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Beyond Letter Grades for Buildings—NYC Real Estate and the City’s Climate Plan

Liability, NYC, Other, Real Estate Developments, Real Estate Legality

We have covered climate legislation periodically on this blog, especially the Climate Mobilization Act passed last year by the city council and its signature proposal to create a classification system for the city’s commercial buildings along with penalties for not reducing emissions. However, it is worth noting the sweeping legislation calls for numerous other changes geared towards reducing or eliminating carbon emissions. [1]

An important part of this looks to be the energy code for new constructions, one of six codes that govern the requirements for new construction as well as renovations. The proposed rules for 2020 would impose much stricter requirements in categories like insulation, lighting, and heating. According to estimates, these changes would create average annual energy savings of 13 percent for new commercial buildings and 19 percent for one- and two-family homes and small apartment buildings. As is often noted for these types of changes, increased upfront costs for materials or specialized installation should theoretically create financial savings in the long run, as well as achieving the reduced emissions.

The code also seeks to increase familiarity with passive house design concepts, a type of building first developed in Germany that aims for total insulation and virtually zero heating or cooling needed year-round. Although complex and expensive, some developers have already designed passive house buildings, most notably Alloy’s 38-story, 256-unit new building at 100 Flatbush in Brooklyn.

[1] Spivack, C. (January 2020) Inside New York City’s new ‘blueprint for sustainable development’ from Curbed NY Accessed February 13 2020

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