New York City’s Climate Mobilization Act and Its Impact on Existing Buildings

By Katie Robinson
Engineering Analyst Intern
Sustainable Investment Group (SIG)

photo of New York city at night with taxi's and Statue of LibertyThe city of New York has passed and enacted a slew of bills forming the Climate Mobilization Act in order to achieve certain sustainability and energy goals by the year 2050. This Act is credited with the potential to achieve the “equivalent of taking more than one million cars off the road by 2030 and creating measurable decreases in the nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, and particulate matter that fouls our air” [3].

One of the comprising legislature, the commitment to achieve certain reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 (Int. 1253-C), enacted May 19th, 2019, is a bill to  “establish the Office of Building Energy and Emissions Performance as well as greenhouse gas emissions limits for existing buildings” [1] – but what does this mean for property owners and managers, and what changes need to be made in order to meet the city’s new standards?

Establishment of the Office of Building Energy and Emissions Performance

This bill will set emissions and consumption limits for existing buildings in New York City. These changes are to be regulated by the newly established Office of Building Energy and Emissions Performance, which will report to the commissioner and receive consultation from the Advisory Board established for such purpose. This office is to be responsible for the following [1]:

  1. Application of building energy and emissions performance laws and policies for existing buildings, new construction and major renovations
  2. Managing protocols for assessing annual energy use in buildings
  3. Monitoring buildings’ energy use and emissions
  4. Reviewing building emissions assessment methodologies and building emissions limits
  5. Reviewing goals and timeframes to further the goal of achieving a 40 percent reduction in aggregate greenhouse gas emissions from covered buildings by calendar year 2030, relative to such emissions for the calendar year 2005
  6. Creating an online portal for the submission of annual building emissions assessments by owners
  7. Receiving and validating annual building emissions assessments
  8. Auditing building emissions assessments and inspecting covered buildings, as necessary, to ensure proper reporting
  9. Determining recommended penalties, including minimum penalties, for buildings that are noncompliant with applicable emissions limits
  10. Reviewing applications for alternative methods of compliance with building emissions limits, including adjustments of emissions limits, deductions for the purchase of greenhouse gas offsets or renewable energy credits, deductions for the use of distributed energy resources, and adjustments for special categories of buildings or for special use and occupancies
  11. Working with the mayor’s office of long-term planning and sustainability; receiving advice and recommendations, as applicable, from the advisory board
  12. Ensuring the participation and cooperation of relevant agencies

Emissions and Consumption Limits

This bill sets maximum emissions and consumption limits that are to be achieved during each 5-year calendar period. These limits vary by building type and occupancy group, as shown below.

Figure 1. Building Emissions Limits by Occupancy Group and Date [1]

Occupancy Group Building Emissions Limits 2024-2029 Building Emissions Limits 2030-2034
Assembly (A) 0.01074 tCO2e/sf 0.00420 tCO2e/sf
Business (B) 0.00846 tCO2e/sf 0.00453 tCO2e/sf
Educational (E) and Institutional (I-4) 0.00758 tCO2e/sf 0.00344 tCO2e/sf
Institutional (I-1) 0.01138 tCO2e/sf 0.00598 tCO2e/sf
Factory and Industrial (F) 0.00574 tCO2e/sf 0.00167 tCO2e/sf
Business (B – emergency response services, non-production laboratory, ambulatory health care), High Hazard (H), and Institutional (I-2, I-3) 0.02381 tCO2e/sf 0.01193 tCO2e/sf
Mercantile (M) 0.01181 tCO2e/sf 0.00403 tCO2e/sf
Residential (R-1) 0.00987 tCO2e/sf 0.00526 tCO2e/sf
Residential (R-2) 0.00675 tCO2e/sf 0.00407 tCO2e/sf
Storage (S) and Utility (U) 0.00426 tCO2e/sf 0.00110 tCO2e/sf

Further description of Occupancy Groups may be read here [2].

