Vital Changes Coming to Emissions Standards

This past spring the New York City Council passed sweeping updates to the building emissions laws. Local Law 97 of 2019, also known as the Climate Mobilization Act, is considered the most ambitious climate change legislation in the world and will likely result in New York City becoming the cleanest city in the world.

An estimated 50,000 buildings - with 25,000 square feet or more - will be required to have a 40% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030, using emissions standards from 2005 as the baseline. These numbers account for nearly 60% of the buildings in New York City, comprising approximately 3.15 billion square feet of building area. The initial goal of the legislation is to significantly diminish emission pollutants in the next 10 years. By 2050, it is expected there will be a reduction of 80% or more.

The formula for measuring emissions is determined by the amount of carbon dioxide a building releases into the atmosphere through the production of energy for heating cooling, lighting and powering the activities of its tenants or occupants.

The standards in the amended law are undeniably steep, as are the penalties for non-compliance. Buildings not meeting the new criteria by the first deadline will pay annually $268 per metric ton for carbon footprints exceeding the limit annually. Additional fines will be charged for not submitting reports or submitting false reports. For many landlords, updating their buildings to conform with new law will be challenging. Although the first benchmark in 2024 mandates an 8-46% reduction in carbon emissions, there are still 10 years in this multi-year process to complete the more challenging phase in 2030.

Although the law primarily relates to ownership, tenants must also comply and, therefore, will be responsible for actively reducing the carbon footprints of their individual offices. In order to achieve the projected emissions standards in 2030 and avoid hefty fines (which, inevitably, will be passed on to tenants), efforts will need to be taken by all affected stakeholders.

Whatever the initial investments may be for owners and occupiers, there are myriad benefits. In addition to a cleaner environment and healthier workplace, there will be substantially reduced operating costs for all parties. Simply put, energy-efficient buildings and offices cost less to heat, cool and light. There are also significant tax-abatements for implementing Smart Building Technologies and utility rebates.

In anticipation of impending environmental and climate change legislation, Cresa has launched Building Technology Solutions (BTS) as a separate service division to help commercial occupiers navigate the new laws and more efficiently bring Smart Building technologies to their workplaces. BTS also works with property owners and managers to expedite infrastructure upgrades to meet the new standards and provide data for current and projected usage by tenants. Since inception, this division has implemented carbon-reducing efficiencies for over 500,000 square feet of tenant buildouts in the city, many of which recognized economic benefits within the first 90 days. It is anticipated that these savings will grow exponentially and that today’s new technologies are just the tip of the iceberg - which, in turn, will help save the icebergs.

Smart building technologies can deliver data that will determine such vital information as how much space is needed for a conference area, when to run air-conditioning or even where to light a hallway. It helps our clients allocate workspace in the most efficient ways currently possible. Individual occupier usage will be instrumental in how well buildings stay within the new parameters for carbon emissions.

Smart building technology also takes pressure off of the grid. Simple protocols, such as lights dimming and shades opening when there is natural light, diminish risks to the environment and grid. Heating and cooling settings calibrated to outside temperatures will dramatically reduce stress to the grid. In recent build outs, BTS designed ceiling systems with integrators to more efficiently enable communication between various technologies governing computers, temperature control and lighting. The new laws reinforce innovative ways of using energy to reduce carbon emissions, and Cresa BTS has the capabilities to manage the process.