In April 2019, the New York City Council passed the Climate Mobilization Act, also known as the NYC Green New Deal. The Act included Intro 1253, which limits greenhouse gas emissions for buildings over 25,000 square feet. Intro 1253 became Local Law 97 in May 2019, and it covers nearly 60,000 buildings. The NYC government has created the Office of Building Energy and Emissions Performance to oversee all aspects of LL97/2019.

LL97 of 2019 also covers groups of two or more buildings with a total area above 50,000 square feet, if they are under the same tax lot or part of the same condominium project. The emissions reduction goal for NYC buildings is 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050, with respect to 2005. The target is even more demanding for city-owned buildings: 40% by 2025 and 50% by 2030.


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There are alternative compliance options for buildings where the emission limits would have a severe financial impact. Some examples are the affordable housing sector, houses of worship, and some healthcare facilities.

When Does LL97 of 2019 Come Into Effect?

Local Law 97 of 2019 will establish building emission limits all the way until 2050, achieving a total reduction of 80%. However, limits have been established so far for the first two periods: 2024-2029 and 2030-2034.

All buildings covered by the law must submit an emissions intensity report on May 1st of every year, starting from 2025. The emissions report must be stamped by a Registered Design Professional - a Registered Architect (RA) or Professional Engineer (PE).

Building Emission Limits for 2024-2029 and 2030-2034

The following table summarizes the building emission limits that apply for the first two periods. These limits are in kilograms of CO2 equivalent per square foot, and they are annual. Note that “CO2 equivalent” is an emissions metric that considers all greenhouse gases, based on their equivalence to carbon dioxide.

OCCUPANCY CLASSIFICATION

2024-2029 LIMIT
(kg CO2 eq/sf/year)

2030-2034 LIMIT
(kg CO2 eq/sf/year)

B-Ambulatory health, emergency response, and other critical applications listed in LL97

H-High Hazard

I2 & I3-Institutional

23.81

11.93

M-Mercantile

11.81

4.03

A-Assembly

10.74

4.20

R1-Residential (Hotels)

9.87

5.26

B-Business

8.46

4.53

E-Educational

I4-Institutional

7.58

3.44

R2-Residential (Multifamily)

6.75

4.07

F-Factory

5.74

1.67

S-Storage

U-Utility & Miscellaneous

4.26

1.10

I1-Institutional

11.38

5.98

For example, if a building is classified under occupancy B (Business) and its floor area is 100,000 square feet, the emission limits for the two periods would be:

  • 2024-2029 limit = 846,000 kg CO2 eq = 846 tons CO2 eq
  • 2030-2034 limit = 453,000 kg CO2 eq = 453 tons CO2 eq

The penalty for emissions above the limit is $268/year per metric ton. If the building in the example above has emissions of 950 ton CO2eq, it exceeds the limit by 104 tons and it faces a penalty of $27,872.

If a building is divided into areas with different occupancy classifications, emissions are calculated separately for each area and then added. Also, if a building is converted to an occupancy classification with a lower emission limit, it is eligible for a time extension to reduce emissions.

The building emission limits for 2024-2029 are designed to impact the top 20% of emitters, which means that most NYC buildings are already compliant. On the other hand, the 2030-2034 limits are designed to impact 75% of buildings, and meeting them will require more action.

Penalties for Missed Reports and False Reports

Building owners should submit an accurate emissions report, even when that will result in a penalty. Not submitting the report is against the law, and a deliberate false report can lead to imprisonment.

  • The penalty for a missed report is $0.50/sq.ft. per month. For example, a 100,000-sq.ft. building would accumulate a penalty of $50,000 per month.
  • The penalty for a false report is $500,000 and up to 30 days of imprisonment.

Considering these penalties, building owners are strongly advised to submit an accurate report on time each year.

