New City Report: What You Should Know

Mayor de Blasio just released the latest installment of One City Built to Last: the report of the Technical Working Group (TWG). Comprised of industry stakeholders including Urban Green, the TWG has been advising the City on building energy reductions since February of last year.

In the grand tradition of City sustainability reports, tons of work went into this. A third-party consultant performed extensive building and carbon modeling, including an analysis of potential retrofit measures. The report examines issues ranging from retrofits to new construction to barriers to green building. Kudos to the hardworking staff in the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability – and hopefully they’ll be able to catch up on some much-needed sleep!

As with every negotiation, not all TWG participants were happy with the outcome. For example, the inclusion of mandatory retrofits in the report was an unexpected change, catching many by surprise. But progress is being made.

Right now the report’s legislative recommendations are just that. All would need to be approved by City Council to become law. Here are the highlights:

Highlights from the NYC Technical Working Group Report

  1. Proposed mandatory retrofits. The report proposes fixes to steam distribution systems and five other types of retrofits. The City says it will work with a range of entities to identify new financing and incentives to help building owners cover the costs. The retrofits would include closing vents over elevator shafts, a cost-effective energy saver highlighted in Urban Green’s Spending Through the Roof report.
  2. Benchmarking, retro-commissioning, and lighting upgrade requirements would be extended to more buildings. Right now these core portions of the Greener, Greater Buildings Plan apply only to buildings over 50,000 square feet. Extending them to buildings 25,000-50,000 square feet would capture another 9% of the city’s square footage. In addition, current requirements to upgrade lighting in office spaces over 10,000 square feet (Local Law 88) would be lowered to capture spaces half that size.
  3. The City endorsed energy targets in the code. A focus on energy targets, rather than endless component-by-component requirements, is the norm in other leading jurisdictions. (Find out more in our report, Worldwide Lessons.) This approach can simplify compliance while allowing more design flexibility. One of the toughest issues will be figuring out a metric that eliminates energy waste without penalizing any specific tenant uses. For instance, some industry leaders have warned that setting a simple per-square-foot energy cap could drive energy-intensive tenants such as banking across the river to New Jersey.
  4. The City has already taken some big 80x50 steps. Major legislation enacted last month requires city-funded construction to reduce energy use 50% from the NYC average starting 2017, and achieve LEED Gold in most cases. It also sets aggressive limits on energy use per square foot, which apply in 2030. Read our detailed summary here. The Retrofit Accelerator is another important piece of the City’s leadership.
  5. There will be a sequel. The City will establish a “Code Advisory Committee” to work through many of the outstanding technical issues, including code language. Coming to a large conference room near you!

NYC Technical Working Group Report