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Green Building News

Building Retrofit Proposal Shaved from NYC’s Green Plan

Building owners say the proposed legislation’s renovation requirement would be too costly. Mayor Bloomberg accedes, but remains committed to an audit provision and energy code for all buildings

Image Credit: Wally Gobetz

With its abundance of high-density residential and commercial buildings, New York City already operates with a relatively high degree of energy efficiency. But many of us who regularly visit the place sometimes struggle with the notion that it could someday be a green-building showcase.

Part of that struggle is based purely on perception – the feeling that current economic pressures have pushed energy efficiency down the list of priorities in a town where the building mix includes everything from the architecturally stunning to the regrettable, the dignified to the tacky, the well maintained to the decrepit, and the ambitiously green to the environmentally wasteful.

City leaders have decided to impose at least a few new standards on the energy efficiency component of that mix. In an effort to reduce New York’s greenhouse gas emissions, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and many on the city council have been promoting legislation that would further the “ambitiously green” agenda. As affirmed last week, though, lawmaking is rarely easy in New York: the plan’s supporters eliminated a provision from the proposal that would have required buildings of 50,000 sq. ft. or more to be audited for energy efficiency and then, based on audit findings, renovated to improve their performance.

A timing issue

The deletion came at the behest of building owners, who cited the lousy economic climate, which includes lenders who are reluctant to offer financing for such projects. Highlighting that constraint, That constraint, a recent story in the New York Times points out, is the fact that the city has only $16 million in federal stimulus funds available for loans toward what would have been about $2.5 billion in private investment for improvements.

Supporters of the plan said that the renovation requirement, which was a major component of the overall package of provisions, would have affected about 22,000 buildings and, along with the other initiatives in the plan, would have created 19,000 construction jobs. Those supporters say that even without the renovation requirement, the legislation will still create almost as many jobs, although one local construction-industry group, the Building Trades Employers’ Association, isn’t convinced.

“I’d be shocked if 5,000 of those jobs were created,” the association’s president and chief executive, Louis J. Coletti, told the Times. “The world of real estate and construction financing have been upended by the economic crisis.”

Building owners still aren’t happy about the likely costs they’ll have to bear when complying with the audit requirement, which remains in the legislation. Audit information would be passed along to tenants to help them identify ways they could cut energy costs. The Times also notes that the plan includes the city’s first energy code for all buildings, along with requirements for lighting upgrades and energy system inspections. In any case, even with the elimination of the renovation requirement, the remaining provisions have prompted at least some of the plan’s supporters to see the glass as half full.

“Even though the bill is not as strong, it’s still ahead of the rest of the country,” Ashok Gupta, director of energy policy at the Natural Resources Defense Council in New York, told the paper.


  1. Amanda | | #1

    New York is well on its way
    All of the new construction developments in New York are making green strides and many of them are completely LEED certified. I truly believe that NYC is on the forefront of Green advancement in this country. I just recently started looking for a LEED certified Chelsea apartment for rent and have found plenty of options. Give it 5 or 10 years and I think there will be an incredible improvement in the energy efficiency of this city!

  2. New Yorker | | #2

    How green is green?
    In order to become LEED certified, you need to collect 'green points'.
    The thing is - a lot of building do certain things that give them the most points and they don't really care about real energy-efficiency, they use LEED certification as a marketing tool...

    Tribeca apartments for rent, green Manhattan apartments

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