owners & Managers Association of Greater New York and Federation of New York Housing Cooperatives & Condominiums issued a joint statement the same day.

It seems to reflect a sense of caution toward the city’s aggressive energy and GHG goals: “We strongly support the goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% by the year 2050. Today’s report reflects a change in the administration’s previously stated approach of setting ambitious targets for voluntary reductions followed by mandates as needed. This report proposes immediate mandates with no explanation as to how those mandates will be achieved or the ambitious targets reached. Nevertheless, we remain committed to working with the City and others to improve sustainability for future generations of New York City residents. Improvements, however, will only occur through practical proposals that can achieve realistic goals.”

Perhaps anticipating such concerns, the report notes that “building owners and decision-makers need certainty for their building budget and planning cycles.” In addition, the city will first require energy conservation measures that yield the greatest citywide GHG reductions in comparison to their costs, such as improving burner controls for boilers, restricting open refrigerators in retail stores, installing thermal de-stratification fans in heated industrial spaces, sealing roof vents in elevator shafts and upgrading exterior lighting to current standards.

The report also emphasizes that the city intends to lead by example and that performance standards for municipal buildings will require new capital projects for city-owned property to be built to consume 50 percent less energy than buildings built under current standards.