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Legislation Package Enacted to Implement NYC's Greener, Greater Buildings Plan

February 2010

On Earth Day 2009, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg introduced the Greener, Greater Buildings Plan, a package of legislation aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from existing government, commercial and residential buildings in New York City (the “City”) by 30 percent by the year 2030. The six-part Greener, Greater Buildings Plan is part of PlaNYC 2030 (“PlaNYC”), a wide-ranging initiative intended to address the major environmental sustainability issues facing the City, including housing, open space, water, air quality, transportation, Brownfields and the City’s impact on climate change.

On December 28, 2009, Mayor Bloomberg signed into law the first four of 12 bills of the Greener, Greater Buildings Plan. Implementation of these bills is projected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 4.75 percent, which, according to the Bloomberg administration, is the largest reduction realized by a single program to date. A brief summary of the bills, which amend the City’s Administrative Code, follows:

Introductory Number 564-A establishes the New York City Energy Code, which imposes energy standards for renovations on buildings in the City. Currently, the Energy Conservation Construction Code of New York State (the “State”), which sets standards for the energy performance of buildings throughout New York, only applies when an alteration leads to the replacement of at least 50 percent of a building’s systems or subsystems. Consequently, the New York State standards do not apply to the renovation of many buildings in the City. The City’s new Energy Code will ensure that the State’s energy code is enforced throughout the City by imposing energy standards for renovations of residential and commercial buildings at a lower threshold than mandated by the State. It should be noted that where the State’s energy code provides for a more stringent requirement than the City’s, the more stringent State requirements will govern.

Introductory Number 476-A requires annual benchmarking of energy consumption and, in some circumstances, water usage, using an online tool provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. City-owned buildings that are more than 10,000 gross square feet and privately owned buildings that are in excess of 50,000 gross square feet are covered by this legislation.

Introductory Number 967 requires that every building in excess of 50,000 gross square feet perform an energy audit on the central systems of the building every 10 years and submit the findings on an energy efficiency report. The energy audit report must include a list of all reasonable retro-commissioning and retrofitting measures available to the owner with a simple payback of not more than seven years. The measures identified in the audit report must be performed prior to the due date of the building’s energy efficiency report.

Introductory Number 973 requires that lighting systems of all buildings greater than 50,000 gross square feet be updated to meet the minimum requirements of the New York City Energy Conservation Code by no later than December 31, 2022.

Although the City’s new Energy Code may add significant costs to smaller renovation projects, the potential energy savings will help compensate owners and help save money in the long run. Similarly, the audit and retrofitting measures required by the new legislation ultimately will reduce energy use and the cost of operating buildings in the City, and improve air quality. It remains to be seen whether building owners will delay renovation projects as a result of the new legislation.

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For more information concerning the new legislation and the opportunities it presents for green buildings in New York City, please contact:
Robert H. Crespi ¦ Member of the Firm ¦ (973) 530-2060 ¦ rcrespi@wolffsamson.com
Patricia D. Cleary ¦ Associate ¦ (973) 530-2152 ¦ pcleary@wolffsamson.com