Saturday, March 17, 2012

NYC Adopts New Laws Aimed at Increasing Energy Efficiency

New building codes in New York City are expected to reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions by 10% and save more than $500 million in energy costs by 2020, according to a new report from the Urban Green Council.

The report refers to building codes as “the DNA of a city—rules that are applied many times over with an exponential impact on how the city functions.” Most of the 29 individual code changes in the last two years are not headline items. While each little law in itself may not seem important, all together they can make a serious difference.

At the Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s request, the Urban Green Council convened a green codes task force in 2007 to recommend code changes mitigating the environmental impacts of construction and renovation as part of agency-wide preparations for population growth and climate change—an effort dubbed PlaNYC. The task force made 111 recommendations in February 2010; of the proposed changes, 29 have since been made into law and eight others are partially implemented or in development.

Many of the updates streamline the green building process by removing red tape and arcane policies. For example, two new codes address what are sometimes unintentional prohibitions on alternative energy. There have been cases in which outdated wording meant huge HVAC equipment could be installed on a roof but solar panels could not.

Among the changes most visible to city pedestrians will be the lighting in “sidewalk sheds,” those scaffolding tunnels formed during building construction. Previous regulations encouraged excessive use of incandescent bulbs in the city’s 4,500 sidewalk sheds; now they must meet higher efficiency standards

And in a move with implications for health, energy savings, and waste reduction, vending machines selling bottled water can no longer serve as substitutes for water fountains in renovations or new construction.
The New Energy Efficiency Laws:

New York City’s four new energy efficiency laws focus mainly on incorporating the use of daylight, as well as automatic occupant and photo sensors, to meet lighting requirements in egress areas, commercial buildings, construction sites and multiple dwellings. In addition, the new laws amend various illumination level standards to reduce excessive lighting requirements.
Local Law 47
Effective January 1, 2011, Local Law 47 amends current egress illumination requirements to reduce unnecessary electric lighting in lobbies and hallways that are adequately lit by daylight or are unoccupied. Generally, Local Law 47 permits the use of daylight to meet certain lighting requirements, amends various illumination level standards, permits the use of automatic occupant sensor or photo sensor lighting controls (provided they are equipped for fail-safe operation), and lessens certain lighting requirements.
Local Law 48
Local Law 48 , which took effect December 28, 2010, seeks to increase energy efficiency in commercial buildings by amending the New York City Energy Conservation Code (NYCECC). In part, the law adds a requirement that sensors and controls (including occupant sensors) in classrooms,[2] conference rooms, employee break rooms and offices smaller than 200 square feet,[3] (i) only enable lights to be turned on manually; (ii) automatically shut lights off within 30 minutes of all occupants leaving the space; and (iii) enable lights to be turned off manually. Further, such sensors are not permitted to have override switches which allow for the sensors to be converted from “manual-on” to “automatic-on” functionality.
Local Law 51
Local Law 51 aims to increase energy efficiency at construction sites by amending lighting requirements for temporary walkways, foot bridges and sidewalk sheds. The new law calls for illumination to be measured by foot-candle (a measure of light) rather than by wattage (a measure of energy used), and will also permit the use of photo sensors to control lighting based upon available daylight (again, provided the sensors are equipped for fail-safe operation). This law took effect on July 1, 2011. 
Local Law 52
Effective January 1, 2011, Local Law 52 updates certain residential building lighting requirements of the housing and maintenance code to bring them into conformance with other NYC codes, specifically the NYCECC. Subject to any stricter requirements of the multiple dwelling law, Local Law 52 permits the use of both automatic occupant and photo sensors and daylight to meet certain lighting requirements in multiple dwellings and tenant-occupied two-family dwellings. The law also updates how illumination levels are measured (e.g., foot-candles instead of watts).

Other improvements include:

• treatment of the 15 million gallons of construction wastewater poured annually into streets and sewers;
• increased green stormwater infrastructure;

• “cool roof” requirements to mitigate the urban heat island effect;

• a requirement that 2% of heating oil be biofuel, some of it from waste cooking oil;

• strict regulation of toxic emissions from all carpet sold or installed in the city.