In 2014, U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions totaled 6,870 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents, a per capita total of 17 metric tons for each resident of the Unites States. Seven years before, in 2008, the national total tonnage of carbon dioxide equivalents was eight percent greater. Our nation’s performance in the matter of GHG emissions has been one of slow, but progressive, improvement in the reduction of harmful man-made impacts on our environment. Nevertheless, AIANY members believe we can, collectively, do better.
GHG emissions in New York City in 2014 totaled 49.1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents, an average of 5.8 metric tons per capita. Due to our extensive transit system and low private-vehicle use, the energy used in buildings accounts for 73% of those citywide emissions, well above the national average of 40% attributed to buildings. Our city has committed to reducing GHG emissions 80 percent by 2050 (the 80×50 initiative), to having the cleanest air of any U.S. city, to sending zero waste to landfills by 2030, to investing in contaminated land remediation, and to ensuring that all New Yorkers have more access to parks. In its role as a leading global city, New York City has been a strong voice in the international fight against climate change leading up to the adoption of the United Nations COP21 Agreement at the Paris Climate Conference in 2015.
Although many of New York’s sustainability measures are established through our local government, federal agencies, such as the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), play a key role in regulating and impacting policy that affects our city directly. The presidential administration will have a significant influence on the continuation of policies and programs carried out by these agencies.
The EPA has created a number of comprehensive federal laws, including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Toxic Substances Control Act, and the Clean Power Plan. Currently under litigation, the Clean Power Plan would result in significant reductions in GHG emissions at a national level. Through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cooperative effort among northeast and mid-Atlantic states to reduce GHG emissions, New York State is set to exceed the targets of the Clean Power Plan.
DOE sets efficiency standards for everything from lightbulbs to heaters and washing machines, and has taken a proactive role in the creation of stringent energy codes and strategies for achieving energy efficiency. DOE’s Energy Information Administration maintains a significant amount of data about energy use and carbon emissions, and their Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey is a vital resource for designers who seek benchmarking data. DOE promotes advanced technologies via the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy and the National Laboratories, both of which are actively involved in projects that advance energy efficiency. The Federal Energy Management Program assists the federal portfolio in achieving energy reductions and develops tools used widely in the industry. In addition, DOE has developed a suite of efforts, such as the Better Buildings Challenge, that assist localities in achieving energy efficiency targets.
Other agencies that currently play a role in establishing policies affecting the environment include the Department of General Services, a leader in green building for the U.S. government’s portfolio; the Defense Department, which administers a portfolio of buildings and grounds with large GHG emissions and environmental impacts in the U.S. and around the world; the Department of Transportation, which helps establish and implement national priorities on transportation and infrastructure; the Department of State, which sets American policy with respect to climate change; the Department of Commerce, which, through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration provides data, tools, and information to help people understand and prepare for climate change; the Department of Health and Human Services, which can regulate the use of toxins in building materials and promote active design in the built environment; the Department of Housing and Urban Development; the National Bureau of Standards; and the National Science Foundation.
 ‘Climate Change Indicators: U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions’ (2016), Environmental Protection Agency
 ‘Inventory of New York City Greenhouse Gas Emissions’ (2016), New York City Mayor’s Office of Sustainability http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/sustainability/downloads/pdf/publications/NYC_GHG_Inventory_2014.pdf
One City Built to Last Technical Working Group Report’ (2016), New York City Mayor’s Office of Sustainability http://www.nyc.gov/html/gbee/downloads/pdf/TWGreport_2ndEdition_sm.pdf
August 05, 2021Design and Construction Industry Letter in Support of the American Jobs Plan
Members of the New York Congressional Delegation,
We are writing on behalf of New York’s design and construction industry professionals to thank you for your strong support of the American Jobs Plan. As outlined, the jobs plan would dramatically improve the quality of New York’s infrastructure, all while reducing inequality, mitigating against the effects of climate change, and creating thousands of good-paying jobs.
