Environmental Protection

NYC Targets Buildings with $16 M in Stimulus Funding

"We're introducing the Greener, Greater Buildings Plan, a far-reaching package of new local laws that will dramatically improve New York's energy efficiency and reduce energy costs by some three-quarters of a billion dollars a year," said Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. "This will significantly improve our economic competitiveness, put thousands of New Yorkers to work in green jobs, and do more to shrink our own direct impact on global warming than any other actions imaginable."

The six-point plan consists of four pieces of new legislation and two PlaNYC programs that will achieve carbon reductions, train workers for the estimated 19,000 construction jobs that will be created, and help finance energy-saving improvements using $16 million available from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. According to a press release, the plan will also result in cleaner air, since emissions from boilers, furnaces, and local power plants will also be reduced.

PlaNYC's inventory of greenhouse gas emissions found that almost 80 percent of the city's carbon footprint comes from buildings' energy use. Once implemented, the legislation will reduce citywide emissions by 5 percent.

The reductions will be achieved through:

  • Legislation that creates an Energy Code that existing buildings will have to meet whenever they make renovations;
  • Legislation that requires buildings of 50,000 square feet or more to conduct an energy audit once every 10 years and make any improvements that pay for themselves within five years;
  • Legislation that requires commercial buildings of 50,000 square feet or more to upgrade their lighting to more energy-efficient systems that pay for themselves through energy savings;
  • Legislation that requires buildings of 50,000 square feet or more to make an annual benchmark analysis of energy consumption so building owners can better understand what steps they can take to increase efficiency;
  • A jobs program that will work with the real estate and construction industries to train the workforce that will fill the estimated 19,000 construction jobs the legislation will create; and
  • An innovative financing program that uses federal stimulus money to provide loans for property owners to pay the upfront costs for the efficiency upgrades that eventually pay for themselves.

Energy Code Bill
New York is one of 42 states using the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). However, it is the only state that amends this code so that building owners do not have to comply if they are not taking on massive renovations. A critical component of the Green Buildings Plan is to create a code that would require all buildings to comply with the un-amended version. This means any time there is a renovation in one of the city's 1 million buildings, this work must conform to a set of easily applied standards, resulting in both a significant energy reduction and cost savings.

Benchmarking Billl
This legislation would require a benchmarking standard for all city buildings. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has an online benchmarking tool to track buildings' annual energy and water consumption. Tracking allows building owners and operators to see how efficiently their buildings function and enable prospective buyers to better assess the value of a building.

Audits and Retrofits Bill
This legislation would require owners of existing buildings over 50,000 square feet to make cost-effective energy efficiency improvements to their buildings once every 10 years by conducting an audit, retro-commissioning, and retrofitting their building. Buildings will undergo energy audits with results determining the necessary improvements to be undertaken, including insulating pipes, replacing inefficient lighting, and installing low-flow water fixtures. The legislation requires spending by building owners for only those retrofits that will pay for themselves in less than 5 years through energy-related cost savings. Many of the required measures are low- to no-cost. This bill would apply to all classes of buildings over 50,000 square feet, both private and city-owned, and will cover nearly half of the built square footage of the city.

Lighting Upgrades Bill
Lighting accounts for approximately 20 percent of the energy used in buildings and roughly 20 percent of a building's carbon emissions. The proposed legislation requires that lighting systems in buildings over 50,000 square feet be upgraded to meet the requirements of the New York City Energy Conservation Code.

Green Workforce Development Training
To address the increased demand for energy auditors, contractors, construction workers, and other related professionals, the city has been working with key stakeholders in the labor and real estate sectors, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and the New York City Economic Development Corporation to identify the workforce needs and opportunities created by the legislation. This will ensure that there is an adequate supply of skilled technicians to implement the legislation. The legislation will be a key economic driver in the green economy, creating an estimated 19,000 construction jobs as part of the Five Borough Economic Opportunity Plan.

Green Building Financing
Retrofits pay for themselves, reduce utility bills, and improve buildings' financial health. However, some owners may not have the ability to finance these improvements upfront. To begin to assist owners, the city will establish a revolving loan fund, using $16 million in federal money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Loans will be offered to owners who demonstrate financial need or have already completed an energy audit. Energy savings data will be collected to encourage private sector lending in the long-term.

"We all have a stake in recharging our economy, but our job is to ensure that the blue collar can become green by paying decent wages and benefits that can support a family, creating a real career path with apprenticeship programs and upward mobility, and improving the environment by reducing waste and pollution," said New York City Central Labor Council President Jack Ahern. "Our proud public and private unionized workforce are up for the hard work of making our buildings green."

"I am pleased to join Mayor Bloomberg in announcing programs to increase the energy efficiency of our cities' buildings," said Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, who unveiled his own green buildings plan. "New York's ambitious program will greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve the lives of city residents. Once again, New York and Seattle are showing that cities are leading the way in the fight against climate change."

"Smart, green solutions are on the way of the future for all Americans—whether they wake to see New York City's skyline or Seattle's Space Needle," said Van Jones, President Obama's special adviser for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. "Our nation's mayors are showing leadership from coast to coast regardless of their backgrounds or the very different cities they represent. We know they hold one thing in common: a passionate commitment to cutting wasted energy, reducing carbon pollution and increasing jobs for their citizens. We are proud to support these efforts as they help lead American cities to a better future. President Obama shares this dedication to a green recovery."

"Our efforts to protect the environment and the economy are paying off, with Californians using 40 percent less energy than the average American and our first-in-the-nation statewide green building codes further reducing our carbon footprint," said California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. "Mayor Bloomberg is a great partner of mine in our fight against climate change, and today's action will help New York City reduce its greenhouse gas emissions while encouraging innovation and creating green jobs. I applaud this historic announcement and look forward to continuing to work with Mayor Bloomberg on protecting our environment, building our infrastructure, and other priorities to move our country forward."

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