Figure 2. Greenhouse Gas Coefficient of Energy Consumption [1]

Energy Source Greenhouse Gas Coefficient 2024-2029
Electricity 0.000288962 tCO2e per kilowatt hour
Natural Gas 0.00005311 tCO2e per kbtu
#2 Fuel Oil 0.00007421 tCO2e per kbtu
#4 Fuel Oil 0.00007529 tCO2e per kbtu
District Steam 0.00004493 tCO2e per kbtu

Consumption and emissions limits for future calendar years will be determined by January 1, 2023 with input from the newly established office, the commissioner and the advisory group. The department may deduct from minimum emissions reporting required should the owner demonstrate the purchase of greenhouse gas offsets or renewable energy credits. These deductions are analyzed separately for renewable energy credits, purchased greenhouse gas offsets and for clean distributed energy sources.

Additional Carbon Emission Requirements

By December 31, 2024, the building owner shall ensure that the following energy conservation measures have been implemented where applicable [1]:

  1. Adjusting temperature set points for heat and hot water to reflect appropriate space occupancy and facility requirements
  2. Repairing all heating system leaks
  3. Maintaining the heating system, including but not limited to ensuring that system component parts are clean and in good operating condition
  4. Installing individual temperature controls or insulated radiator enclosures with temperature controls on all radiators
  5. Insulating all pipes for heating and/or hot water
  6. Insulating the steam system condensate tank or water tank
  7. Installing indoor and outdoor heating system sensors and boiler controls to allow for proper set-points
  8. Replacing or repairing all steam traps such that all are in working order
  9. Installing or upgrading steam system master venting at the ends of mains, large horizontal pipes, and tops of risers, vertical pipes branching off a main
  10. Upgrading lighting to comply with the standards for new systems set forth in section 805 of the New York city energy conservation code
  11. Weatherizing and air sealing where appropriate, including windows and ductwork, with focus on whole-building insulation
  12. Installing timers on exhaust fans
  13. Installing radiant barriers behind all radiators

Owner Reporting and Assistance Programs

The owner of a building is required to submit a report claiming compliance or non-compliance by May 1 of 2025 and by May 1 of every year thereafter. The office of building energy and emissions performance will offer assistance, outreach and education programs for assisting building owners in maintaining proper compliance.

Penalties for Noncompliance, Failure to Report and False Reporting

Those buildings reporting noncompliance are liable for a civil penalty of “not more than an amount equal to the difference between the building emissions limit for such year and the reported building emissions for such year, multiplied by $268” [1]. However, the civil penalty may be lower than said value as determined by a court or administrative tribunal.

A building owner failing to submit an annual report shall be liable for “a penalty of not more than an amount equal to the gross floor area of such covered building, multiplied by $0.50, for each month that the violation is not corrected within the 12 months following the reporting deadline” [1]. A false statement included in official reports or other submissions filed with the office shall be determined a criminal misdemeanor and the owner shall be found subject to a fine of up to $500,000 or imprisonment of up to 30 days, or some combination thereof.

Adjustments to Applicable Annual Building Emissions

The Office of Building Energy and Emissions Performance may grant adjustments to emissions limits for buildings demonstrating special circumstances, or such buildings that demonstrate compliance with conservation codes having taken effect on January 1, 2015 provided the owner of said building has submitted a plan to the department detailing a schedule of changes to ensure compliance by the following calendar year group.

The Next Step for Building Owners

Those building owners unsure of how to achieve these emissions limits and other requirements are encouraged to seek the consultation of experienced energy engineers to “conduct an energy audit that looks at both capital and operational improvements to reduce greenhouse gases” [4]. The team at Sustainable Investment Group is an experienced and qualified example of such consultant groups. We would be happy to field your questions and get your building on the path to sustainable business, both as required and desired.

Sustainable Resources

If you are interested in how your business can become LEED certified, want to improve your office’s energy performance, or want cut costs in other ways, please visit our website. Sustainable Investment Group (SIG) provides Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Consulting, LEED Exam Prep TrainingGreen Building Consulting, and Technical Services from our offices in Atlanta, GA; Boulder, CO; Minneapolis, MN; New York, NY and San Francisco, CA.



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