As the jobs plan is being debated in Washington, we want to reaffirm our support for its provisions and highlight some areas of improvement that we believe would benefit all New Yorkers:
- Increase funding for mass transit: New York alone requires hundreds of billions of dollars to fund mass transit improvements. We are pleased to know that necessary levels of funding will be dedicated to move the Gateway Program forward, however, we ask that other mass transit projects in New York also receive sufficient funding. Transporting New York’s people and freight more efficiently is imperative to our overall economic growth.
- Fund transportation alternatives: Allocate robust funding to fix our transit challenges through relatively lower-cost design and construction solutions, such as bus lanes, bike lanes, and the pedestrianization of streets. These solutions will reduce the strain on existing infrastructure and improve the quality of life for cyclists, pedestrians, seniors, and people experiencing disabilities. New York has numerous programs and legislation in place to do this, but they require more funding to be implemented successfully.
- Invest in reimagining urban highways: Highways have been critical to the success of modern cities, allowing for people and goods to move with ease, however, they have tremendous social costs, including polluting and dividing marginalized communities. We need dedicated federal funding to reimagine these transportation infrastructure assets into places that provide equitable access to open space, enhanced placemaking, and protection from the effects of climate change.
- Provide funding for New York to implement sustainability legislation: At the state and city level, New York is in the process of implementing, respectively, the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) and Local Law 97-2019. These ambitious pieces of legislation require our state and city governments to spend billions of dollars upgrading energy infrastructure and retrofitting government buildings. Yet, funding is needed to make these projects move ahead so that government can lead the way towards a greener, cleaner future.
- Increase funding for affordable housing: NYCHA alone requires at least $40 billion, most of which is expected to come from the federal government. Without significant federal investment, NYCHA’s residents will continue to live in dangerously dilapidated buildings.
- Couple funding for housing with removal of exclusionary zoning: The federal government has a long history of driving local policy through mandates and making the receipt of federal funding contingent upon compliance with important national objectives. Therefore, funding to local governments for the development of housing should be contingent upon the elimination of exclusionary zoning practices that are overly restrictive, decrease affordability, and harm our local and regional economies, i.e., single-family zoning. These policies have seriously hampered efforts to combat the housing crisis in New York City and its surrounding counties, increased segregation and inequality, and ultimately prevented the housing supply from matching the needs of New York’s residents. The jobs plan offers a unique opportunity to combat exclusionary zoning policies across all of New York.
Again, we thank you for your strong advocacy on behalf of New York’s built environment. We are committed to ensuring that the jobs plan becomes law and that billions of dollars of funding support New York’s economy. Please consider our members in the design and construction industries as a resource while you examine the jobs plan and other similar proposals.
Benjamin Prosky, Assoc. AIA
American Institute of Architects New York
Carlo A. Scissura, Esq.
President & CEO
New York Building Congress
John T. Evers, PhD
American Council of Engineering Companies of New YorkJune 23, 2021Statement of Support for Int. 2317, Fossil Fuel Ban Bill
AIA New York strongly supports the electrification of buildings by ending their reliance on fossil fuels for power and other uses. Fossil fuels in buildings have been largely phased out throughout New York State and the rest of the country, both by mandate and by choice. However, this is not the case in New York City, making legislation necessary to accomplish this goal. Int 2317-2021 would do just this, by not allowing new or significantly altered buildings to use high-carbon-emitting substances.
Eliminating fossil fuel use in new buildings and those undergoing major alterations would have numerous positive impacts. As 70% of carbon emissions in New York City originate from buildings, electrification would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, since electric power will soon originate from a clean wind and solar-powered grid. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions would mitigate climate change and improve air quality while also decreasing the city’s reliance on non-renewable energy sources. The 2019 gas moratorium showed the supply of fossil fuels is unreliable, which makes the design and construction of buildings dependent on them challenging. Lastly, fossil fuels create an unnecessary fire hazard at construction sites and in occupied buildings. This endangers design and construction industry professionals, as well as everyday New Yorkers.
