New York City buildings are focus of energy initiatives

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New York City is hoping to lead the way in the “going green” movement.

Last month, the city announced new energy efficiency initiatives that Mayor Bill de Blasio said will dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and put it on a path to an 80 percent reduction in all emissions by 2050.

The focus of the initiatives is a source one might not think of as a major culprit in emissions — the city’s more than 1 million buildings.

“Cities that lead on climate, lead on buildings,” de Blasio said. “We’ve set bold goals as we take on climate change and a clear path to meet them. The city has been leading the way by greening our own public facilities. Now, these new initiatives will dramatically reduce emissions from New York City’s over 1 million buildings, while saving New Yorkers millions and creating thousands of new jobs — and we’ll be providing owners support throughout the process.”

The new suite of energy efficiency initiatives will, among other things, require and catalyze retrofits in existing buildings, including requiring large- and mid-size business owners to repair and improve heating distribution systems within the next 10 years, specifically focusing on steam systems and radiators, and support innovative energy design and performance for new building and major renovations, supported by the new 2016 city Energy Code.

Combined, the city’s initiatives are projected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from buildings by 2.7 million metric tons, which is the equivalent of taking more than 560,000 cars off the road, according to the mayor’s office.

Annually, the city estimates that this will avoid an estimated 20 premature deaths and 60 hospitalizations and emergency department visits annually.

From a financial perspective, the initiatives are also expected to save building owners approximately $900 million in energy costs each year, and create an estimated 1,300 direct construction-related jobs.

Together with the “One City: Built to Last” program, the new energy efficiency focus is expected to reduce emissions from buildings by a total of 6.1 million metric tons by 2025.

“This is a major milestone in New York City’s efforts to cut carbon and a landmark for cities worldwide,” said Nilda Mesa, director of the mayor’s Office of Sustainability. “All the climate agreements signed last year need to be backed up by action. This is how New Yorkers get going — setting a big goal, using the best data available, bringing the best minds to the table, figuring it out and getting the support and technical expertise to the people who need it. This is what we need to do to meet our 80 x 50 goal.”

Buildings account for nearly 75 percent of all emissions in the city.

To combat the problem, the city conducted a comprehensive analysis of building energy-use data, working with industry leaders, experts and advocates who served on the Buildings Technical Working Group.

The analysis revealed a set of strategic measures to “dramatically reduce buildings-based emissions, and will continue to inform integration of these measures into the city’s Energy Code,” according a release from the mayor’s office.

The new initiatives will be phased in over the next 10 years to minimize costs to building owners.

“Climate change is an existential threat to our city and our planet. Business as usual is not an option,” said Daniel Zarrilli, senior director of climate policy and programs.

“That’s why we made a sweeping commitment to retrofit our city’s building stock. The public-private partnership underpinning the Buildings Technical Working Group is a great example of how the city is working with all stakeholders to tackle greenhouse gas emissions. This effort has put the city on a path toward our ambitious — but essential — 80 x 50 goal.”

The full Buildings Technical Working Group report can be accessed online at nyc.gov/sustainability.