Earlier this year, New York City's Department of Buildings began auditing thousands of architectural plans for new and renovated office and residential buildings. Nine of every 10 have failed to meet the energy code, a 30-year-old set of standards.
The compliance enforcement effort began under Mayor Michael Bloomberg last year, when he assigned auditors to pore over 212 randomly selected building plans. This year, auditors have examined more than 1,200 applications.
The standards are only now being enforced in earnest. In some cases, the Department of Buildings has stopped nonconforming projects. “We're very serious about this, and are trying to educate the industry on what is required,” said Gina Bocra, chief sustainability officer at the Department of Buildings, which set up a permanent audit unit this year. “Buildings are the largest source of energy consumption in our city, and how we conserve energy is key to making progress on reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.”
Some are complaining about the potential costs of compliance and potential to lengthen construction schedules. Planned additions to the building code over the next year are boosting concerns. “The energy code can be an effective way to increase efficiency if it remains flexible, but the more mandatory and prescriptive any code is, the more difficult it is to build a building that complies — particularly in New York City,” said Angela Pinsky, a senior vice president of management services and government affairs with the Real Estate Board of New York.