We hope this bill is just the start of reducing the city’s reliance on fossil fuels. Future legislation is needed to address existing buildings, most of which are still reliant upon these non-renewable energy resources. As comparatively few buildings undergo the types of alternations covered in this bill, additional legislation is needed to cover most other existing buildings. For instance, further action by the City Council and NYC Department of Buildings should be taken to encourage or mandate the replacement of boilers.
While AIANY is strongly supportive of the concepts in this bill, changes should be made to the existing legislation to ease implementation and compliance. These recommendations are outlined below and would ensure that the bill is as effective as intended.
* Move to new portion of the code not relating to fuel signage, perhaps Section 24-173 (use of solid fuel) or a new section (24-178).
* Define covered buildings as “new buildings” and those undergoing renovations that fall in the ALT1 category, “Major alterations that will change use, egress or occupancy.”
* Lower kgs from 50 to 40 to make it essentially impossible for “clean” fossil fuels to emerge as an alternative in the future.
* Carbon dioxide, not carbon, should be used as the unit of measurement, since it is the industry standard.
* The exemption should be clarified and simplified and should require a formal application process to reduce loopholes. Language should be taken from LL97-2019 and DOB rules relating to its implementation.
* The law should take effect after one year for smaller buildings, two years for mid-size buildings, and three years for large buildings to allow the industry to adjust.January 30, 2020Statement of Support for Int. 1816-2019, NYC Energy Conservation Code
AIA New York in consultation with advisors on its Committee on the Environment offers its support for Intro No 1816, which would make NYC’s Energy Conservation Code one of the most advanced building energy codes in the country and would make a major contribution toward advancing the goals of energy efficiency and carbon reduction that the city has set for 2030 and beyond. While the new Code takes significant steps to reduce energy consumption and hence emissions, it is not stringent enough on its own to meet the 80×50 goal and the targets set by Local Law 97.
There are many improvements to lighting and mechanical systems that can improve a building’s energy performance and the updated regulations do address these to some extent, but as architects we have a particular awareness of the impact a building’s envelope can have on energy efficiency, and occupant health and comfort. High performance glazing, more effective insulation, and airtight construction should be the standard for all of our buildings, not just the exceptional few.
The new code does take steps toward envelope improvement, but there is still a long way to go. The argument is often made that setting standards for glazing, insulation, and airtightness will result in significantly higher construction costs and will have negative impacts on real estate values. But in fact, the opposite is true: high performing envelopes lead to lower upfront mechanical costs, increased leasable area, higher productivity from occupants, lifetime energy savings, and increased resilience.
While we think that this legislation is undeniably a step in the right direction and will help architects design better, more energy-efficient buildings, and we are unanimous in our opinion that adoption of the new code is far preferable to the alternative, our enthusiasm for the progress it offers is tempered by the knowledge that it simply does not go far enough to respond to the current climate emergency.October 10, 2019AIA New York Arthur Kill Terminal Support Letter
October 4, 2019
The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building Albany, NY 12224
Dear Governor Cuomo:
We are writing on behalf of the American Institute of Architects New York (AIANY) to express our support for the Arthur Kill Terminal project being developed by Atlantic Offshore Terminals in Staten Island, New York. AIANY and its nearly 6,000 members have proudly maintained a long-standing commitment to sustainability in architecture, seeing it as a vital component to the modern industry’s approach to design and construction.
New York is on the precipice of change. The enactment of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act and the state’s commitment to 9,000 megawatts of offshore wind by 2035, as well as the awarding of 1,700 megawatts—the nation’s largest procurement of offshore wind—signaled to the rest of the country that New York leads the nation in clean energy. The State is primed to become the supply chain hub for the multi-billion-dollar offshore wind industry. Therefore, the State must support the design and construction of port infrastructure to spur the development of offshore wind.
The Arthur Kill Terminal is uniquely positioned to handle the challenges of developing the offshore wind industry. Due to vessel access constraints, such as bridges and other barriers, most existing U.S. ports are unsuitable for wind turbine staging. Located on Staten Island’s Charleston neighborhood, the Arthur Kill Terminal is able to bypass these constraints with its completely unrestricted access to the Atlantic Ocean and facilitate offshore wind projects across the coast. As it stands today, the Arthur Kill Terminal is the only port in New York where offshore wind turbines can be staged and assembled onshore and brought out to sea.
