By David Giambusso
5:14 a.m. | Mar. 16, 2016
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s buildings working group is about two months late with recommendations it was supposed to make on cutting building emissions across the city. But now one of the biggest players in the group has released its own report detailing ideas for reducing carbon emissions in city buildings.
The Urban Green Council examined five cities around the world and how they approach cutting building emissions. The group, which routinely counsels New York on building efficiency, praised the city for its ambition, but suggested New York’s codes could be significantly improved to help reach de Blasio’s stated goal of cutting building emissions by 80 percent by 2050.
“If buildings were cars, the approach taken by New York and most American cities would be like regulating vehicle weight and engine size rather than simply mandating overall fuel efficiency,” the report, “Worldwide Lessons,” states.
The report looked at approaches taken by London, Frankfurt, San Francisco, Sydney and Singapore and compared them to what’s happened in New York.
“There is almost a sort of myth-making going on in what’s happening in other cities in other countries,” Russell Unger, head of UGC, said in an interview. “There were ways that other cities had a lot for us to learn and there were ways that New York City is ahead of the pack in terms of ambitions and goals.”
The report culled three major recommendations based on observations of other cities.
The first was that New York should stop prescribing specific cures for building energy consumption and instead mandate a baseline for overall energy use, such as is done in London, Frankfurt and San Francisco.
“Energy codes that rely primarily on prescriptive requirements limit aggressive energy and carbon reductions,” the report states. “By discouraging a whole-building approach, these codes limit flexibility in design and cost.”
Second, the report recommends a public grading system, such as the one the city’s Department of Health uses to grade restaurants. The city uses a complex series of metrics to grade the cleanliness of food establishments and those grades are posted publicly in restaurant windows.
UGC recommends doing the same for building energy efficiency and use of clean energy. London has such a program as does Frankfurt, though only for larger buildings.
“The leading [building] owners in the city are competing for the top tenants and the tenants have sustainability as part of the metrics they’re requiring when they’re looking,” Unger said.
Finally, the report recommends “a formalized approach to training and certifying its construction workforce,” that would provide training for workers and require they keep up with fast-emerging technologies and methods.
“London and Frankfurt have clear road maps for identifying skill gaps and improving construction workforce education,” the report said. “They also have developed training courses for practical techniques, case studies, and manuals of pre-approved architectural details. ”
The Urban Green Council is a key player in the buildings working group that de Blasio convened, and to that extent, their ideas will likely play a role in the group’s recommendations, whenever it is they come.
Nilda Mesa, de Blasio’s sustainability director, testified the recommendations would be released in January of this year. City Hall did not provide a specific timeline for when they would come out or say what the reason was for delay.
“The City is both retrofitting its own buildings and simultaneously working through our Technical Working Group — on which UGC is a key partner — to evaluate the best paths forward on private retrofits,” spokeswoman Amy Spitalnick said in an email. “We welcome these recommendations and UGC’s continued collaboration as we push toward the goals outlined in One City: Built to Last and OneNYC and a greener, more sustainable city. We expect the TWG to issue its report soon.”
The full report can be read here: http://bit.ly/1S2NwC7