Strongest U.S. Green Building Laws Pass in NYC

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Posted by:
Jean Savitsky
Project and Development Services Lead
Energy and Sustainability Services
United States

As New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg packed his bags for Copenhagen, the City Council gave him a bon voyage gift: a vote to approve his PlaNYC building efficiency legislation. Four separate bills passed with overwhelming support, two of them unanimously. The New York Times and other media noted that the rules as passed were ‘weakened’ after Bloomberg gave in to building owners who argued against the legislation’s most onerous requirement. Even so, the rules that remain are the most stringent in the U.S. by a wide margin.

Washington, D.C. is the only other city that requires all large buildings to disclose their energy efficiency by entering data into ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager. Other measures are unique to New York, including a new energy code that will apply to existing buildings that renovate; lighting upgrades and sub-metering of large tenant spaces within 15 years; and energy audits and retro-commissioning at all large buildings.

As tough as the legislation may be on some owners, the original proposed rules would have been tougher, requiring owners to follow through on any efficiency measure that energy auditors claimed would pay for itself within five years. That might have forced owners to spend millions of dollars based on someone else’s ROI calculation.

ENERGY STAR participation and sub-metering are low-cost ways to motivate owners and tenants to become more efficient. Whatever other impact they have, the new rules will reduce energy use and greenhouse gases, making New York the greenest city in the country, at least in terms of buildings. And other cities will follow—in fact, an advisory board to San Francisco’s mayor this week recommends some of the same rules New York has just passed.

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