NYC Local Law 97 – A Path to a More Sustainable Future

As the world’s population grows and the wave of urbanization is expected to continue, the world’s building stock is projected to double by 2060. To put this into perspective, that’s about 2.48 trillion square feet of space, or the equivalent of building New York City each month for 40 years. As incomprehensible as these numbers might seem, it’s surprising to know that 71% of greenhouse gas emissions in New York City comes from buildings – not cars, buses, trains and/or planes, but buildings.


Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Type

Data Source: One City Built to Last | NYC Council Data Team

Data Source: One City Built to Last | NYC Council Data Team

With numbers as alarming as these, earlier in the year, the New York City Council thought enough about them and decided to pass a landmark piece of legislation called the Climate Mobilization Act. The centerpiece of the act is Local Law 97, which speaks directly to reducing the greenhouse gas emissions of buildings across the five boroughs: 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050. Buildings of 25,000 square feet or more, of which there are about 50,000, are subject to the Local Law, regardless of age (there is no grandfather clause), program type, or ownership, however, city-owned, religious, affordable, and certain types of energy-producing buildings are exempt. Of these buildings, which account for 60% of the city’s total building area (3.15 billion square feet), 59% are residential and 41% are commercial.  


Share of Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Use Buildings greater than 50,000 square feet

Data Source: One City Built to Last | NYC Council Data Team

Data Source: One City Built to Last | NYC Council Data Team


Share of Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Use Buildings greater than 25,000 square feet

Data Source: One City Built to Last | NYC Council Data Team

Data Source: One City Built to Last | NYC Council Data Team

Building owners need to comply with the new Local Law, or else they will be faced with significant fines. And, these fines aren’t just for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but if emissions reports are false, inaccurate, or simply not submitted. Fines and compliance will be enforced by a new office within the Department of Buildings called the Office of Building Energy and Emissions Performance. In order to be compliant, real estate owners will undoubtedly have to consider retrofits to some or many of their buildings’ internal systems and/or structural components. And, because these retrofits throughout the city will be massive in scale, people throughout the AEC industry are encouraging owners to consider doing retrofit-related work sooner than later, because delaying such action might result in higher costs for and possible shortages of labor and materials.

Another part of the Local Law has to do with renewable energy credits and greenhouse gas offsets, and how these can be earned and used by building owners to comply with the law.

While much of the Local Law is known and currently being rolled out by the city, there are some aspects of the legislation which will need to evolve and be written over time.

Although many see this new piece of legislation as being burdensome and costly, in my opinion, the real question to ask is, how burdensome and costly will it be if climate change continues and we feel the impact of even hotter/colder days, a rise in sea level, more catastrophic storms, etc.?


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Roger Marquis, AIA Associate,
Business Development Director

 
Roger MarquisHelen Zouvelekis