NYC Has a New Energy Conservation Code

Click the play button to view the beginning of last week’s “Show Snapshots” event. (Watch parts two and three of the video on our Multimedia page.)

Last Wednesday, news was made at the Davis & Warshow bath products showroom. Hilary Beber, a policy analyst in Mayor Bloomberg’s office of long-term planning and sustainability and a panelist that evening, came to the event directly from a City Council meeting where legislators unanimously passed New York City’s new Energy Conservation Code. It was an exciting and hopeful moment for the 200 or so NYC interior designers and architects in attendance, especially since, earlier that week, reports that the new code had been emasculated circulated in our local media.

Hilary Beber and Rick Cook at last week’s event

And, so, the designers present got much more than they expected when they signed up to be part the showroom’s annual “Show Snapshots from Greenbuild,” organized by Metropolis. Beber kicked off her presentation of the finer points from our new energy code (effective July 1, 2010), which pushes the city’s building owners to reach new levels of efficiency in the coming years. The ruling will also help create nearly 18,000 new jobs–a modest number, to be sure, since the city has reported a loss of around 200,000 jobs in 2009, with the architecture, interior design,  and construction segments having been hit especially hard. Rick Cook, a panelist, gave a personal scale to these local hardships when he remarked that last year his firm, Cook + Fox, sent 22 people to Greenbuild; this year only the two principals attended.

The breakthrough part of the new NYC energy code, reported Beber, had to do with a loophole that building owners could slip through using the International Energy Conservation Code (or IECC, currently a standard in 42 U.S. states.) This, as the mayor’s office explains, allowed “building owners to perpetuate non-compliant systems if they perform renovations on less than half of a given building system.” The new legislation, adds the mayor’s office, “requires all buildings to comply fully with the IECC for those portions of a system being renovated. This means any time a renovation takes place in one of the city’s one million buildings, this work must conform to a set of easily applied standards, a move which will lead our buildings to greater energy efficiency as renovations take place.” According to the same report, an annual savings of $700 million will be realized as a result of the new code. A $16 million package of federal stimulus funds, specifically allocated to energy savings, will also help us cut back on pollution generated by old boilers, furnaces, and power plants. Benchmarking, sub-metering, and audits are also part of the new energy code; read the full details of this legislation on

Just so that you don’t think we forgot our assignment to report on Greenbuild 2009, panelists Beber and Cook, with me as moderator, covered in some detail everything from a buff Al Gore’s folksy talk to a huge, nearly 28,000 strong crowd at Diamondback stadium to our various observations on big topics like urban responses to climate change; the many efforts and approaches to upgrading existing buildings; and the metrics that make low carbon, tight urban development attractive to investors. But, for me, the best thing about that Wednesday evening was the feeling that the green movement, which is certainly symbolized by the growth of Greenbuild, is thriving at the local level, where codes and other initiatives are about to confront the challenges of the 21st century head on.

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