New York City’s buildings are our greatest source of greenhouse gas emissions—responsible for a whopping 70% of carbon emissions. The city’s goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2050 will require that all new construction and existing, aging buildings are built and renovated with energy efficiency in mind.

The 2020 Energy Conservation Code (ECC) will go into effect May 12, 2020. The code will align with NYSERDA’s NYStretch Energy Code and will regulate building systems and the quality of those systems. New York City local laws and the current Energy Conservation Construction Code of New York State come together to make up this new code, making it slightly tougher on efficiency requirements.

The code will require new construction to meet these requirements and existing buildings to perform renovation work to meet those same standards. Requirements span every system in a building that affects energy use, such as: building envelope, heating & cooling, lighting, and HVAC systems.

The 2020 code is similar to the 2016 code of the same name, but every piece is a bit more stringent, all adding up to a better, more efficient building. The code includes things like insulation and fenestration requirements, whole building energy monitoring, more efficient lighting power requirements, and additional lighting controls.

In terms of lighting, the code aims to reduce power allowance to meet lower Lighting Power Density (LPD) levels and requires that 90% of fixtures meet higher efficacy requirements, in contrast to the 2016 ECC requirement that 75% of lighting fixtures meet efficacy requirements.

For example, if using the Building Area Method to determine what your interior lighting power allowance is in an office, the 2016 ECC required that 75% of the lighting fixtures meet an LPD of 0.82 watts/sq. ft^2, whereas now that same space, using the same Building Area Method, would require 90% of the light fixtures to meet an LPD of 0.79 watts/sq. ft^2.

For a more granular example, using the Space by Space method for a print/copy room, the 2016 ECC required that 75% of the fixtures meet an LPD of 0.72 watt/sq. ft^2. Now, with the 2020 ECC, 90% of the fixtures in that space are required to meet an LPD of 0.56 watts/sq. ft^2.

A notable change under the lighting controls umbrella is the specification that controls must be “capable of and configured to” meet the control requirements for that given space. In contrast, the 2016 ECC simply required that lighting controls be “capable of” meeting those requirements.

For spaces that have already installed required controls but have yet to program or turn them on, this will require revisiting the code and making sure that those controls still meet what is required for your size and space type and that they effectively control the lighting.

And, in practice, this will further the importance of making sure your controls are actually performing as they are prescribed to—and delivering the energy reduction results that are expected.

In general, the 2020 ECC increases control requirements and goes into greater detail on how lighting controls should function.

For example, the 2016 ECC required that daylight responsive controls and vacancy sensors be present in spaces with more than 150W of general lighting (defined as “Lighting that provides a substantially uniform level of illumination throughout an area...shall not include decorative lighting or lighting that provides a dissimilar level of illumination”), but the 2020 ECC now requires that spaces with more than 100W of general lighting have daylight responsive controls and vacancy sensors.

Another new requirement is that occupancy sensors control the functioning of egress illumination. Specifically, that controls automatically reduce lighting power by 50% when an exit access or means of egress has been unoccupied for 15 minutes.

Lighting control requirements are increasing in frequency and rigidity due to the significant energy savings they offer. A study by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority showed that by simply putting bi-level fixtures in stairwells, energy consumption was reduced by 53-60%.

View the complete code here, and reach out if you're curious about what it would take to get your lighting up to date with the 2020 code.