Passage of NYC Legislation Will Bring Greener City Buildings to the Big Apple

The New York City Council passed two pieces of legislation this week that will help the Big Apple take big steps toward meeting its goal to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050.

Together, the two bills, 701-A and 721-A, will require that most new and substantially renovated city-owned buildings reduce energy use by 50 percent and meet the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED Gold standard. (Residential buildings will have to comply with the New York City overlay of the Enterprise Green Communities Criteria, another impressive environmental framework.) The mayor will also have to submit a plan to ensure that, by 2030, city-owned capital projects will be designed and built to the super-efficient Passive House standard. (For some additional information on the legislation's specifics, see the blog from our friends at Urban Green Council.)

Taken together, this new legislation, which Mayor de Blasio is expected to sign soon, creates standards for what will be among the most energy-efficient municipal buildings anywhere in the country.

This development is a big deal for several reasons: The first is that the City of New York has a huge real estate portfolio that makes up about 5 percent of the city's total building stock. And that building stock is responsible for nearly three quarters of the city's total carbon pollution. So reductions in city buildings' energy use will, in and of themselves, take a decent-sized chunk out of New York City's total carbon emissions.

But even more important is that these ambitious standards will teach New York's design and construction industry how to build to a much higher level of energy performance. By helping to jumpstart that learning process with this legislation, city government is leading by example and helping to bring high-performance buildings into the mainstream, thereby multiplying the legislation's beneficial effects.

New York is also truly a focal point for climate policy, as other cities look to New York's continued leadership on this issue. That's been the case for several years now, particularly since New York City adopted the groundbreaking Greener, Greater Buildings Plan in 2009.

By setting new standards for energy savings in municipal buildings, the New York City Council is not only ensuring tremendous benefits here at home, but has passed legislation that can play an important role in cutting carbon pollution nationwide.