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Buildings, Infrastructure and Land

Buildings

With over 1 Million buildings in NYC, we must take strides to address sustainability and resiliency in this sector.

In New York City, over two thirds of emissions come from buildings. Almost half of these are attributed to only 2% of buildings. Additionally, one inch of water can cause $25,000 in damages to a building. To counter emissions and address the realities of a changing climate, the city needs aggressive retrofits to make existing buildings more efficient and resilient.

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Setting Ambitious Greenhouse Gas Emissions Limits for Existing Buildings

Compliance timeline for Local Law 97, which sets ambitious building emissions limits

Compliance timeline for Local Law 97, which sets ambitious building emissions limits

On April 18, 2019 the New York City Council passed the Climate Mobilization Act (CMA), a landmark package of legislation and one of the most ambitious actions taken by any major city to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create new green jobs. At the core of the CMA is Local Law 97, which requires most buildings over 25,000 square feet to meet greenhouse gas emissions limits by 2024, with stricter limits coming into effect in 2030. Compliance timelines are designed to give building owners and managers enough time to integrate projects into capital planning and align with normal replacement or refinancing cycles. The goal is to reduce the emissions produced by the city’s largest buildings 40 percent by 2030 and to carbon neutrality by 2050, putting the city on a path toward a carbon neutral future.

Establishing Building Energy Efficiency Ratings

A sample building energy efficiency rating that may be found at the entrance of certain buildings in the city.

A sample building energy efficiency rating that may be found at the entrance of certain buildings in the city.

Building energy use accounts for nearly two thirds of New York City’s greenhouse gas emissions, but we seldom have a good picture of individual building energy performance. In an effort to publicly disclose energy benchmarking information, Local Law 33 of 2018/Local Law 95 of 2019 requires owners of certain buildings over 25,000 square feet to obtain the Building Energy Efficiency Rating labels and display them near building entrances. The label includes an ENERGY STAR® score and a corresponding A-D letter grade to give New Yorkers a snapshot of the building’s energy performance relative to its peers.

Building Green, Affordable Housing

Workers installing solar panels

As of April 2020, 73 percent of the reductions in PM2.5 emissions from City buildings occurred in and benefitted Environmental Justice areas, where there has historically been greater exposure to pollution. Cumulative estimated savings from avoided energy costs from all energy projects increased from $4.27M in FY 2013 to $87.21M in FY 2020.

Administered by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), the Green Housing Preservation Program (GHPP) is designed to assist owners of small and mid-size buildings improve building conditions and lower operating expenses by providing low- and no-interest loans to finance energy efficiency and water conservation improvement, lead remediation, and moderate rehabilitation work. The goal of the program is to ensure the long-term physical and financial health of these buildings and to preserve safe, affordable housing for low- and moderate-income New Yorkers.

Since the program launched in 2015, GHPP has closed on 20 loans, totaling over $30 million, and consisting of 66 buildings and 1,685 units. Over 50% of the projects had solar PV or thermal as part of their scope of work and 30% entered into a regulatory agreement with HPD for the first time. Additionally, all new construction and substantial rehabilitation affordable housing projects must meet the Enterprise Green Communities (EGC) Criteria which requires that they perform at least 15% better than the baseline energy code. As of 2019, HPD has 92 certified projects, 75 projects in progress and 238 that are approved and in the pipeline.

Technical Assistance and Support for Building Owners and Stakeholders

NYC Accelerator is the City’s flagship program to catalyze carbon reduction projects for private buildings and lead a market transformation toward a clean energy economy. Launched in 2015, NYC Accelerator has helped residential and commercial buildings reduce ~95,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent. NYC Accelerator provides resources, training, and one-on-one expert guidance to help building owners and industry professionals improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions from buildings in NYC.

ElectrifyNYC provides one-on-one guidance to 1-4 family homeowners

FloodHelpNY also provides homeowners, renters and business owners with essential information and resources to support and offer guidance about flood risks, flood insurance, and flood resiliency retrofits. Visit FloodHelpNY.org to learn more.

NYC Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) is an innovative financing tool that helps commercial and multifamily building owners fund energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. It offers long-term, fixed-rate financing, covering up to 100% of project costs with no cash up-front from the owner.

Beyond PACE the City continues to explore various public, private and non-profit financing to support resiliency and sustainability investments in the City’s buildings, such as FEMA grant funding.

