New York City's energy codes

NYC has set the most progressive energy requirements in the country. Between local law 97, local law 33, local law 84, local law 85, local law 87, and local law 88, there's a lot to cover. Let's get started.

The latest and greatest (and the one that's grabbed the most headlines) of New York City’s carbon laws is Local law 97 (LL97): New York's 2019 building emissions law.

Here we’ll walk through what LL97 really means for building owners and facility management, but we’ll also cover the local laws included in the Greener Greater Buildings Plan: local law 84, local law 85, local law 87, and local law 88. 

LL97 is by far the greatest disruption to the New York City real estate industry in years. The law affects 50,000 existing residential and commercial buildings and sets strict carbon caps for buildings starting in 2024, and even more aggressive targets by 2030. The law also establishes the Office of Building Energy and Emissions Performance—an entire department that didn’t exist before, devoted to transforming our city’s buildings.

Local Law 97 (LL97)

Let’s start with your building’s carbon footprint: what it means, how it’s calculated, and why you should care

What are carbon emissions?
Carbon emissions generally come from burning fossil fuels that supply the energy to your building. Different forms of energy release different amounts of carbon. Energy use is converted to carbon emitted by multiplying an “emissions factor” (otherwise known as a “greenhouse gas coefficient”) by each type of energy use.

What is a greenhouse gas?
A greenhouse gas is any gas with the potential to trap heat in the atmosphere. An example of a greenhouse gas is carbon dioxide, which enters the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels (such as coal, natural gas, and oil), solid waste, trees and other bio- materials, and as a result of certain chemical reactions (such as the manufacturing of cement). Other examples of greenhouse gases include Methane (also emitted during the production of coal, natural gas, and oil), Nitrous oxide, and Fluorinated gases. But by far, the level of carbon dioxide emissions supersedes all other greenhouse gas emissions.

How do I know if my property needs to comply?
If your property is subject to the NYC Benchmarking law (LL84) that requires annual energy and water use reporting, it will generally also be subject to the building emissions law. If you want to be extra sure, the city released a list of included buildings here.

How do I determine my building’s carbon emissions?
You can see a building’s annual emissions intensity based on the most recent benchmarking at Multiply your emissions intensity by your building’s total area and that’s your annual carbon emissions for that year.

What is the carbon limit for my building?
Emissions intensity limits are based on Building Code occupancy groups, but the answer varies greatly depending on the building. Many buildings, like rent-regulated units, aren’t subject to emissions limits at all, but mixed-use buildings will have limits that reflect their blend of occupancy groups. These limits apply to multifamily apartments, offices, and hotels. Limits for other building types can be found in more detail within the law.

The EPA has a free Energy Star Portfolio Manager tool that can help you get a rough understanding of your building’s carbon footprint and determine if it’s in compliance. In order to comply with LL84, all buildings over 25,000 square feet should have already submitted their benchmarking data to the city by May 1, 2019 through the Energy Star Portfolio Manager. It’s important to note that the Energy Star tool typically displays emissions in kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent (KgCO2e) and the law lists the limits in metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (mtCO2e).Building type carbon emissions limit
Once you’ve determined your total carbon emissions, you’ll need to find out what your emissions limit is to determine if you comply. To calculate your limit, find your building type in the table above and multiply the limit by the total square footage of your building. This number is your total emissions limit per compliance period. If your total is higher than the limit, you are not in compliance.

What happens if my building is not in compliance?
You’ll need to improve the efficiency of your building, or face fines. To calculate your annual fine, convert your building’s total carbon emissions from Kg to metric tons (by dividing by 1,000), then multiply the difference between the limit imposed on your building and your building’s actual total emissions by $268. (If your eyes just glazed over, you can hire someone to do this for you.) That’s how much you’ll owe, annually. 

Or, you could make the better choice and reduce your building’s carbon footprint.

How? By developing long-term energy and emission reduction strategies and renovating the existing systems within your building. There are various retrofit projects that will reduce your building’s carbon footprint and the sooner you look into them, the better.

