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PR- 180-09
April 22, 2009


Making Buildings Energy Efficient is the Single Biggest Step New York Can Take to Go Green

Buildings Account for 80% of City's Carbon Emissions and $15 billion per Year in Energy Costs

On Two-Year Anniversary of Launch of PlaNYC, 85 of its 127 Initiatives are On-Time or Ahead of Schedule

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn today announced the world’s most comprehensive package of legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from existing government, commercial, and residential buildings.  A six-point plan, when enacted as part of PlaNYC, will dramatically reduce the City’s energy usage and save consumers money, while simultaneously creating thousands of well-paying jobs and significantly reducing New York City’s carbon footprint.  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 theAmerican Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The plan will also result in cleaner air, since emissions from boilers, furnaces, and local power plants will also be reduced.

“Today 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 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.”

“Our skyline has been a symbol of our City’s identity since the Flatiron Building was constructed over a hundred years ago,” said Speaker Christine C. Quinn.  “By announcing the first-of-its-kind legislation that will upgrade the City’s existing buildings with energy efficient technology, we are bringing that proud tradition into the 21st Century – and creating jobs is the process.  I want to thank Mayor Bloomberg, all my colleagues in the Council and the many advocates that are lining up behind this crucial package.”

According to the PlaNYC inventory of greenhouse gas emissions, almost 80 percent of New York City’s carbon footprint comes from buildings’ energy use. Once implemented, the legislation announced today will reduce citywide emissions by 5 percent, the equivalent of eliminating all carbon emissions from Oakland, California.

The reductions will be achieved through the six point green buildings plan unveiled today:

  • Legislation that creates a New York City 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 ten 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.

The Mayor and Speaker were joined at the announcement, held at 620 Loft & Garden in Rockefeller Center, by New York City Central Labor Council President Jack Ahern, New York Building Congress President Richard T. Anderson, U.S. Green Building Council President & CEO and Founding Chairman Rick Fedrizzi,32BJ Service Employees International Union Secretary-Treasurer Héctor J. Figueroa, Environmental Protection Committee Chair James F. Gennaro, Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp, Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York President Gary LaBarbera and Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope.

“The plan we crafted with our partners in the City Council can make a real difference to reducing the City’s energy consumption in the long-term,” said Mayor’s Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability Director Rohit T. Aggarwala. “This is a complex plan. To get the details right, we look forward to working with the real estate industry, labor, and the environmental movement. We want as many people as possible to be a part of the Greener, Greater Buildings Plan – that’s why as part of NYC Service we’re encouraging New Yorkers to volunteer to paint the roofs of their homes white – a good way to cut energy use and reduce energy costs.”

“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. The Central Labor Council looks forward to a productive and viable partnership with City Hall and the real estate and construction trade industry on this historic effort.”

“This legislation is far-reaching and promises great progress in our effort to create healthier, greener and more affordable housing and neighborhoods for all New Yorkers,” said New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Rafael E. Cestero.  “Every New Yorker should understand that his or her effort to make their homes greener means that they are making a contribution, which goes for the big developers as well as individual tenants. This is a citywide effort and thanks to Mayor Bloomberg and Speaker Quinn, New York City is once again leading the way.”

“The unionized construction industry is excited that the City has such a bold vision for the greening of New York,” said Building Trades Employers Association President Lou Coletti. “We look forward to working with the Mayor in retrofitting these buildings with a quality and skilled workforce.”

“Buildings must be part of the solution to the climate crisis and the economic crisis,” said U.S Green Building Council President and CEO S. Richard Fedrizzi. “There are millions of buildings that can be upgraded to save money and save energy, which can create millions of green jobs that cannot be sent overseas. The leadership of Mayor Bloomberg, Speaker Quinn and the entire coalition behind the initiative will encourage other communities to take a look at how they can find their own solutions through green building.”

“The Mayor and City Council should be commended for introducing a plan to green New York’s buildings,” said 32BJ President Mike Fishman. “Going green in a City where 80 percent of the carbon emissions come from buildings is the type of investment we need to protect our environment, boost the real estate industry and get workers the training they need to get ahead.  Working New Yorkers stand to gain from the promise of new, green-collar jobs, and all New Yorkers will be better off with a cleaner, greener New York in which to live and raise a family.  We look forward to working with the Mayor and the Council to ensure that making New York green benefits all New Yorkers, including the creation of good, family supporting jobs.”

“New construction according to the highest standards is critical, however, retrofitting existing buildings is crucial to meeting the challenge of reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” said Vice President Al Gore. “Mayor Bloomberg has set very positive and ambitious emission reduction goals in PlaNYC.  By seeking efficiencies in existing buildings, New York can make a real difference in carbon emissions, and hopefully bring us a step closer to solving the climate crisis.”

