They swore it couldn’t be done, but now New York City’s biggest buildings are finding ways to comply with the city’s groundbreaking emission reduction standard, Local Law 97—even after real estate groups complained the target was too tough.
Local Law 97 applies to all structures larger than 25,000 square feet. It mandates carbon emission cuts and sets a penalty of US$268 per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) for buildings that miss their target. With the law’s first five-year compliance period set to begin in 2024, “a preliminary review by the city’s Department of Buildings shows that 11% of New York’s buildings aren’t on track to meet the requirement,” Bloomberg Law reports, citing city environmental protection commissioner Rohit Aggarwala.
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“That’s a better non-compliance rate than the 20% projection the city forecast” for the years between 2024 and 2029, Bloomberg writes.
“This shows that the law is having its desired effect, that building owners are finding the resources and the technologies to come into compliance, and that they are taking it seriously,” Aggarwala said.
By working with a city-run retrofit and sustainability accelerator, he added, building owners have discovered that “a lot of these things pay for themselves.”
Pete Sikora, climate and inequality campaigns director at New York Communities for Change, told Bloomberg the biggest savings accrued to the buildings that were very wasteful to begin with. Simple fixes like insulating exposed heating pipes, tuning up boilers, operating HVAC systems properly, or switching to LED light bulbs were all “really basic stuff that they should have already been doing,” he said.
But “in many buildings, people don’t do it because inertia takes over and you just run the building like you always have. It’s human nature. But the law gives them a kick in the pants to get this done.”