Some retrofit projects, like installing LED lighting, control systems, and sensors, are simpler and relatively inexpensive to implement. Others, like HVAC and heating renovations, take more invasive data collecting and testing and cost more money, but will also considerably reduce your building’s emissions.

You may not want to take on massive projects right away, but you should look into where your building draws its most energy (and therefore contributes the most emissions) and develop a plan.


Tired of reading? Let us do the work.

Contact one of our LED experts to find out how a lighting retrofit could help your building meet New York's efficiency requirements.

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Other NYC local laws 

Over the past 20 years, the city has been adding and updating energy laws regarding energy consumption and emissions of New York City buildings. LL97 is the most recent—and the most aggressive—but there are still other energy codes that need to be met.

Local law 84This law requires building owners to measure their energy and water consumption. In April of 2019, it was updated to include buildings over 25,000 square feet, lowering the building size from the previously established 50,000 square foot threshold and requiring benchmarking for midsize buildings. This law also relates to Local law 33, established in 2018, that requires buildings subject to benchmarking to obtain and disclose energy efficiency scores and grades consistent with federal energy efficiency standards. These scores are created based on the information given in the Energy Star Portfolio Manager that is used to record annual benchmarking. 

A – score is equal to or greater than 85;
B – score is equal to or greater than 70 but less than 85;
C – score is equal to or greater than 55 but less than 70;
D – score is less than 55;
F – for buildings that didn't submit required benchmarking information;
N – for buildings exempted from benchmarking or not covered by the Energy Star program.

The Urban Green Council provides the following steps to submit your benchmarking data to the city:
1. Check the Covered Buildings List for your property every year.
2. Set up an account in ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager® if you do not have one.
3. Enter or review building characteristics and uses.
4. Collect whole building energy data (and water data, if required) from utilities.
5. Record your energy and water usage in Portfolio Manager®.
6. Confirm and enter BBL and BIN information.
7. Check your data for errors and completeness.
8. Submit usage data to the City by May 1 through Portfolio Manager®.

Building owners are subject to a penalty if usage data is not submitted by May 1 every year.

Local law 85: This law requires that buildings undergoing renovation or alterations must meet the most current energy code. The New York City Energy Conservation Code (NYCECC) is comprised of local energy laws including the 2010 Energy Conservation Construction Code of New York State (ECCCNYS), Local Law 48 of 2010, and Local Law 1 of 2011

Local law 87: This law requires buildings over 50,000 square feet undergo periodic energy audits and retrofits as needed. It also requires large buildings to submit this information to the city in the form of an Energy Efficiency Report (EER). The EER includes Professional Certification Forms and Data Collection Tools that are filed electronically with the Department of Buildings (DOB).

A Professional Certification Form provides information on the following: the structure of teams performing audits and retrofits, professional seal and qualifications, whether or not the building is exempt from performing audits and retrofits, and the building owner’s statement of compliance. 

The Data Collection Tools include worksheets for building owners to fill out and submit to the DOB regarding team information, building information, equipment inventory, energy conservation measures, retrofit measures, and end-use breakdown.

Local law 88: This law requires lighting upgrades and mandatory sub-metering of commercial tenant spaces over 5,000 square feet, lowering the building size from the previously established 10,000 square foot threshold. The law was expanded upon in 2016 with local law 132 (sub-metering) and local law 134 (lighting).

Lighting in commercial spaces accounts for almost 18% of energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in New York City buildings and many buildings rely on a single meter to monitor electricity consumption. Requirements for both lighting upgrades and sub-metering are united in this law because when sub-metering is implemented in non-residential tenant spaces, individual tenants are able to determine their actual energy use rather than relying on the estimated number taken from the building's total energy consumption.

The lighting portion of this law requires common areas in residential buildings greater than 25,000 square feet and all areas in non-residential buildings greater than 25,000 square feet to upgrade lighting to meet current New York City Energy Conservation Code standards by 2025. These upgrades include: lighting controls (interior lighting controls, light reduction controls, and automatic lighting shutoff), tandem wiring, exit signs, interior lighting power requirements, and exterior lighting.


Not sure where to start? 

Download the Ultimate Guide to Retrofits in New York City



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