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New York City Local Law 97 – Impact of the Green New Deal on Design Professionals

05.27.21  |  By Keith J. Stevens

New York City enacted Local Law 97 in 2019 with the intention of reducing building-based emissions 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050.  Commonly referred to as the “Green New Deal”, Local Law 97 imposes limits on carbon/greenhouse gas emissions for buildings in excess of 25,000 gross square feet.  Local Law 97 will affect over 50,000 existing residential and commercial buildings across the City.  Notably, Local Law 97 incorporated many of the recommendations set forth by AIANY, ACECNY and the Urban Green Council.

Carbon emissions, sometimes known as the “carbon footprint”, are measured by calculating the carbon dioxide emitted by a building into the atmosphere during the production of the energy that is consumed to heat, cool, light and power the activities of the building’s occupants.  These emissions are typically created by fuel combustion caused by an onsite boiler or an offsite power plant.  Significantly, Local Law 97 applies to both internal and external sources of fuel combustion.

Starting in 2024, most buildings in excess of 25,000 gross square feet must comply with defined carbon intensity limits, which are based on building type and prorated for mixed-use buildings (buildings with 35 percent or fewer rent-regulated units have until 2026). Certain building types, including city-owned buildings, hospitals, and houses of worship, will have alternative compliance options if they cannot meet the carbon intensity limits.  The Climate Advisory Board, which consists of many of the city’s leading building professionals, was formed to refine Local Law 97 and oversee its implementation.  However, the Department of Buildings will permit buildings with high emissions intensities to request adjustments to their annual carbon limits.

To demonstrate compliance, a building owner will be required to submit an annual emissions intensity report stamped by a registered design professional.  Building owners that fail to comply with Local Law 97 will be required to pay an annual fine of $268 per metric ton in excess of the carbon intensity limits.  Building owners who fail to submit the required emissions intensity report or submit a false report will likewise be fined.
Local Law 97 undoubtedly will benefit design professionals, in addition to the environment, by creating new avenues of business.  All buildings should start developing long-term energy and carbon reduction strategies to meet or exceed the emissions performance requirements.  In addition to preparing and certifying annual emissions intensity reports, design professionals will be relied upon by building owners to: evaluate the costs and feasibility of different energy and carbon initiatives; prepare energy and carbon management plans; and, when necessary, retrofit existing buildings to achieve compliance with emissions limits.  In fact, many design firms in the private sector are already preparing for what they hope will be an abundance of new long term work as a result of this “Green New Deal”.

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