Part 1 of 3 in a series focused on the growing legislative requirements challenging companies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through improved building efficiency
There is a growing consensus that climate change poses a clear and potentially catastrophic threat. For many cities, buildings are responsible for the majority of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions contributing to climate change. A recent article in The New York Times brought attention to this topic by publishing an inventory of GHG emissions, revealing that buildings account for 67% of New York City’s emissions.1 In response to facts like these, many local governments are enacting legislation that place increasing requirements on companies to reduce GHG emissions by mandating improvements in building energy efficiency. In April of 2019, New York City passed a sweeping set of legislative bills, packaged together as the Climate Mobilization Act, in an effort to modernize the energy efficiency of large commercial spaces. In time, these energy-saving practices will extend to smaller commercial and residential buildings to help make the city more sustainable while also stimulating its local economy.
New York’s aggressive emissions cuts signal an emerging trend that other big cities will likely adopt. In fact, a number of major cities in the U.S., including Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle, have either implemented or are considering similar legislation.
Key elements of the Climate Mobilization Act
- The city’s larger buildings (25,000 square feet and larger) will need to adhere to greenhouse gas emissions caps, with the caps becoming stricter over time. The goal of the Act is to reduce CO2 gas emissions 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050.2
- Under new building codes, certain buildings will be required to cover their roofs with plants, solar panels, small wind turbines, or a mix of all three. The Act provides a renewable loan program to make it easier for building owners to invest in renewable energy.
- These emissions caps will also require additional measures such as installing better-insulating windows and improving the energy efficiency of heating and air conditioning systems.
In terms of impact, these mandates will affect 14,500 of the city’s least efficient buildings according to nyc.gov3, the city’s official website.
The cost of non-compliance
While cities like New York are encouraging private businesses and industries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by enacting stricter building efficiency standards and offering monetary incentives for compliance, they are also enforcing the new laws with penalties for non-compliance. Starting in 2024, the Act states that an owner of a building that exceeds its annual building emissions limit shall be liable for a civil penalty of “not more than an amount equal to the difference between the building emissions limit for such year and the reported building emissions for such year, multiplied by $268.”4 As an example, a 50,000-square foot building with emissions of 0.01074 ton CO2/sf (537 tons of CO2) would incur a penalty of $124,084 per year.
Exploring cost-effective ways to reduce GHG emissions and energy use
For many buildings, especially those built with less efficient construction, it will be a challenge to meet these stringent efficiency standards. In response, building owners will find themselves looking for ways to reduce energy consumption to lower their carbon footprints to avoid heavy fines.
Avenues to explore should include HVAC efficiency, since heating and cooling can account for as much as 35% of a commercial building’s total energy bill. By implementing an HVAC energy management strategy, a building owner can demonstrate proof of compliance through reduced energy usage and demand.
Encycle offers a unique, cloud-based technology that has been proven to achieve 10-20% reductions in HVAC energy consumption and peak demand without affecting occupant comfort (see Figure 1). The company’s Swarm Logic® software dynamically synchronizes HVAC rooftop units (RTUs), enabling them to operate more efficiently in response to changing conditions such as outdoor temperature and building occupancy levels. RTUs become part of an IoT-based closed-loop system that coordinates their activity and distributes energy consumption more logically among the individual RTUs. It’s a solution that requires very little or no capital expenditure and produces a quick return on investment.
For more information on how Encycle can help you reduce your energy costs and carbon emissions, contact us at +1 855-875-4031.
Contributing author: Chris Hensley, Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Encycle Corporation.
1 Neuman, William. “Big Buildings Hurt the Climate. New York City Hopes to Change That.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 17 Apr. 2019, www.nytimes.com/2019/04/17/nyregion/nyc-energy-laws.html.
2 Cohen, Steve. “Climate Mobilization and a Sustainable New York City.” State of the Planet, Columbia University, 22 Apr. 2019, blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2019/04/22/climate-mobilization-sustainable-new-york-city/.
3 “NYC Will Be First City to Mandate That Existing Buildings Dramatically Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions.” The Official Website of the City of New York, New York City Hall, 14 Sept. 2017, www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/587-17/mayor-de-blasio-nyc-will-be-first-city-mandate-existing-buildings-dramatically-cut/#/0.
4 Section 28-320.3.7 of New York City’s INT 1253-2018 bill