To reduce carbon emissions from buildings, the City of New York approved Local Law 97 (LL97) in 2019 as a part of the Climate Mobilization Act. This local law 97 places carbon caps on most buildings larger than 25,000 square feet.
There are about 50,000 residential and commercial properties across NYC. Local law compliance starts in 2024 and will become more stringent over time, eventually reducing emissions by 80 percent by 2050.
HOW DO I DETERMINE IF MY PROPERTY IS SUBJECT TO LOCAL LAW 97 ?:
If your property is subject to the NYC Benchmarking Law aka local law 84 (requiring annual energy and water use reporting), it is subject to the building emissions law aka local law 97. The city issues an annual Covered Buildings List. please click here to download the list.
WHAT’S THE CARBON EMISSIONS LIMIT FOR MY BUILDING?
This depends on what is your building occupancy group. There are ten building categories. Local law 97 sets emissions intensity limits (metric tons of CO2e per square foot) for these10 building categories based on Building Code occupancy groups. But the answer for each individual building is not simple. There are certain exemptions. Rent-regulated units are not subject to emissions limits at all. And mixed-use buildings, such as a residential apartment building with a ground-floor supermarket or retail store, will have limits that reflect their unique blend of occupancy groups.
HOW MUCH CARBON DOES MY BUILDING EMIT?
To see a building’s annual emissions intensity based on the most recent benchmarking submissions, search by borough-block-lot (BBL) number or type in your street address at Metered.NYC.
Scroll down to “GHG Emissions / sq.ft.” which is highlighted in green. Multiply that emissions intensity by a building’s total area (in square feet) to determine annual carbon emissions for the applicable year.
Calculating total building emissions depends on an “emissions factor” applied to each source of energy (e.g. natural gas, electricity, or district steam) based on its associated carbon pollution. The benchmarking platform and Metered.NYC uses emissions factors from the EPA’s Portfolio Manager tool.
HOW DO I REDUCE MY BUILDING’S CARBON EMISSIONS?: Saving energy will be the most effective way to reduce a building’s carbon emissions. Different fuel sources have different carbon intensities, so targeting the most carbon-intensive fuels will yield the biggest carbon saving.
A low-cost first step is training building operations staff on energy efficiency best practices. Changes to equipment schedules, temperature setpoints, and other characteristics can reduce energy use without added cost.
Urban Green recommends GPRO Operations & Maintenance Essentials will help enable building staff to make these adjustments and save energy immediately.
DOES THE LAW INCLUDE NEW FINANCING OPTIONS TO HELP PAY FOR ENERGY EFFICIENCY WORK?: Along with the building emissions law, the City Council passed Local Law 96 to Establish a loan program called Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing. PACE loans fund energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. They have low (or no) upfront costs, low-interest rates, and longer terms, and they are repaid through a building’s property tax bill.
NYC’s PACE program is sponsored by the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability (MOS) and administered by the New York City Energy Efficiency Corporation (NYCEEC) and the New York City Department of Finance. Read more about the PACE program, including eligibility and terms, on the NYCEEC website.
WHAT IF I CAN’T COMPLY BY REDUCING ENERGY USE ALONE?: In addition to energy efficiency, the law provides some flexibility for buildings to comply with any of the following:
A new department within the NYC Department of Buildings will also have the authority to grant exceptions, for reasons such as financial hardship and practical constraints (like lack of access to building systems due to existing leases). Ultimately, failure to comply will result in fines.
WHICH RENEWABLE ENERGY CREDITS OR GREENHOUSE GAS OFFSETS CAN I PURCHASE?
Renewable energy credits (RECs) are limited to energy generated or sinking into the NYC grid. The law allows up to 100 percent offset of building emissions through the purchase of RECs from a source “located in, or whose output directly sinks into, the zone J load zone,” which is NYC’s electric grid zone. Further details will be specified in the Department of Buildings rules.
Greenhouse gas offsets (like credits for planting trees) have no express geographic limitation, though they are capped at 10 percent of a building’s annual emissions limit. Again, further details will be specified in the Department of Buildings rules.
ARE NEW BUILDINGS BUILT TO THE MOST RECENT ENERGY CODE REQUIRED TO COMPLY? Yes. Covered buildings are required to comply with emissions limits or other applicable requirements regardless of energy code compliance.
HOW LARGE ARE THE FINES? The law creates fines for two types of violations, with a third type also considered a misdemeanor:
For example, a 50,000 square-foot multifamily residential building emitting 350 metric tons of carbon would be 12.5 metric tons over its 2024-2029 limit and pay a fine of not more than $3,350. Fines are assessed on an annual basis.
WHAT ABOUT AFFORDABLE HOUSING?:
Affordable housing is not exempt from local law 97 compliance.
ARE HOSPITALS GIVEN DIFFERENT REQUIREMENTS?
Yes. Owners of hospitals can apply for a percent reduction requirement rather than a cap. If they apply by July 2021, they are required to reduce carbon emissions 15 percent below 2018 levels for 2024-2029, and 30 percent below 2018 levels for 2030-2034.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN “CARBON EMISSIONS” AND “ENERGY USE”?
Buildings use many types of energy, such as electricity, natural gas, different types of fuel oil, and steam. Carbon emissions come from burning fossil fuels.
These different types of energy use release different amounts of carbon. To calculate building carbon emissions, each type of energy use must be multiplied by an “emissions factor” (also called a “greenhouse gas coefficient”) to convert from energy use to carbon emitted.
HOW MUCH CARBON COMES FROM EACH TYPE OF ENERGY? :
Below is the table which provides the information.
Owners will also have the option to calculate electricity carbon intensity based on time of use. Further details is given in the Department of Buildings rules.
HOW CAN I FIND THE TEXT OF THE LEGISLATION? The original building emissions law is available on the New York City Council website here. A number of its provisions were amended in a technical update available here.