New York City’s buildings account for 80 percent of all greenhouse gases produced by the Big Apple. In order to meet Mayor Bloomberg’s goal of reducing emissions by 30 percent by 2030, a major focus of PlaNYC has been making our buildings more sustainable and energy efficient. Local Law 84, a policy enacted in 2009 as part of the Greener Greater Buildings Plan, requires buildings that are 50,000 square feet or larger to benchmark (or measure and rate) their energy performance and water usage. The original deadline for submitting benchmarking data to the city was May 1, 2011, but due to confusion over the requirements, the deadline has been extended to August 1. Local Law 84 affects 16,000 buildings in New York City, and it has the potential to transform how we understand our energy usage and pave the way for better sustainability laws.
The law will still take effect on May 1, but if building owners do not submit their reports, they will not be hit with penalty fines until August 1. The Urban Green Council, which has been conducting educational outreach about the requirements at the request of the city, found that the law needed a little “breathing room.” The Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability will launch a hotline starting March 31 to answer questions.
Building owners are to use the EPA’s free online Portfolio Manager to measure their energy use. The interactive tool allows you to track and assess the energy and water usage of a single building or a series of properties. Users can set goals, identify under performing buildings, check efficiency improvements, and receive recognition from the EPA. Every year, building owners must submit their benchmarking reports to the city’s Department of Finance. Those who do not comply will receive a $500 fine for every quarter the information is not submitted.
All of the information will be available to the public within two years, meaning that if your building is a water-wasting, grid hogging beast, everyone will know. Consumers will be able to clearly see how much they will spend on utility bills before signing a lease. Greener, more efficient buildings would easily win over tenants thanks to higher efficiency rates. Plus, owners of outdated, inefficient buildings will see that they are paying more in operation costs than owners of buildings that have undergone green renovations. Ultimately, the city hopes that this will make all building owners want to retrofit to include more efficient systems.
The bottom line is that Local Law 84 will allow us to more clearly understand how energy is being used by the city and who is using it. It’s one thing to say that our buildings account for 80 percent of our greenhouse gas emissions, but it’s another to break it down building by building. By knowing exactly what a building is wasting, we can know exactly what needs to be done to fix it.