New York City buildings are subject to both construction codes and local laws, and developers must meet both to prevent delays and legal issues. However, there is an important difference in how construction codes and local laws are applied: 

  • Construction codes only apply for new constructions and major modifications to existing buildings. If you own a building that was compliant at the time of construction, and new version of NYC codes are published, your building is still compliant. In other words, a new code version does not force you to upgrade your building.
  • Local laws apply for all buildings, even existing ones with no renovation plans. If your building is covered by the requirements of a local law, there may be mandatory upgrades for your property.

For example, a new version of the NYC Fire Code does not force you to upgrade your fire protection systems if they meet the previous version. However, Local Law 26 of 2004 required automatic sprinkler systems for all business occupancies taller than 100 feet, by July 1, 2019.

 This guide will provide an overview of all NYC Local Laws that have introduced energy performance requirements for buildings. They are summarized in the following table:

The specific building types that are covered by each law vary. Getting familiarized with them is recommended for developers, contractors, engineers and professionals who work with construction in general.

 

LOCAL LAW

DESCRIPTION

LL31 / 2016

Energy saving requirements (50%) for municipal buildings.

LL32 / 2016

LEED Gold certification requirements for municipal buildings.

LL33 / 2018

Energy grades for NYC buildings, which must be displayed on-site.

LL84 / 2009

Energy and water benchmarking requirements for NYC buildings.

LL85 / 2009

NYC Energy Conservation Code

LL87 / 2009

Mandatory energy audits and retro-commissioning.

LL88 / 2009

Mandatory lighting upgrades and electric submetering.

LL92 & 94 / 2019

Mandatory sustainable roofing systems (solar panels and green roofs).

LL97 / 2019

Greenhouse gas emission limits for NYC buildings.

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The following sections will provide additional information on the Local Laws listed above, and how to comply and avoid penalties.

Local Law 31 of 2016

 
What does the law require?

LL31 of 2016 requires municipal buildings to cut their energy consumption by 50%. The law applies for new constructions, additions and renovations.

 
How to comply

Developers and private building owners need not worry about LL31, since it only applies for municipal buildings. Reducing energy consumption by 50% requires a combination of well-chosen and well-designed energy efficiency measures.


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Local Law 32 of 2016

 
What does the law require?

LL32 of 2016 requires the LEED Gold certification for all municipal projects having a budget of at least $2,000,000. Also, the LEED v4 framework must be used, and LEED v3 is no longer accepted. The law applies for new constructions, additions and renovations.

 
How to comply

Like LL31, this law does not impose requirements for owners of private buildings. However, projects with public funding may be covered, depending on their budget. To earn the LEED Gold certification, a building must get at least 60 points under the LEED scoring system.

Local Law 33 of 2018

 
What does the law require?

LL33 of 2018 requires all buildings to display the ENERGY STAR score, along with an energy grade that is based on the score. The law does not mandate a minimum grade, and penalties only apply if no data is submitted. However, public disclosure of energy grades is mandatory. Developers should aim for the highest possible grade, since tenants will associate low grades with higher energy bills.

 

ENERGY STAR Score

Energy Grade

85-100

A

70-84

B

55-69

C

Below 55

D

No data submitted

F

Exempted building

N

 
How to comply

Meeting the basic requirements of LL33 is simple. If you have been benchmarking energy and water use on time according to LL84, the NYC Department of Buildings will assign a grade based on that information. Once the grade is received, you must only publish in a visible location within 30 days.

Increasing your energy grade brings a greater challenge, since you must reduce the energy consumption of your building. To find an optimal combination of energy efficiency measures for your property, the best starting point is getting an energy audit.

Local Law 84 of 2009

 
What does the law require?

All buildings with an area of at least 25,000 sq.ft. must benchmark their energy and water usage. A report must be submitted to the NYC Dept. of Buildings by May 1 each year.

 
How to comply

Electricity, gas and water consumption can be recorded automatically with the Portfolio Manager tool from ENERGY STAR. This application can be connected with Con Edison, National Grid and the NYC Dept. of Environmental Protection. The initial configuration for the first report is more complex, but future reports can be produced semi-automatically.

Local Law 85 of 2009

 
What does the law require?

