How NYC Will Cut A Million Tons Of Emissions From City Buildings

Mayor Bill de Blasio will announced a multi-faceted plan to speed progress in the city’s efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions in private buildings 80 percent by the year 2050.

De Blasio. (Demetrius Freeman/Mayoral Photography Office)

The mayor will introduce a “retrofit accelerator” — a free one-stop shop for private landlords to help them refurbish buildings for energy efficiency, clean energy and water conservation. De Blasio’s stated goal is to cut building emissions by about one million metric tons through retrofits in roughly 1,000 buildings a year by 2025. If successful, the city says, the reductions will be the equivalent of taking 200,000 cars off the road and will save building owners $350 million a year in utility costs.

“Business as usual simply won’t do when our very survival is at stake,” de Blasio said in a statement provided to POLITICO New York. “We’re ensuring that building owners have the tools they need to go green through the NYC Retrofit Accelerator.”

In conjunction with the accelerator, de Blasio will announce an expansion of the city’s carbon challenge, which commits building owners to cutting emissions by 30 percent within the next ten years. Roughly 700 multi-family buildings will join 40 institutions in pledging to a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions over the next ten years.

The challenge started in 2007 with dozens of institutions committing to cutting their emissions 30 percent by 2017. Of those, 12 have increased their planned cuts to 50 percent by 2025.

Those include Barnard College, Bloomberg LP, Deutsche Bank, the Fashion Institute of Technology, Google, the NYC Health and Hospitals Corporation, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Montefiore Medical Center, New York Presbyterian – Queens, New York University, NYU Langone Medical Center, and the School of Visual Arts.

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A major element of the carbon challenge will come through heating efficiencies. The city this summer completed an effort that began under the administration of Michael Bloomberg to phase out all use of No. 6 oil, the dirtiest form of home heating fuel.

As part of the announcement, de Blasio will announce the program, led by the Department of Environmental Protection, has achieved 99.8 percent compliance.

“The Retrofit Accelerator will build on the incredibly successful work of the Carbon Challenge and NYC Clean Heat as we continue to push toward a stronger, more sustainable New York City,” de Blasio said, in the statement.

The accelerator will consist of a group of “efficiency advisers,” according to information provided by the city, who will advise building owners, free of charge, of conservation and clean energy options tailored to specific buildings.

They will also assist building owners in acquiring appropriate permits, financing and existing incentives to assist landlords in installation and staff training. Efficiency measures can include changing light bulbs, installing low-flow plumbing, upgrading insulation and windows, and high-efficiency heating systems.

Utilizing energy information culled under Local Laws 84 and 87, passed in 2009, the efficiency teams can examine where large buildings are wasting the most energy and what measures can be sought to mitigate a building’s consumption and emissions.

The Building Energy Exchange, a nonprofit group awarded a grant earlier this year, will act as a central hub for the accelerator. Executive director Richard Yancey said the program “will help owners, operators, and designers realise the cost-saving energy efficiency potential within their buildings.”

A significant chunk of emissions can be reduced simply by changing heating fuel. Part of the retrofit accelerator will be helping move buildings from No. 4 heating oil to No. 2 or natural gas.

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The moves announced today are an extension of de Blasio’s “One City Built to Last,” program which targets buildings for the bulk of the city’s emissions cuts. Released one year ago this month, the plan outlined measures to retrofit all city-owned buildings by 2025.

But city-owned buildings represent only a fraction of the city’s stock of nearly 1 million buildings and, in order to achieve the aggressive cuts established by de Blasio, the private sector will have to move quickly, hence the retrofit accelerator.

For those that still lag, de Blasio has threatened to mandate emissions reductions. For now, the city is making tools available in the hope that mandates will not be necessary.

The real estate industry as well as environmental groups applauded the city action.


“We are excited to see such a critical piece of the 80×50 effort come to fruition,” said Real Estate Board of New York president John Banks in a statement. “Between Clean Heat’s tremendous success, the expansion of Carbon Challenge, and now the NYC Retrofit Accelerator’s launch, New York City continues to lead the world by example in regard to sustainability.”


Shelley Poticha, urban solutions director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the retrofit accelerator “demonstrates New York’s continued leadership in innovative approaches to meeting greenhouse gas emission goals and setting the bar for other world class American cities.”


This feature originally appeared in Capital New York.



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