Presented By: Lehrer Cumming
Preparing to Comply With Local Law 97
Buildings are one of the heaviest producers of greenhouse gases in the United States, and in New York City specifically, buildings account for 65 percent of the its annual CO2 emissions. While many states have already created energy efficiency programs and regulations geared toward buildings, few have been successful in significantly reducing greenhouse gas generation.
Enter Local Law 97, New York City’s ambitious new legal mandate aimed at drastically cutting building carbon emissions, starting with a 40 percent reduction goal by 2030 and an 80 percent reduction goal by 2050. Passed in May 2019, the law applies to all buildings — whether residential, commercial, or otherwise — that exceed 25,000 square feet in size, with the first target deadline occurring in 2024. In order to meet this first deadline, and to subsequently comply with strict and ongoing emission limits, action needs to be taken immediately and strategies put into place to kickstart emission reductions.
“If you are a building owner affected by this new law, it is important to speak to an expert in order to understand what can be done to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by your specific building, and how to achieve this reduction in the most cost-effective manner,” said Gavin Middleton, chief operating officer at Lehrer Cumming.
Non-compliance with the law will result in fines that exceed the cost of compliance, although mere compliance is not the only requirement of the law. Fines will also be imposed if reports are inaccurate, false, or are not submitted on time, making it critical for building owners to meet all reporting and tracking requirements in an accurate and timely manner.
“The prime emission culprits are typically the building’s HVAC systems and the source of fuel,” Middleton said, “so the addition of improved building management systems, variable frequency drives, LED lighting, daylighting, and any number of more efficient controls can also be incorporated for better results.”
Many building owners, especially those with large portfolios, have expressed concern about meeting the first deadline in 2024 and its financial consequences, particularly as this law applies not only to new buildings, but to existing ones as well. They point out that only so much can be done with many of the older buildings in NYC, where energy efficiency was not included in the original design.
“Reskinning and window replacement projects are another option for building owners, but are usually very expensive, making them a less-than-ideal solution since financial inducements to comply are currently limited to expensive fines, with no tax incentives in place to help offset just major costs,” added Saul Levine, vice president at Lehrer Cumming. “To ensure that our clients are able meet the new regulations outlined in Local Law 97, we are already starting have their buildings analyzed in order to strategize solutions based on the energy audit results.”
Getting the initial energy audit for the building is an easy first step, as the City already tracks energy usage for each building within NYC, due to the enactment of Local Laws 84 and 87 in 2009. Once building owners have this information, they will know how extensive the changes will need to be.
“The extent of improvements necessary will depend on a variety of factors, including when your building was built, how big it is, and which upgrades may have already been made,” Levine noted. “You will want to contact a professional firm with expertise in planning, scheduling, and implementing such upgrades, to ensure that they are compliant, cost-effective, and as future-proof as possible.”