Mayor’s Mandate to Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions Means Required Retrofits

We expect moaning and groaning from building owners – both commercial and multifamily – about the Mayor’s recent mandate designed to drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions. If the mandate passes into legislation (the City Council is the deciding player in that decision), it will mean work. Changes in operations. And it will mean cost. But to use an old line from Jane Fonda’s fitness programs – no pain, no gain – and there are gains that can result from the mandate for both building owners and the city.

While short on a lot of specifics, the mandate made a few things clear. It will affect about 23,000 older buildings of 25,000 square feet and up, of which 14,500 are considered the least efficient and estimated to produce 24 percent of the City’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The mandated fossil fuel reductions will, according to the Mayor’s office, require building owners to make improvements to boilers, heat distribution, hot water heaters, roofs and windows. Fossil fuels used for heat and hot water in buildings are the city’s single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Penalties for failure to meet goals would be determined by building size and how much targets are exceeded. Landlords would not be allowed to displace tenants or raise rents to meet requirements. Targets would be set by 2020 with compliance by 2035.

Now here’s the good news. It’s a big step in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions which is necessary for climate control. The time frame allows for flexibility on what needs to be done when and for the ability to plan for and refinance as needed. There will be help available for financing, in sharing best practices and technical services from public sources. Ultimately, the reductions will result in lower energy costs and a more desirable and comfortable environment for tenants.

Citywide, the reductions will be the equivalent of taking 900,000 cars off the road; reduce the prevalence of asthma from air pollution by creating cleaner air; and, according to the Mayor’s office create 17,000 new “green” jobs.

If you’re among the 14,500 least-efficient buildings being targeted, it may be a long and winding road to a retrofit in compliance. But the Mayor is committed to making New York City a world leader of green cities. This mandate is the first of it kind in the country. Expect more.

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Steven_J._SchleiderBy Steven J. Schleider, MAI, LEED-AP BD + C President, Metropolitan Valuation Services