New energy code will make NYC buildings 10-30% more efficient

Effective January 1, 2015, NYC’s new energy code will be a big step towards making buildings healthier, more affordable, and less polluting. According to industry experts and a government study, buildings covered by the new code will be 10-30% more efficient than presently required. "This is a big step towards our 2050 carbon reduction goals,” said Councilman Jumaane Williams.

How does it do this? First, a lot of little things. It increases efficiency standards for boilers, a low-cost way for buildings to save energy for decades by choosing a better unit at the time of purchase. It also improves the efficiency of lighting in dwelling units located in buildings covered by the commercial code—a boon to tenants’ energy bills.

Energy Code Improvements
The impact of more stringent energy requirements.

The city code also has some changes that make it easier to explain and enforce. The state code allows a bewildering six different energy modeling paths for compliance, but the city reduced this to five by removing one of the most redundant paths (yes, I do count small victories as victories nonetheless!). And to make life easier for commercial tenants, it plugs a loophole in the local law that requires retrofit electrical submeters by 2025, instead mandating them in all new construction starting now.

This change to the commercial energy code was set in motion by a federal law requiring states make their energy codes at least as stringent as the latest version of ASHRAE 90.1 within two years of US Department of Energy (DOE) certification. New York State didn’t quite meet the deadline, which was October 2013, but we’re still ahead of most of the pack. The city maintains its own energy code, last updated in 2011, which state law requires be at least as strong as the state code. Led by Gina Bocra at the NYC Department of Buildings, the city didn’t just match the state code, it went a step beyond. For the first time, for instance, the new state energy code requires building commissioning (ensuring that once construction ends, building equipment operates as efficiently and comfortably as it was designed)—except for wall air conditioning units. NYC’s code removes that exemption, ensuring those units aren’t constantly leaking air, causing cold drafts and wasting energy and money.

This year, Urban Green Council will launch a new Energy Code training course for architects and engineers of New York State. This course will demystify the Energy Conservation Code and provide professionals with resources to design higher-performing buildings. Courses will start in Summer 2015. Sign up online to find out when trainings will occur.