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About PlaNYC Green Buildings & Energy Efficiency
Photo Credit: AP Worldwide Photos
About PlaNYC Green Buildings & Energy Efficiency

Think of New York City, and the image that probably comes to mind includes buildings-perhaps a sea of them. That is because New York is a dense city of buildings: There are almost a million of them in an area of little more than 300 square miles. So it makes sense that if New York City wants to tackle its environmental issues, it will have to concentrate on the buildings. In New York City, buildings are an important part of our environment, and their design and operation affect our environment too.

Impact of Buildings in New York City
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The statistics substantiate this instinctual conclusion. In almost every arena, from energy or water use to waste, the building sector exercises a dominant impact. That is why PlaNYC, New York City's ambitious, comprehensive plan for sustainable growth through 2030, contains so many initiatives that relate to green buildings and energy efficiency.

New York City Green Building Policy
Interwoven in the 10 PlaNYC goals are numerous cross-cutting initiatives that include elements of green building, highlighting the important role of buildings in making New York City sustainable. A list of these initiatives and detailed information is available in the Green Building section in the PlaNYC 2011 Update.

One major green building initiative is to strengthen the Construction Codes (a family of codes including Building, Energy, Fire, Plumbing and Mechanical Codes) of New York City. The construction codes are the DNA of buildings, controlling how new buildings are built and how renovations are done. Improving the codes has been shown to be the most cost-effective way to broadly improve building performance, because the costs incurred are incremental add-ons to work already being done. The codes also have the broadest reach since they impact every renovation and new construction project. Visit Greening the City's Codes and Regulations for more information.

New York City Energy Efficiency Policy
Reducing citywide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 30 percent by 2030 is PlaNYC's culminating goal. In the development stages, it was first necessary to analyze from where the city's emissions came, and a surprising result emerged: Roughly 75 percent of New York City's GHG emissions come from emissions attributable to the energy used in buildings, almost twice the national average, proportionally. This is because most New Yorkers walk or use public transportation instead of driving, resulting in relatively little emissions from cars. The city's industrial sector is also modestly sized. What remained were the buildings, and the need to make them more efficient. Moreover, since New York City is an older city, more than 85 percent of its 2030 building stock would be buildings that already exist today.

Therefore, the City of New York became one of the first jurisdictions to concentrate on improving energy efficiency in existing buildings, and it now leads innovation in green building. Equally important are the City's efforts to clean New York City's supply of fuel and electricity to buildings, as well as the reduction of emissions from transportation, waste, and fugitive gases. Read the Energy chapter in the PlaNYC 2011 Update for more information. The wedge diagram below shows how all these strategies are anticipated to add up to PlaNYC's emissions reduction goal.

Projeted Impacts of Our Greenhouse Gas Reduction Strategies
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Over the past five years, the City has launched three major sets of energy efficiency policies, one of which impacts all buildings; a second that concentrates specifically on large, existing buildings; and a third that targets deeper, faster cuts in leading edge sectors, such as municipal and institutional buildings. If fully realized, the energy efficiency policies that had already been achieved, ongoing, or proposed by 2010 are estimated to result in 80 percent of the 2030 GHG reductions required from "efficient buildings." See pg. 73 of the PlaNYC 2010 Progress Report. (The additional policies proposed in the 2011 PlaNYC Update will need to be implemented to achieve the remaining 20 percent.)

A large number of efforts are currently underway. To provide a comprehensive picture of New York City's green building and energy efficiency policies, this website brings together major green building and energy efficiency initiatives undertaken by the office responsible for PlaNYC, the Mayor's Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability (OLTPS), and other City agencies.
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