New York Local Law 97 sets the standard for mandatory municipal renovations: sign

Progressive global cities such as New York, Toronto, Vancouver and Melbourne are leading the charge to address urban climate change through mandatory and impactful action taken by their city governments.

This was the key policy imperative identified by a panel convened by SvN Architects + Planners of Toronto as part of a new LinkedIn Live series dubbed SvN Speaks.

The June 1 panel session focused on New York City and its aggressive Local Law Number 97, passed by the City Council in March 2019 as part of the Climate Mobilization Act. The law requires most large existing buildings – over 25,000 square feet – to reduce their emissions by 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050. Most buildings of this size will have to meet the new emission limits. energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions by 2024. .

The law is groundbreaking because it targets existing buildings and compels owners to take action, investing in renovation and modernization.

Panelist David Miller, former mayor of Toronto and currently chief executive of the C40 Center for Urban Climate Policy and Economy, highlighted civic leadership in these major cities as well as participation in active global alliances as two keys to progress.

“What is in the heart of New York? A deliberate government-led action,” Miller said.

“This knowledge can spread rapidly at global scale and pace, given the urgency of the climate crisis. We need to use these best practices to work somewhere and make sure they can work everywhere.”

Miller’s other panelist was Lolita Jackson, former Special Advisor for Climate Policy for New York City, and the live-streamed event was moderated by Aaron Budd, Director of Regenerative Practice at SvN.

In addition to Local Law 97, last year New York took another bold step toward electrifying its buildings with another law that mandates the phasing out of fossil fuels in new buildings as early as 2023, accelerating the construction of fully electric buildings.

“Creating progressive legislation is easy and competitive with enacting it,” Budd said. “This often involves multi-year negotiations between municipalities, industry, stakeholders, utility companies, and provincial or state governments.”

Jackson noted that New York City has a history of progressive city policies such as implementing urban heat islands and inclusive zoning dating back 15 years, and using science and data.

“We have the data indicating that this is where things are happening, where they are coming from, and obviously we had the catalyst incident of Hurricane Sandy to really accelerate the things that we are doing,” he said. she declared. “I can’t stress enough that because we already had people’s trust, we were doing this based on science, not as sentiment.”

Seventy percent of New York’s total greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings, Jackson said, and 65 percent of those emissions come from commercial buildings.

“We felt as a city that it was important to deal with the biggest buildings and the biggest emitters, the first 40,000 buildings just in New York,” she noted, out of one million buildings.

Local Law 97 has been carefully crafted to ensure compliance with specific needs and uses. Buildings have different compliance caps depending on the carbon intensity of use. For example, healthcare buildings are required to maintain security, “so we ultimately gave them as loose a requirement as possible without giving them a pass,” Jackson said. And the regulations for home renovations were designed to avoid triggering massive rent increases.

Miller said that in general there is a strong economic case for the program given that many tall buildings will still be standing 50 years from now.

“There is absolutely no doubt that energy improvements will pay off over time,” he said.

“The challenge is that building owners want their capital to be repaid in two or three years sometimes. They are therefore not prepared to accept a longer payback period which, depending on interest rates and the price of natural gas, could be 10 to 20 years.

Property-rated clean energy loans are available to property owners to fund renovations.

Asked about other important municipal initiatives around the world, Miller mentioned Toronto’s green standards and its participation in the Better Buildings program, as well as Sydney and Melbourne in Australia. And Vancouver is an interesting example of leadership, he said, with one of the most advanced building codes in the world.

“This is going to lead to a complete revolution in the construction industry,” Miller commented.

Follow the author on Twitter @DonWall_DCN.

Melissa C. Keyes