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PR- 532-09
December 9, 2009


New York Becomes First American City to Begin a Comprehensive and Mandatory Effort to Reduce Emissions from Large Existing Buildings

Most Significant Action to Date to Meet the City’s PlaNYC commitment of 30% emissions reduction by 2030

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn today announced the passage of landmark legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from existing government, commercial, and residential buildings in New York City. The six-point Greener, Greater Buildings Plan, introduced on Earth Day and enacted as part of PlaNYC, includes four bills that will dramatically reduce the City’s energy usage, saving consumers $700 million annually in energy costs, while creating 17,880 jobs and reducing New York City’s carbon footprint.  In addition to the four pieces of legislation, the six-point plan includes two PlaNYC programs that will train workers for the new construction-related jobs that will be created, and help finance energy-saving improvements using $16 million in federal stimulus funding. The plan will also result in cleaner air, since pollution from boilers, furnaces, and local power plants will also be reduced.

“While New York already has the lowest per capita carbon footprint of any major city in America, we recognize that every city must take action to fight climate change” said Mayor Bloomberg. “By requiring buildings to conduct energy audits and improve their energy efficiency, the Greener, Greater Buildings Plan will reduce the city’s total greenhouse gas emissions while creating thousands of jobs and dramatically reducing annual energy costs. I thank Speaker Quinn and the members of the City Council for their efforts to make New York a greener, more sustainable city.”

“Today we are taking tremendous steps towards creating a more environmentally friendly New York City,” said Speaker Quinn. “Our actions today, which set a new national standard for building energy usage, will bring our aging infrastructure into the 21st century, reduce carbon emissions, lower energy costs, and create thousands of green jobs. Working together with the Administration, environmental advocacy groups, and construction, housing, and buildings organizations, we are making our world-famous city skyline greener and greater than ever.” 

Approximately 80 percent of New York City’s carbon footprint comes from buildings’ energy use, and 85 percent of the buildings that exist today will be in use in 2030. As a result, increasing efficiency in existing buildings is critical to meeting the PlaNYC goal of a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Once implemented, the legislation passed today will reduce citywide greenhouse gas emissions by 4.75 percent, the largest reduction achieved by a single program.

The four bills passed today include:

  • Int. No. 564-A: Legislation that creates a New York City Energy Code that existing buildings will have to meet whenever they make renovations;
  • Int. No. 476-A: Legislation that requires large buildings owners to make an annual benchmark analysis of energy consumption so that owners, tenants, and potential tenants can compare buildings’ energy consumption;
  • Int. No. 973-A: Legislation that requires large commercial buildings (over 50,000 square feet) to upgrade their lighting and sub-meter tenant spaces over 10,000 square feet; and
  • Int. No. 967-A: Legislation that requires large private buildings to conduct energy audits once every decade and implement energy efficient maintenance practices. Also, all city-owned buildings over 10,000 sq ft will be required to conduct audits and complete energy retrofits that pay for themselves within 7-years.

In addition to the legislation, the Greener, Greater Buildings Plan includes two other initiatives: A workforce development working group of real estate, labor, and others that will identify the skills needed and ensure that sufficient training opportunities exist to fill the estimated 17,880 construction and building-related jobs the legislation will create.  The working group began meeting over the summer, in partnership with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority 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.  In September, the US Department of Energy approved the City’s application to use the legal maximum $16 million – of its energy efficiency community block grant funds for this purpose.  The City is in the process of designing the program now, which is expected to be able to issue its first loans in mid-2010.

The Mayor and Speaker were joined by Mayor’s Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability Director Rohit T. Aggarwala, Council member James Gennaro, Council member Dan Garodnick, Council member Melissa Mark-Viverito, Council member Dominic Recchia, Senior Vice President of the U.S. Green Building Council Scot Horst, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters Marcia Bystryn, Program Director for Air & Energy of the Natural Resources Defense Council Ashok Gupta, Environmental Defense Fund New York City Campaign Director Mary Barber and Elizabeth C. Yeampierre, Executive Director of  UPROSE and Chair of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance.

“Today we have achieved probably the most important single step among PlaNYC’s 127 initiatives to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions,” said Mayor’s Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability Director Rohit T. Aggarwala. “Reaching our 30 by 30 goal will require progress on many fronts including renewable energy, transportation, transit-oriented planning, and open space – but addressing energy use in existing buildings is clearly the most critical issue for New York.”