LL85 of 2009 created the first version of the NYC Energy Conservation Code, and updated versions were published in 2011, 2014 and 2016.

 
How to comply

Meeting the NYC energy code is like meeting any other building code, and this is part of the normal requirements for any new construction or building modification. New version of the code do not require mandatory upgrades for buildings, unless another law makes a specific measure mandatory.

Local Law 87 of 2009

 
What does the law require?

LL87 requires energy audits and retro-commissioning for NYC buildings with an area of at least 50,000 sq.ft. The first report date depends on the final digit of the building tax ID, and subsequent reports are due at 10-year intervals. The report delivery date is May 1 of the assigned year.

 

Tax ID Last Digit

0

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

Year

2020

2021

2022

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

 
How to comply

An energy audit and retro-commissioning can be carried out simultaneously. However, the site inspection and report can take several weeks or even months in a large building. Building owners can take advantage of the 10-year interval between reports, and get in touch with an engineering consulting firm well in advance before the next report is due.

Local Law 88 of 2009

 
What does the law require?

By January 1, 2025, all commercial buildings with at least 50,000 sq.ft. must upgrade their lighting to meet the current version of the NYC Energy Conservation Code. Also, electric submeters must be installed for tenant spaces with at least 10,000 sq.ft

 
How to comply

Lighting upgrades and electric submetering can be deployed with minor disruption, and building owners still have until 2025 to complete the project. However, there is no reason to wait, since lighting upgrades have a high return on investment.

  • LED lighting upgrades typically have a payback period of less than three years, while lasting for 10 to 20 years.
  • On the other hand, electricity submetering gives you a better picture of how electricity consumption is distributed among your tenant.

Local Law 92 & 94 of 2019

 
What does the law require?

Roof installations in NYC must include a sustainable roofing system, which can be a green roof or solar panels. The requirement applies for new constructions, roof modifications, and roof extensions.

 
How to comply

When installing a new roof or expanding an existing roof in NYC, you must include a green roof or a solar photovoltaic system in the budget. Roof areas are only exempt if they are needed for other equipment or purposes. The exemption also applies for sections smaller than 200 sq.ft. with a slope above 17% (2/12).

Local Law 97 of 2019

 
What does the law require?

Among all laws that establish energy requirements for NYC buildings, LL97 is possibly the most demanding. Starting from 2024, there will be stringent emission limits for NYC buildings, with large fines for non-compliance. The law covers buildings with an area of at least 50,000 sq.ft.

 
How to comply

The building emission limits for 2024 will impact the top 20% of emitters, while those in 2030 are more stringent, impacting the top 75%. Many buildings are already compliant with the 2024 limits, but the 2030 limits are a different story.

Energy consultants can estimate your current emissions, based on the benchmarking data gathered under LL84. Then you can get an energy audit to identify the building upgrades with the highest potential to reduce emissions. Since building emissions are strongly correlated with energy consumption, you will also reduce your energy bills in the process.

Additional Resources

 

LOCAL LAW

WEBSITE

LL31 / 2016

https://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2240482&GUID=0A9A548C-E3D9-4057-AEAC-426CA033FBBF

LL32 / 2016

https://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2240514&GUID=730CFA4E-3E44-4CF5-AA3E-7D2E0EEEC7B8

LL33 / 2018

https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/buildings/local_laws/ll33of2018.pdf

Covered Buildings List: Same as LL84 / 2009

LL84 / 2009

http://home2.nyc.gov/html/gbee/html/plan/ll84.shtml

Covered Buildings List: https://www1.nyc.gov/html/gbee/html/plan/ll84_comply.shtml#1

LL85 / 2009

http://home2.nyc.gov/html/gbee/html/plan/ll85.shtml

LL87 / 2009

http://home2.nyc.gov/html/gbee/html/plan/ll87.shtml

Covered Buildings List:

http://home2.nyc.gov/html/gbee/html/plan/ll87_covered_buildings_list.shtml

LL88 / 2009

http://home2.nyc.gov/html/gbee/html/plan/ll88.shtml

LL92 / 2019

LL94 / 2019

https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/buildings/local_laws/ll92of2019.pdf

https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/buildings/local_laws/ll94of2019.pdf

LL97 / 2019

https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/buildings/local_laws/ll97of2019.pdf

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