Blue ribbon panel unveils recommendations for NYC's green building codes

February 01, 2010 |

New York- The NYC Green Codes Task Force today unveiled a highly anticipated series of recommendations, many of them first-in-the-nation initiatives, in the most comprehensive examination of green building codes ever conducted by a municipality. Convened at the request of Mayor Bloomberg and Council Speaker Quinn in July 2008, the task force - led by Urban Green Council -- was charged with recommending green changes to New York's construction laws and regulations. The 111 recommendations were delivered to the Mayor and City Council Speaker, who will review the report to determine the next steps for the recommendations.


"This report represents the best ideas of some of the greatest minds on green building in the nation," said Russell Unger, Executive Director of the Urban Green Council. "We assembled the recommendations of New York's top technical experts, and created the most sophisticated and comprehensive analysis of green building codes ever conducted by a municipality anywhere. Right now, the only way for most New Yorkers to benefit from green building is if they happen to be in a high-end residential or office building, or perhaps a government building. Implementing green changes to the building and other codes will make sustainable features available to everyone. Releasing this report is an important first step, and we look forward to working with the city to refine the proposals during future stakeholder consultation."


"The NYC Green Codes Task Force is a shining example of how the City can partner with stakeholders outside of government to improve the way we do business. I greatly appreciate the work and dedication of the almost 200 top professionals who were involved in this process to help bring our codes into the 21st century," said Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. "Buildings account for approximately 75 percent of the city's total greenhouse gas emissions and 85 percent of water consumption. As a result, the recommendations of the Green Codes Task Force and enactment of the Greener, Greater Buildings Plan, which was signed into law last year and will increase energy efficiency in existing buildings, are critical to meeting our PlaNYC goal of reducing citywide greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent by 2030."


"With this ground-breaking report, New York has the opportunity to set a new standard for green building in America," said City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn. "Green codes will not only improve the local environment, but also reduce air pollution, improve public health, and create much-needed jobs."


A comprehensive analysis of building codes, the recommendations in this 600-page report largely impact new construction and renovations (whenever one has to use the building code), many of them removing currently existing impediments to green practices. Most are low-cost proposals that will improve public health, like promoting indoor air quality. Several are groundbreaking- like new rules for insulating all-glass high rises- and others embody common sense- such as giving New York apartments controls over their own heat and getting stores to shut off their lights after hours. The proposals would effect building codes as well as other codes, such as zoning, health, consumer affairs, and environmental protection.


Highlights from the report include:


Innovative & first-in-the-nation proposals:

· Insulating the exterior of high rise buildings: Two measures, EF 3 ("Limit Heat Loss Through Exterior Walls") & EF 4 ("Promote Super-Insulated Exterior Walls") would set a minimum insulation standard for exterior building walls and provide a zoning bonus for buildings that exceed that standard.

· Making buildings more resilient in the face of climate change and other disruptions: For example, BR 2 ("Safeguard Toxic Materials Stored in Flood Zones") would require buildings in flood zones to take special precautions if storing toxic waste.


Everyday solutions:

· Reducing Overheating in Apartments: EE 10 would add temperature controls to individual apartments, working to eliminate the problem of windows open in the dead of winter.

· Limiting After-Hours Retail Lighting: EE 14 would limit lighting in retail spaces after hours (currently, they are often left on all night).

· Increasing Availability of Drinking Fountains: HT 20 would increase the required number of (free) drinking foundations and undo a previous code change that allowed bottled water dispensers to replace foundations.

· Reducing Use of Drinking Water to Clean Sidewalks: WE 5 would require building staff to use water-conserving equipment like a "water broom" when washing down sidewalks.

· Building New Homes to Energy Star® Standard: EF 2 would require new homes to be built to the Energy Star standard.

· Recycling Construction Waste: RC 1 would require separation of certain materials (carpet, ceiling tiles, large dimension lumber) at the construction site that otherwise get destroyed en route to off-site sorting stations.


All 111 recommendations are described in detail in the report, which is available here.


"This task force identified challenges that face New York City buildings and developed specific solutions to address them," said Ashok Gupta, Director of Energy Policy at the Natural Resources Defense Council and a member of Urban Green Board. "These recommendations will build on New York City's leadership in the area of green buildings and ensure that all of its construction uses best practices and results in a healthier and cleaner City."


The Task Force steering committee is comprised of New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, high level New York City officials and the Chairs of the Task Force Technical Committees. It is chaired by Russell Unger, the executive director of the Urban Green Council. A full listing of its members is provided at the end of the report


"Related was privileged to join with numerous real estate developers, owners and managers to inform the greening of New York City's building codes," said Charlotte Matthews, Related Companies Vice President for Sustainability and also chair of the codes Construction Practices Committee. "With the initiatives presented today we will collectively raise the baseline of code minimum, remove unintentional or just outdated barriers to today's best technologies, and codify the use of environmentally preferable products and systems that just require scale to become economically rationale or logistically practical in the City of New York."

The unveiling of the report took place this morning at Cook+Fox Architects office building, the first LEED platinum office building in New York City.

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