New York City further strengthened its position as a leader in green architecture and construction last week by passing new legislation that ups the ante for new city-owned buildings and major retrofit projects. The New York City Council voted to approve two laws—701-A and 721-A—that amend the city’s current LEED law related to ‘green’ building requirements. The new guidelines call for new city buildings and retrofits to attain a minimum of LEED Gold certification and cut energy use by at least 50 percent.
The newly passed legislation, which was over two years in the making, applies to city-owned properties and includes new construction as well as additions and substantial changes to existing structures. The first law, 701-A, will require municipal buildings to use no more than half of the energy they use today, and planners will be required under law to conduct a feasibility study providing at least ten percent of energy from on-site renewable energy sources, which would include rooftop solar panels and wind turbines. All building projects three stories or less will also be required to consider the feasibility of net-zero energy use.
The sister law, 721-A, applies to city properties costing at least $2 million, as well as any other capital projects backed by a substantial amount of city funding. This legislation raises the sustainability standards to LEED Gold status and enacts a requirement for buildings to register with the U.S. Green Building Council. Previously, only around half of projects did so.
These requirements might sound ambitious, but many recent developments prove that they are not only possible, but completely attainable. Last fall, the city’s first net-zero energy school opened on Staten Island, and other retrofits and energy efficiency upgrades are aiming for major reductions in energy costs, as well as greenhouse gas emissions. Between the stunning examples of recent green construction and these new requirements for future projects, New York is setting a strong example for other cities about the importance of sustainable building practices.