How Are Building Emissions Measured?

buildingemissions-2

There is no practical way to measure building emissions, and also consider that buildings have onsite and offsite emissions. Onsite emissions are released directly, and the exhaust from boilers and furnaces is a good example. On the other hand, the emissions from power plants that serve buildings in a region are an example of offsite emissions.

The emissions produced by a building are calculated based on its total energy consumption, and how that consumption is distributed among sources: grid electricity, on-site solar power, natural gas, heating oil, etc. However, the emissions produced by a building during a state of emergency do not count towards the annual limit.

The Energy Star Portfolio Manager from the US EPA is very useful when calculating emissions, and NYC buildings already use it when benchmarking energy consumption (Local Law 84 of 2009). The energy consumption profile can be used to calculate emissions, based on the greenhouse gas coefficients published for each source.

Greenhouse gas coefficients have already been published for the 2024-2029 period, and they are summarized in the following table. Coefficients for the 2030-2034 period will be published by January 1, 2023.

ENERGY SOURCE

GREENHOUSE GAS COEFFICIENT

 

Utility Electricity

0.000288962 ton CO2e / kWh

 

Natural Gas

0.00005311 ton CO2e / kBTU

 

#2 Fuel Oil

0.00007421 ton CO2e / kBTU

 

#4 Fuel Oil

0.00007529 ton CO2e / kBTU

 

District Steam

0.00004493 ton CO2e / kBTU

 

Building emission limits and coefficients for 2035-2039 and 2040-2049 will also be published by January 1, 2023. These limits must achieve an average emissions intensity of no more than 0.0014 tons of CO2 equivalent per sq.ft. by 2050.

Emission deductions are available for using clean distributed energy sources, or by purchasing greenhouse gas offsets or renewable energy credits. Under LL97 of 2019, the following count as clean distributed energy sources:

  • Hydroelectricity, solar photovoltaics, geothermal wells or loops, tidal energy, wave energy, energy from water currents in general, and wind.
  • Energy storage: batteries, thermal systems, mechanical systems, compressed air storage and superconducting equipment.

cleanenergy

Alternative Compliance Options for Buildings with Limited Capital

Reducing building emissions can require a significant investment over time, and funds may be limited in properties such as rent-regulated apartment buildings. These buildings can meet LL97 of 2019 by applying prescriptive energy efficiency measures, instead of reducing emissions below a limit.

  1. Adjusting temperature settings for space heating and hot water according to the building requirements and occupancy.
  2. Inspecting and repairing all leaks in heating systems.
  3. Providing in-depth maintenance for heating systems. This includes keeping all components clean and in good operating conditions.
  4. Adding individual controls or insulated enclosures with controls for all radiators.
  5. Adding insulation to all pipes in space heating and hot water systems.
  6. Adding insulation to steam condensate tank or water tanks.
  7. Adding heating system sensors and boiler controls to keep adequate set points.
  8. Inspect all steam traps, and repair or replace them as necessary.
  9. Steam system master venting for mains, large horizontal pipes, risers, and vertical pipes branching from mains.
  10. Upgrade lighting to meet the NYC Energy Conservation Code and any referenced codes.
  11. Weatherization and air sealing.
  12. Adding timers to exhaust fans.
  13. Adding radiant barriers behind all radiators.

The option of reducing emissions below the limit is also available for these buildings. If a building owner can meet LL97/2019 with this approach, the prescriptive energy efficiency measures are no longer required.

Conclusion

The first building emissions report is due on May 2025, but the recommendation for property owners is to start working on energy efficiency as soon as possible. Reducing emissions from a building can take years, especially for properties in the top 20% of emitters. Also, most measures that reduce emissions also improve energy efficiency, reducing the operating cost of a building.

Every building is unique, and an energy audit is strongly recommended to identify the most effective energy efficiency measures. However, upgrades that focus on HVAC installations and lighting systems are effective in most residential and commercial buildings. There are several incentive programs from NYC and the state government, and they provide technical assistance and funding for energy efficiency projects and clean energy systems.

 

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