Greener, Greater Buildings Mayor's Plan a First Step Toward Sustainability

Energy efficiency and green improvements to existing buildings have often received less public attention and political play than “sexier” green initiatives such as renewable energy generation with solar panels and windmills or LEED-certified green buildings. Even though improving a building’s energy efficiency offers real return on investments through decreased energy usage and is more practical, and in the short run, more achievable than the aforementioned initiatives, it maintains a lower public and political profile. That is no longer the case, at least not in New York City, with Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s Greener, Greater Buildings Plan.

The plan, which focuses on the city’s private buildings of over 50,000 square feet, has several components: a New York City energy code that will mandate the use of newer, more efficient code compliant equipment when buildings are undergoing renovations, mandatory lighting upgrades for large commercial buildings over the next 15 years, a benchmarking system so that buildings’ energy usages may be analyzed and compared, mandatory energy audits and retro-commissioning, green workforce development training to create thousands of jobs, and finally, assistance for financing green upgrades.

The Greener, Greater Buildings Plan represents a considerable step among PlaNYC 2030’s initiatives to reach the goal of achieving a 30 percent reduction in New York City’s annual greenhouse gas emissions below 2005 levels by 2030. New York City’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability cite that the energy consumed for electricity, heating and hot water in buildings accounts for 80 percent of the city’s carbon footprint, and cumulatively the city’s energy costs are $15 billion per year.

While procedural improvements to existing systems offer the fastest payback in energy savings at the lowest cost, further efficiencies can be attained by replacing existing lighting with more efficient LED lights, insulating and/or installing new windows, caulking leaks, and replacing obsolete boiler components. A term that is getting a lot of buzz in the literature regarding green retrofits is “low-hanging fruit,” and all indicators point that this is what a green residential buildings programs is: a means to achieve goals and targets with relatively little effort. Let us describe in further detail the components of the legislation and how it expects to save consumers $700 million annually in energy costs and reduce the city’s carbon footprint.

New York City Energy Code Bill: Int. No. 564-A

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