As part of the Paris Climate Accords, numerous municipalities in the U.S. have committed to reducing their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 80% by 2050, popularly referred to as the “80×50” goals. New York City has been committed to 80×50 since 2014.
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration has actively pushed for measures to reach the city’s 80×50 goals. This effort has been led by the Mayor’s Office Sustainability, which released New York City’s Roadmap to 80×50 in 2016. The report centers around GHG reductions through improvements in the electric grid, transportation, waste disposal, and buildings.
Rethinking New York City’s buildings is essential to reaching our 80×50 targets. Buildings, through construction and operation, account for 70% of all GHG emissions in New York City. Due to the role that the built environment plays in climate change, the City Council’s legislative efforts have been particularly focused on reducing building emissions. In the previous decade, the Council had passed several sustainability minded local laws (LL) aimed at buildings. Among the most notable of these longstanding laws are LL84 of 2009 (benchmarking) and LL87 of 2009 (energy audits and retro-commissioning).
More recently, the Council passed LL33 of 2018, requiring that buildings display grades reflecting their energy star scores. Currently, the Council is debating Int. 1253, which would require retrofitting of existing buildings to hit energy targets. This bill would also create an entirely new department within the Department of Buildings, the Office of Building Energy Performance. AIA New York has expressed strong support for Int. 1253 and retrofitting legislation in general.
While mandatory retrofitting will move New York City closer to its 80×50 goals, more needs to be done. The goals are, by design, ambitious, and require consistent action by legislators and architects to meet them. AIA New York is, and will continue to be, a leader in pushing our city towards reaching 80×50.