This week, New York’s Department of City Planning released Zone Green, a set of proposed amendments to the city’s zoning resolution designed to remove obstacles to erecting green features in the city’s built environment. These amendments, available for public comment and review, give designers, architects, and engineers greater freedom when contemplating green roofs, energy-efficient walls, alternative energy, and other sustainable measures. For years zoning impediments, especially to building envelopes and rooftop uses and access, represented one of the major hurdles to more efficient and sustainable construction projects and building retrofits in this city. Now, thanks to almost two years of work by a committee of construction and sustainability experts, these restrictions are beginning to be lifted. For a peek at the most prominent proposed changes to the city’s zoning ordinance, read on!
Under the request of Mayor Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a Green Codes Task Force was established under the supervision of the Urban Green Council. By February of 2010, the Task Force made a series of recommendations for green amendments to city ordinances. These recommendations have led to Green Zone, which will give building owners, developers, and designers much more flexibility in striving to create the most sustainable vision for NYC’s architectural fabric. Concurrently, this new array of possibilities will provide energy and money savings by improving building performance.
The proposal facilitates the erection of energy efficient walls and building envelopes by exempting the thickness of external wall insulation from existing buildings’ Floor Area Ratio, and doing the same for new buildings contingent upon energy savings standards. At the exterior surface of a building, shading devices such as louvres and lattices will be permitted to breach open spaces by two and a half feet, where they could not project into required open spaces before; this modification could help reduce air conditioning bills and solar heating of interiors.
image © Leonel Lima Ponce for Inhabitat
To help small-scale wind energy break into the city’s rooftops and waterfronts, Zone Green’s amendments allow for taller wind turbines, and include them in zoning for waterfront blocks. Solar panels, meanwhile, will be allowed to protrude above allowed building heights (with some restrictions) under the new ordinances. More flexibility of panel locations may facilitate optimization of solar energy capture. Rooftops will also accommodate more green roofs, greenhouses, and other equipment under the new rules, allowing more access and better use of these vast, underutilized surfaces.
These changes represent a sample of how Zone Green NYC will facilitate the job of green designers, building owners, and developers in New York City, allowing the city to transform itself into a sustainable, 21st Century metropolis!
Lead image © Zach Klein