AIANY is committed to fostering sustainable design and construction. We are pleased to express our support for the Arthur Kill Terminal project and look forward to working with you in advancing the development of offshore wind in New York.
Benjamin Prosky, Assoc. AIA
Hayes Slade, AIA
2019 PresidentDecember 05, 2018Statement of Support for Retrofitting Legislation
AIA New York strongly advocates for a more sustainable and equitable built environment. Through programming and by supporting various pieces of legislation, we have encouraged our 5,600 members to design in a more environmentally conscious manner.
Despite advances in sustainable design over the years, far more can be done to make our cities green. Crucially, we need to support efforts to retrofit existing buildings. While sustainable design for new buildings is increasingly widespread, far more New Yorkers live and work in older buildings, most of which have not been retrofitted according to the latest technologies and design practices.
If we do not retrofit our existing building stock en masse, we jeopardize the health and safety of ourselves and future generations. Right now, around 70% of New York’s carbon emissions are generated by buildings. In order to tackle issues around climate change, resiliency, and air quality, we need to retrofit our existing building stock.
Furthermore, continuing to overlook the retrofitting of existing structures may lead to greater inequity in our built environment. It should not be a luxury to live or work in a well-insulated building, though in New York City this is often the case. Those with sustainably designed apartments and offices often pay less in energy bills, which further exacerbates financial divides. If we do not address this issue now, our city will increasingly be divided between those who can afford to live and work with all the benefits of sustainable design, and the less fortunate who live and work in deteriorating buildings.
For these reasons, we applaud Council Member Costa Constantinides’ pieces of legislation, Int. 1252 and Int. 1253, which require existing buildings over 25,000 square feet to meet energy efficiency targets. For years, market forces and government incentives have led to slow but steady increases in retrofitting. Unfortunately, we do not have time for a process that does not require immediate improvements. We need the City to require that the bulk of our large building stock start retrofitting as soon as possible.
These pieces of legislation have the potential to significantly improve the daily lives of millions of New Yorkers, while also spurring the growth of the green sector. New Yorkers deserve to live and work in better conditions, and for that reason we ask the City Council to pass, and the Mayor sign, Int. 1252 and Int. 1253.
Gerard F. X. Geier II, FAIA, FIIDA, LEED AP
Benjamin Prosky, Assoc. AIA
Executive DirectorJanuary 05, 2017AIA New York Position Statement: Sustainability and the Environment
In 2014, U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions totaled 6,870 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents, a per capita total of 17 metric tons for each resident of the United States.January 05, 2017AIA New York Position Statement: Risk and Recovery
Recent changes in policy and regulations at the federal level—such as withdrawing the United States from the Paris Climate Accord, and the rescinding of water pollution regulations, and the suspending of climate-sensible safeguards at the EPA, to name a few—are reversing a decades-long course of positive and protective actions in defending the quality of our national environment.June 22, 2016Testimony Before the New York City Council Committee on Housing and Buildings on a Series of Energy-related Bills
AIANY testified before the City Council Committee on Housing and Buildings with Urban Green Council. The hearing addressed: Int. No. 1160, Int. No. 1163, Int. No. 1165, and Int. No. 1169, which would update NYC’s Energy Code.December 14, 2015Testimony Before the City Council Committee on Recovery and Resiliency and Committee on Environment Protection on OneNYC
AIANY submitted testimony at the oversight hearing on the resiliency and sustainability sections of the OneNYC plan.October 01, 2014AIANY Testimony Before the New York City Council Committee on Waterfronts
This oversight hearing addressed “An Examining of the City’s Clean Waterfront Plan.” AIANY Design Risk and Reconstruction (DfRR) Committee testified.
March 31, 2013Where Mitigation Meets Adaptation: An Integrated Approach to Addressing Climate Change in New York City
AIANY Committee on the Environment White Paper—Recommendations following Hurricane Sandy
Policy and Advocacy News