“Twenty years from now, people will look back at the vote on this landmark legislative package as the moment when city government, critical stakeholders and concerned citizenry came together to transform our buildings into centers of environmental innovation, showcases of engineering excellence and engines of economic revitalization,” said Environmental Protection Committee Chair James F. Gennaro. “These bills are transformative for our environment, a boon to our economy and a beacon to other cities on the journey to environmental sustainability.”

“Benchmarking is the first step owners can take toward reducing emissions from their buildings,” said Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito.  “Large building owners must be equipped with the tools and information they need in order to reduce their energy and water usage.  This legislation will ensure that the benchmarking process happens in all large buildings and that it happens in a transparent manner, so that owners can cut their buildings’ operating costs while also cutting the greenhouse gas emissions that harm us all.  I thank the Speaker, Housing & Buildings Committee Chair Dilan for helping bring this important legislation to the floor as well as Council Members Gennaro, Garodnick and Recchia for their work on the other components of this package.”

“We are facing a major environmental crisis, and we can’t rely on someone else to fix it for us,” said Council Member Domenic M. Recchia, Jr.  “It’s up to local governments to take the lead. I’m proud to sponsor a bill that will pave the way for more efficient lighting and smarter energy use in buildings across the city. It’s steps like these that will reduce our city’s carbon footprint and ensure a brighter, cleaner tomorrow.”

“Passing New York City’s first Green Energy Code will propel us past the lax statewide standards and allow us to tackle our biggest source of greenhouse gases head-on,” said Council Member Dan Garodnick.  “There is no reason that a building undergoing renovations should have its old, inefficient systems replaced with equally inefficient ones.  We must do better and today, we will.”

“This will serve as a roadmap for achieving cost-effective, meaningful greenhouse gas reductions,” said Senator John Kerry (D-MA). “By addressing energy consumption in existing buildings, Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council are not only leading the fight against climate change, but reducing energy bills and creating thousands of jobs for New Yorkers. Actions like the Greener, Greater Buildings Plan are critical to helping us meet our overall emissions targets,”

“Mayor Bloomberg is ahead of his time,” said Representative Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Chairman of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, and of the House Energy and Environment Subcommittee. “He understands that the future of modern, productive cities is directly tied to how quickly they can adapt to the clean energy revolution.  Ensuring that the buildings that we live and work in are far more energy efficient buildings are an essential part of that effort.”

“I commend the City of New York for taking this important step in the fight against climate change. In California, our efforts to reduce the state's carbon footprint have proven successful with innovative policies like our first-in-the-nation statewide green building codes that are protecting the environment and creating green jobs to stimulate our economy,” said Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. “Today’s historic action will help New Yorkers become more energy efficient and it is another great example of how cities and states are leading the way in developing emissions reduction strategies. Mayor Bloomberg has been a terrific ally on the environment and I look forward to continuing our partnership as we work to create a greener, more sustainable future”

“New York City’s green building program is one of the most aggressive efforts in the country to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels. “Together, Seattle and New York are demonstrating that cities are the leaders on delivering innovative solutions to stop global warming. If Seattle and New York can do this, then other cities can follow our lead.”

“New York City’s new framework for energy efficiency is a classic win-win for the environment and the economy – and a model for cities everywhere,” said Fred Krupp, President of Environmental Defense Fund. “It will cut pollution, generate new jobs, and help New Yorkers save money by reducing the energy wasted by existing buildings.”

“Coming during the first days of the Copenhagen climate summit, this package will send out a ray of hope to a world increasingly worried that the challenges of climate change are simply too great for our leaders to meet,” said Carl Pope, President of the Sierra Club. “The bills passed in New York today are the most comprehensive and aggressive local legislation undertaken by a major city in America to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

“Of all the opportunities we have to combat climate change, spur job growth and improve the quality of life worldwide, green buildings are the most exciting and promising,” said Scot Horst, Senior Vice President for LEED, U.S. Green Building Council. “Buildings are responsible for 40% of greenhouse gas emissions globally. It’s vital that building owners and occupants understand the way their buildings use – and misuse – energy and that the private and public sectors work together to tackle inefficiency. The leadership shown today by our nation's largest city should make not only New Yorkers proud, but all of us.”

“The Greener, Greater Buildings plan that the City Council passed today will put New York City at the cutting edge of the green buildings movement,” said Marcia Bystryn, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters. “This legislation will dramatically reduce the city's greenhouse gas emissions while creating thousands of green jobs and permanent cost savings for homeowners and taxpayers. We applaud Mayor Bloomerg, Speaker Quinn, Environmental Protection Chair Gennaro and the City Council for this success, and we look forward to working with them on future sustainability efforts.”

