It’s being billed as the nation’s first and most extensive citywide effort to increase energy efficiency, according to New York City Planning Commission Chairwoman Amanda Burden.
Seeing as it’s about New York City, the biggest city, and one of the oldest, in the nation (1625, as New Amsterdam), it may be an even bigger deal than Burden imagines.
First, consider the fact that New York City buildings, numbering about one million, cost $15 billion a year to run, and account for 60-80 percent of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions, or GHGs, notably carbon dioxide, sulfur hexafluoride, and methane from burning fossil fuels to generate electricity.
The city’s major utility, Con Edison of New York, provides electricity to almost the entire area. It also delivers natural gas for heating and cooking to Manhattan, and steam heat to the rest of the city, using a variety of fossil fuel resources that include natural gas, coal, nuclear, hydro and oil, with minimal amounts of solar, wind and waste-to-energy.
But all that is beginning to change, and relaxed or altered zoning regulations will be a big part of that change, allowing building owners to:
- Build thicker walls to accommodate extra, or external, insulation
- Add rooftop solar panels even if they would exceed building height regulations
- Install skylights anywhere below parapets, again regardless of building height
- Install wind turbines up to half the height of the building on commercial and industrial structures taller than 100 feet
- Potentially allow rooftop greenhouses to exceed square footage and building height limits
- Add stormwater retention systems below parapets regardless of building height regulations
The new or relaxed zoning regulations, in addition to encouraging “green” construction, are aimed at getting existing building owners to retrofit with an eye to clean, renewable energy technologies and environmentally-friendly features that protect water supplies and allow for year-round food production on top of buildings – a definite plus in the heart of a a busy city.
The benefits in cleaner air and water, and improved availability of fresh food, are expected to outweigh any temporary disadvantages caused by changing the rules – disadvantages that will primarily affect the boards of the various borough (Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island) zoning boards and the New York City Council.
The zoning changes to encourage “green” build on the Power NY Act of 2011, which streamlined the siting and regulatory processes for utility-scale energy projects in excess of 25 megawatts.
Building owners wanting to take advantage of more eco-friendly zoning measures are encouraged to visit ZoLa, the Zoning and Land Use web application that offers a new and simplified way to locate the 112 rezonings and their associated land use information via interactive, reader-friendly map layers.
Developed by the Department of City Planning (DCP) and the New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT), ZoLa represents the efforts of NYC Simplicity, Mayor Bloomberg’s initiative to harness technology to make government more transparent, customer-focused, innovative and efficient.
New York City’s green initiative is the result of work by the Green Codes Task Force, which in February of 2010 was convened by the Urban Green Council to recommend changes to city regulations which would help promote clean air, clean water, and greener building profiles.
For more information on green building initiatives, energy efficiency and clean, renewable energy resources, please visit Energy Boom’s learning pages.
Image Credit: echiner1 via Flickr.
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