UNTANGLING THE CLIMATE MOBILIZATION ACT

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OVERVIEW:

In April 2019, New York City passed the ‘NYC Climate Mobilization Act’, also known as the ‘NYC Green New Deal.’ As part of this legislation, building emissions are capped for large New York City buildings. Emission caps will start in 2024, with emission limits being further reduced in 2030 and again until 2050. Buildings exceeding the emissions limits will be subject to steep carbon tax.

In our analysis of the emission requirements, we found that buildings constructed to the current energy code (and existing buildings) will be at risk of exceeding the 2030 emissions caps. Building to the Passive House standard or similar low carbon standard is the surest approach to meeting emissions requirements for 2024, 2030 and beyond. Passive House (PH) is a cost-effective approach with a 0% to 5% construction cost increase that will pay dividends for the rest of the building life. PH has a pay back period of 1 to 5 years. Building to Passive House standards to ensure 2030 compliance is a smart investment that makes sense.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

1) What is the Climate Mobilization Act? What is the Introduction 1253?

The Climate Mobilization act is a package of legislations that will significantly reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in New York City. The legislation, adopted on April 18th, 2019, includes 10 bills and resolutions. One of these bills, Introduction 1253, will set building emission limits for covered buildings starting in 2024, building emission limits to be revised in 2030, and again in 2035 till 2050.

2) What buildings are subjected to Building Emission Limits?

Covered buildings include: buildings that exceed 25,000 gross square feet (GSF); two or more buildings on the same tax lots that together exceed 50,000 GSF; two or more buildings held in the condominium form of ownership that are governed by the same board of managers and that together exceed 50,000 GSF is required to meet emission limits.

The following buildings are exempt: (1) industrial facilities primarily used for generation of electric power or steam; (2) real properties not more than 3 stories, consisting of a series of attached, detached, or semi-detached dwellings, for which the ownership of the HVAC systems and hot water heating systems is by individual dwelling owners; (3) a city building; housing development or on land owned by the New York City Housing Authority; (4) rent regulated accommodation; (5) real estate owned by religious corporation, which is dedicated and used exclusively as a place of public worship; and(6) real property owned by a housing development fund company that falls under article 11 of the State Private Housing Finance law.

3) When do I need to comply?

Covered buildings to comply with building emission limits on and after January 1st, 2024. By May 1st, 2025, and by May 1st of every year thereafter, the owner of covered building must file a report with the department.

4) What are the penalties for non-compliance?

Owners of covered building will face civil penalty for not meeting building emission thresholds. This penalty will be not more than $268 multiplied by the ton of CO2 over the building emission limit.

Failure to file a report will result in civil penalty in the amount not more than the gross floor area multiplied by $0.50 for each month the violation is not corrected.

5) Will I comply if I build to today’s Energy Code?

Buildings built to New York City Energy Conservation Code (NYCECC) 2016 risk exceeding 2030 emission levels. We estimate, based on energy models, that multi-family buildings built to NYCECC 2016 will be just under emission limits for 2030 (see figure 1). However, monitored performance is higher than modeled (1). Additionally, since NYCECC 2016 does not have a robust verification process, these buildings will potentially have greater emission levels than the energy modeling suggests. We recommend building and renovating to the Passive House standard as the surest path to compliance with emission targets for 2030 and beyond.

6) How will I demonstrate compliance?

Compliance will be demonstrated through a report, submitted May 1st each year by the building owner’s consultant (a registered design professional). Building emissions levels for different occupancy type defined in the new regulation, as well as calculation methods. Owners may take deduction for renewable energy, purchased greenhouse gas offset and clean distributed energy resources.

7) What is Passive House?

Passive House is a design methodology with a proven track record for delivering low energy buildings through an economical, common-sense approach. PH uses high performing building envelope – continuous insulation and air barrier, minimize thermal bridges, and triple pane windows – along with energy efficient appliances, lighting and mechanical equipment.

PH certification requires meeting set thresholds for heating and cooling demands and loads, as well as primary energy demand. Thresholds are demonstrated using whole energy building simulation and rigorous testing and verification methods.

Modeling results of multi-family building built to PHIUS+ 2018 show to be well within half the budgeted building emission allowance for 2030 (see figure 1), making Passive House the surest way to bring buildings into compliance for 2030 and beyond. Passive House is a cost-effective and proven methodology to driving down energy use (and emissions), while realizing ongoing operational cost savings.

8) Are existing buildings required to comply?

Yes. In fact, the regulation targets to bring most of existing buildings covered within new emission standards by 2024. Estimated carbon emission based on median energy use for multifamily buildings over 7 floors in NYC (3) show owners need to cut building emission levels by over 50% to bring buildings into compliance for 2030 (see figure 1). Owners of existing multifamily can achieve required emission cuts by doing gut renovations and deep energy retrofits to the Passive House Standard.

9) Are affordable housing buildings required to comply?

Existing state laws allow owners of regulated rent-stabilized units to pass down cost of qualifying retrofits to the building occupants, pushing the burden onto low-income New Yorkers. These exceptions are necessary for new construction and existing buildings. Until state laws are updated, the new regulations exempt rent-stabilized buildings. Instead the law requires a list of prescriptive measures to be met by owners. Read more here.

10) What are the next steps for my building portfolio?

Speak to your design and energy consultant team. Benchmarking your building – the process of measuring energy and water consumption – will allow you to get a better idea of the annual building emissions levels. Some buildings are already covered under NYC Local Law 84 that requires benchmarking. Once you get a better understanding of the energy use of your building, your energy consultant can look at options to bring building under compliance.

Check out our website for more information.

Author

Asok Thirunavukarasu
Paul A. Castrucci Architect