In a bid to fight against climate change, tall buildings in New York City will now be required to retrofit their structures to improve energy efficiency. About a hundred people gathered to lend their support for a landmark climate bill. This bill has an unconventional approach as it does not focus on vehicular emissions or burning of fossil fuels, but the source of nearly 70% of New York’s greenhouse gas emissions; it emphasizes New York’s skyline.
The City Council passed a measure recently that will require owners of large buildings to invest in retrofitting and improving their structure in order to drastically reduce their contribution to climate change and pollution. There have been several other cities around the world that have called for improved efficiency in newly-constructed buildings and have pledged to make all buildings carbon neutral by 2050. Mayor Bill de Blasio said that this measure being taken by New York will be the first in the world to actually mandate updates to existing buildings.
Improving insulation, lighting, heating and cooling systems to reduce the amount of energy that is being used in their buildings are among the many steps that will have to be taken by the owners of large buildings. The supporters of this bill insist that this will serve as an example for other cities across the world. These buildings will have to cut down on their emissions by 40% by 2030 and by 80% by 2050. This seems ambitious, but it is being said that these intense goals are also attainable.
Having focused and legislated on other factors that are leading to climate change, this remained the biggest issue that was not taken into account before. The cost of the necessary changes is estimated at around $4 billion. But a little of these costs will be recouped by building owners with what they will get from energy savings and they are spread over many years.
The new requirements apply only to large buildings – those with more than 25,000 square feet – of which there are around 50,000 in New York City. However, there are also some exemptions, including public housing, hospitals, and rent-controlled residential buildings. The new law mostly focuses on owners, but it needs to be mentioned here that commercial landlords can only cut emissions with proper assistance from tenants, who too need to be held accountable for reducing energy usage that is within their control.
Previous attempts to introduce this requirement for building retrofits had failed, but this time a coalition of groups are backing this latest effort by the City Council. They were also able to attain the support of affordable housing advocates, who actually facilitated getting the mandates passed.
But the bill also has its fair share of critics. The Real Estate Board of New York, which is the powerful body representing the city’s real estate industry, has objected to the bill for the reason that it sets requirements for large commercial buildings but excludes other landlords.
Whether or not this step will prove to be feasible and effective in the long run, only time will tell. Also, it will have to be understood and analyzed if it will bear any cost-effective results. But it can be rightly said that even though the building owners can recoup some of their costs with energy savings and that many retrofits — like the Empire State Building — have demonstrated their cost-effectiveness, it might not always be true.