Changes in Commercial Lighting Requirements from 2014 to 2016: NYC Energy Conservation Code

Michael Tobias
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    New York City has a very ambitious emissions reduction target: 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050, using the emission levels of 2005 as a baseline. This is part of the NYC master plan, which is covered in detail in the One City Built to Last publication by the mayor’s office.Building energy consumption is one of the main contributing factors to the city’s emissions, and the first version of the NYC Energy Conservation Codewas launched in 2011 to help address this. The code has been updated twice, and each new edition has introduced important changes.

    • Since the 2014 edition of the NYCECC, commissioning was made mandatory for mechanical and electrical systems, with some minor exceptions.
    • In the 2016 edition of the code, many energy conservation requirements became more demanding, and many parts of the code were reworded to improve clarity.

    In commercial buildings, the allowable lighting power densities (LPD) were reduced. Although the specific LPD reduction varies depending on the application, the values are on average 10% lower than in the 2014 edition of the code. The LPD reduction was applied for both the Building Area Method and the Space-by-Space Method, and updated tables are provided.

    The 2016 Energy Conservation Code also changed the requirements for alterations to lighting systems in existing buildings. In the 2014 edition, code compliance was not mandatory for alterations that replaced less than 50% of the luminaires in a space; however, only alterations that replace less than 20% of the luminaires are exempt in the 2016 edition.

    With respect to lighting controls, the 2016 edition introduced many changes that affect occupancy sensors and daylighting:

    • In the 2014 code, occupancy sensors were required to turn off the lights in 30 minutes or less after occupants left an area, but this was reduced to 20 minutes in the 2016 edition. In warehouses, the requirement is to dim the lighting by at least 50%.
    • Since the 2016 edition of the code, automatic dimming is required for daylighting controls. The 2014 edition allowed the project owner to choose between manual and automatic controls, but this is no longer the case.
    • The 2016 code defines daylight zones in higher detail, and includes diagrams. The definition of daylight zones was broader in the 2014 edition of the code.

    Commissioning requirements for lighting controls are now covered with more depth. Although they were addressed in the 2014 edition, the requirement was just to verify general functioning without providing specific commissioning instructions. The new code dedicates a section for each of the three main types of lighting controls: occupancy sensors, time-switch controls and daylight-responsive controls.

    The calculation procedure for building facade lighting was also modified: in the 2014 edition of the code, the allowable lighting power was based on total wall area. However, only the above-grade wall area is considered in the 2016 edition, which reduces power consumption.


    New York City is expected to continue updating its Energy Conservation Code, as an ongoing effort to reach the 80% emissions reduction mark by the year 2050. The bar will continue to be raised for new projects, as well as for renovations in existing buildings.

    One of the best ways to ensure code compliance is working with qualified and licensed professionals. This way, building owners can expedite the paperwork required by the Department of Buildings, while avoiding expensive changes during project commissioning.

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    Tags : Design Building Code new york

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