“The landmark legislation passed today represents an environmentally and economically viable program that will result in ongoing savings for New Yorkers while significantly reducing carbon emissions,” said Ashok Gupta, Program Director for Air & Energy of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The Greener, Greater Buildings Plan is an example of how local governments are often leading the way on the development and implementation of climate change solutions.”

“For years Environmental Justice communities unfairly burdened with toxic infrastructure, unhealthy work conditions and limited employment opportunities have drawn attention to the connection between community health and polluting infrastructure,” said Elizabeth C. Yeampierre, Executive Director, UPROSE, Chair of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance. “Today’s historic vote is an affirmation that is worth celebrating because it speaks to the commitment of all New Yorkers to aggressively address Climate change, transition to a green economy, provide opportunities for the working class and set the stage for truly sustainable communities.”

New York City Energy Code Bill

Int. No. 564-A, sponsored by Council Members Garodnick, Brewer, Fidler, Gonzalez, James, Koppell,  Sanders Jr., Seabrook, Weprin, White Jr., Gerson, Lappin, Yassky, Recchia Jr., Sears, Liu, Mendez, de Blasio, Mitchell, Mark-Viverito, Katz, Vallone Jr., Nelson, Vann, Avella, Gioia, Vacca, Jackson, Ferreras and Comrie

Currently, New York is one of 42 U.S. states using the standard energy code known as the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC).  However, the New York State Energy Code includes a loophole that allows buildings to perpetuate non-compliant systems if they perform renovations on less than half of a given building system.  This legislation creates a New York City energy code that requires all buildings to comply fully with the IECC for those portions of a system being renovated.  This means any time a renovation takes place in one of the City’s one million buildings, this work must conform to a set of easily applied standards, a move which will lead our buildings to greater energy efficiency as renovations take place.

Benchmarking Bill

Int. No. 476-A, sponsored by Council Members Mark-Viverito, Recchia Jr., Avella, Brewer, Fidler, Gentile, James, Liu,  Nelson, Seabrook, Weprin, White Jr., Garodnick, Lappin, Yassky,  Sears, Mendez, de Blasio, Katz, Mitchell, Vann, Gioia, Vacca, Vallone Jr., Jackson, Ferreras, Koppell and Comrie

This legislation requires a benchmarking standard for all private buildings greater than 50,000 square feet or public buildings greater than 10,000 square feet.  Benchmarking is the practice of evaluating a building’s energy efficiency so a building owner can see how efficiently their buildings function and enable prospective buyers and tenants 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. Building owners will be required to use a free online tool provided by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to track buildings’ annual energy and water consumption.

Lighting Upgrades and Sub-metering Bill

Int. No. 973-A, sponsored by Council Members Recchia, Jr., Comrie, Dickens, Fidler, Garodnick, Gioia, James, Lappin, Mitchell, Nelson, Reyna, Rivera, Stewart, Liu, Yassky, Sears, White Jr., Mendez, de Blasio, Mark-Viverito, Katz, Vallone Jr., Gerson, Koppell, Vann, Avella, Vacca, Jackson, Brewer, Gonzalez and Ferreras.

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 legislation requires that lighting systems in commercial 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.  The bill also requires that large commercial buildings sub-meter electricity usage in certain large tenant spaces and that building owners provide these tenants with a monthly statement showing electric consumption and the amount charged for electricity. This addresses the majority of electricity use that takes place in tenant-controlled spaces.

Audits and Retro-Commissioning Bill

Int. No. 967-A, sponsored by Council Members Gennaro, Brewer, Comrie, Dickens, Garodnick, Gioia, James, Koppell, Lappin, Mitchell, Palma, Recchia Jr., Reyna, Rivera, Stewart, Liu, Yassky, Sears, White Jr., Mendez, de Blasio, Mark-Viverito, Vann, Avella, Vacca, Gerson, Jackson, Gonzalez and Ferreras.

This legislation requires existing buildings over 50,000 square feet to undergo an energy audit and undertake retro-commissioning measures (e.g., properly calibrating heating and cooling systems, cleaning and repairing ventilation systems) once every ten years. This bill would apply to all classes of buildings over 50,000 square feet and cover nearly half of the built square footage of New York City. The bill contains exemptions for buildings that face severe financial hardship.  To lead by example, City buildings will also perform any building retrofits (capital improvements) that pay for themselves within 7 years.

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, City University of New York, 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 17,880 construction-related 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 Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Energy savings data will be collected to encourage private sector lending in the long-term.


Jason Post   (212) 788-2958

Jamie McShane (Council)   (212) 788-7116

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