Leading by Example by Transforming Our Public Buildings

Since 2014, the City has significantly accelerated the delivery of energy efficiency retrofit projects across its building portfolio. City government buildings are also subject to Local Law 97 and are required to meet even stricter limits. The NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) has already made significant progress in reducing carbon emissions from their portfolio to help the City achieve carbon neutrality. The Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) has partnered with over 20 agencies to complete 2,700 energy efficiency retrofit and clean energy projects at 1,500 buildings and facilities, including 10.5 MegaWatts (MW) of solar PV across 57 facilities. Read more about DCAS energy management here.

Additionally, as of February 2021, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) had two solar projects under construction, totaling 3 MW of solar PV with four additional projects, totaling 8 MW of capacity, in the pipeline. In December 2020, NYCHA completed the installation of a commercial variant refrigerant flow (VRF) air source heat pump system to serve seven of the 20 apartments on the top floor of the Fort Independence development in the Bronx. This project was one of the first in NYCHA’s portfolio to utilize clean heating and cooling and paved the way for many future initiatives, as well as informed development of NYCHA’s Climate Mitigation Roadmap.

Housing must be not only affordable but also safe and resilient. When Hurricane Sandy damaged the homes of 60,000 public housing residents, impacting buildings and disabling elevators, boilers, and electrical systems, the City sprang into action. The City, through the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), acquired $3.2 billion in disaster recovery funding for public housing, the largest grant in FEMA history, and put that money to work. NYCHA made sweeping investments in 200 buildings to protect against storm surge, reinforce structures, and upgrade and elevate building utilities. By leveraging every dollar, NYCHA is making these coastal developments a national model for public housing and demonstrating that resiliency is not a luxury feature for market-rate buildings, but a necessity for all housing. NYCHA continues to pursue federal resources to make its buildings and campuses more resilient. Learn more about NYCHA’s sustainability agenda here.

NYC is committed to ensuring that our healthcare facilities are ready to always serve New Yorkers, especially during and after extreme events. The City is overhauling some of our most critical health centers that are also located in high risk coastal areas. One example is in Coney Island, where a $923 million dollar expansion of the South Brooklyn Health/Ruth Bader Ginsburg Hospital is a new model for resilient hospitals. This major project includes a state-of-the-art emergency department that is elevated and protected from severe flooding. Critical patient services and the campus’ utility services are also elevated, and a new flood wall surrounds the facility, ensuring that the hospital will always be ready to serve the community. The City is also elevating critical building power and mechanical systems at other hospitals impacted by Hurricane Sandy, including the Staten Island University Hospital.

The construction sector accounts for 23% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Of this, cement manufacturing alone is responsible for 8% and iron and steel contribute 7%. Fossil fueled construction equipment also to air and noise pollution. Executive Order 23 of 2022 focuses on driving down GHG emissions, air pollution, and noise pollution from municipal construction. Agencies are ordered to establish low-carbon specs for concrete, to collect data on the carbon intensity of concrete and steel and to perform whole building life cycle assessments. It also orders agencies to request that contractors utilize electric construction equipment.

Retrofitting our Buildings for Flood Resiliency

One inch of water can cause as much as $25,000 in damages. Flood retrofits can not only reduce costly damages, but in some cases can also lower flood insurance costs. There are a variety of resiliency retrofits that building owners may consider based on their home and the cost of construction.

To learn more about possible retrofits that can help to reduce damages visit FloodHelpNY.org.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) provides financial assistance for green building and energy efficiency related projects. These projects range from the Weatherization Assistance Program for low-income families to improve home energy performance to federal tax credits for energy efficient homes.

In recent years, New York City and New York State have been recipients of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding. The City has allocated $37 million of its ARRA funding to create the New York City Energy Efficiency Corporation (NYCEEC), which together with other financial institutions and energy services companies, provides financing solutions for energy efficiency and clean heat projects located in the five boroughs of New York City. Other ARRA-funded City projects related to energy efficiency can be found on the NYC Stimulus Tracker.

FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Assistance grants also provide federal funding to states and local governments to plan and implement retrofits and mitigation strategies to reduce risk to individuals and property from future natural hazards

New York State is one of the national leaders in terms of providing incentives for energy efficiency (approximately $250 million per year) for a variety of programs, including direct incentives for energy reduction and market transformation. These programs are administered by local utilities and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). For more information, visit the National and State Incentives page.

In addition to these extensive state incentives, New York City has developed some financial incentives to supplement state incentives where gaps have been identified, or where certain strategies have been targeted to reduce barriers for adoption. As part of the Climate Mobilization Act, New York City passed PACE Financing, which provides long-term, low-interest loans for energy efficiency upgrades to buildings.

 

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When we bring our voices, our action, and our advocacy to our schools, our homes, and our workplaces, we can create a more sustainable and resilient future for the 8.6 million people who call our five boroughs home.

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