“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 Advisor 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.”

“New York City is offering a game-changer in the effort to cut energy demand and carbon emissions from America’s buildings,” said Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp.  “Literally billions of square feet of New York real estate could be harnessed to solve global warming in ways that also save families and businesses money on their energy bills.  With thousands of jobs created and clear financial returns for property owners, this initiative can be a model for urban communities around the world, proving that cities can grow in a way that delivers economic opportunity and a cleaner environment.”

“We look forward to working with the Mayor and Council to have this legislation promote sustainability and create economic opportunities for employees of contractors that participate in apprenticeship training programs to demonstrate a commitment to the skilled work force needed to competently perform this important work,” said Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York President Gary LaBarbera.

“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 today unveiled his own far-reaching 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.”

“New York has always been the Big Apple. It’s also been the City of skyscrapers and big real estate,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope. “But thanks to Mayor Bloomberg, New York is now going to have the lightest footprint on the planet, and the smartest real estate – Big Apple, small footprint, smart buildings.”

“The Mayor and Speaker have rightly taken the lead in proposing a bold program to make existing buildings more efficient,” said Chairman of the Real Estate Board of New York and Related Companies Stephen M. Ross. “We need this kind of vision. I look forward to working with them to refine this plan to ensure that property owners across all asset classes can capture efficiency opportunities in the most cost-effective and fair way.”

“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.”

“The business community agrees with the need to upgrade the City’s building stock in order to reduce energy consumption, lower business operating costs and combat climate change,” said Partnership for New York City President Kathryn Wylde. “By ensuring that all buildings are more energy-efficient, the Mayor’s plan will make New York a more efficient and economical place to do business.”

New York City Energy Code Bill

Currently, New York is one of 42 U.S. states using the standard energy code known as the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC).  However, New York is the only state that amends this code with a loophole that allows buildings to skirt the energy code if they are not taking on massive renovations.  A critical component of NYC’s Green Buildings Plan is to move beyond this amendment and create an NYC code that would require all buildings to comply with the un-amended version.  This means any time a renovation takes place in one of NYC’s 1 million buildings, this work would be required to conform to a set of easily applied standards, resulting in both a significant energy reduction and cost savings.  

Benchmarking Bill

This legislation would require a benchmarking standard for all City buildings.  Benchmarking is the practice of evaluating a building’s energy efficiency so a building owner can identify what improvements he or she should make. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 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.  Benchmarking provides the basis for empowering building owners to take steps towards minimizing energy use and maximizing the economic benefits of energy conservation.

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 ten 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. Those savings will then continue beyond recovery of initial outlays. 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 New York City.  

Lighting Upgrades Bill

In New York City, 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. Over the past few decades, there have been rapid improvements in lighting technology, which have resulted in a dramatic reduction of energy use.  By addressing lighting in the building sector, New York City can dramatically reduce its CO2 emissions.

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 (NYSERDA) and the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) 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, New York 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. 

PlaNYC Releases 2-Year Progress Report

The Mayor also announced the release of the 2009 PlaNYC progress report, available on According to the report, 85 of the 127 initiatives in PlaNYC are either on-time or ahead of schedule. The Mayor also announced a new sustainability indicator dashboard that will be incorporated into the City’s Citywide Performance Reporting tool (CPR). The dashboard will be updated regularly with progress on key environmental and infrastructure goals and is also available on

Some of the PlaNYC progress detailed in the progress report includes:

  • 21 transit-oriented rezonings with inclusionary zoning approved or in pipeline;
  • 91 schoolyards opened or under renovation through Schoolyards to Playgrounds initiative;
  • 174,189 trees planted by March 2009;
  • NYC Office of Environmental Remediation opened;
  • 20 stormwater retention pilot projects launched Over 13,500 acres of land acquired to protect our upstate water supply;
  • 31 state-of-good repair projects begun, leveraging $261 million in Federal stimulus funding;
  • 141 miles of bike lanes and 2,011 new bike racks installed;
  • 76,751 City parking placards reduced;
  • 64 responses received to the City’s renewable energy request for expressions of interest;
  • 224 energy efficiency projects on City government buildings begun;
  • 15 percent of the yellow taxi fleet converted to hybrid vehicles;
  • 327 tons of NOx per year saved due to retrofits to Staten Island Ferry fleet;
  • 56 percent initiated or proposed GHG reductions needed to reach citywide target; and
  • 42 percent of Department of Environmental Protection methane emissions have been reduced.


Stu Loeser / Jason Post   (212) 788-2958

Jamie McShane (Council)   (212) 788-7124

More Resources
Download the PlaNYC Progress Report (in PDF)
Watch the video in low or high bandwidth