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LEED Platinum office tower faces millions in fines due to New York’s Local Law 97

Legislation

LEED Platinum office tower faces millions in fines due to New York’s Local Law 97

Property illustrates challenges of push for carbon neutrality.


By Peter Fabris, Contributing Editor | March 28, 2022
LEED Platinum office tower faces millions in fines due to New York’s Local Law 97

Bank of America Tower at One Bryant Park, Manhattan. Photo: Zheng Zhou via Wikimedia Commons

One Bryant Park, also known as the Bank of America Tower, in Manhattan faces an estimated $2.4 million in annual fines when New York City’s York’s Local Law 97 goes into effect.
 
The potential hefty levy on this property is ironic given that it was certified LEED Platinum after it opened in 2010. An in-depth article at Bloomberg.com about this predicament illustrates the complexities owners face in addressing the law, which imposes carbon caps that are backed up by fines for non-compliance.
 
Passed in 2019, the law is a sweeping measure establishing emissions limits for almost 50,000 of the city’s largest buildings. The owners of an estimated 20% of these office buildings, hotels, and multifamily properties will likely face fines in 2024 when the law goes into effect. Many more buildings would face fines in 2030, when the caps will be lowered by 40%.
 
Part of the issue for the Bank of America Tower is a density of employees with heavy computer usage—at least on some floors—that use a lot of electricity. The owner says Local Law 97 is deeply flawed because it doesn’t distinguish between different densities and usages of properties and points out that the terms of the lease with the bank preclude him from limiting their power usage.
 
The Bank of America Tower had some impressive green features when it was built: a natural gas-fueled cogeneration plant for electricity that uses heat from the combustion process for additional power to operate HVAC systems, a cooling system that uses ice made overnight when power demand is lower, and a green roof. Today, when the ultimate goal is carbon neutrality, though, these features do not create the desired impact.
 
The details of the law are still being worked out, though, and that may bode well for the owner. There is support from some city officials to make allowances for buildings such as the Bank of America Tower that time their energy use.

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