New York City’s Drive Toward 80 by 50 Gathers Steam

Many members of New York City’s green building community were slightly worried that the sustainability programs and initiatives started during the Bloomberg administration would perhaps not continue with the needed momentum under the current Mayor Bill de Blasio. In other words, we were not sure if the city would be able to retain its leadership role in the global community of major metropolitan areas tackling greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. Now, in light of recent policy announcements, appointments and developments, I am optimistic that New York City will in fact solidify its leadership!

Last Monday I had the good fortune of attending the launch party of the Building Energy Exchange (or BEEx), a New York City-based nonprofit with a mission to advance energy efficiency in the built environment. The party celebrated the organization’s re-branding from Green Light New York to BEEx, the launch of its revamped website, and the planned expansion of its resource center on the sixth floor of the ornate Surrogate Court building a stone’s throw from New York City Hall. Many, if not most, of New York’s green building leaders from the design, construction and real estate sectors were in attendance, as were several City Council members and energy/utility executives. Here you can view some photos of the event.

But let’s back up for a moment: Last September, coinciding with the UN Climate Summit in New York City, the de Blasio administration released its One City: Built to Last report, delineating a roadmap to 80 by 50, meaning 80% citywide greenhouse gas emissions reductions by 2050 – with building efficiency being front and center. To achieve this lofty goal, basically every single existing building in the city will have to use energy more efficiently – not only the Class-A office towers, but also Class-B and C buildings, not only shiny new condominiums, but also public housing projects and tenements. In short, a truly monumental lift will be required.

Three key players to make this lift happen have now been identified.

  1. The NYC Office of Sustainability (the result of a merger of the Mayor’s Office of Environmental Coordination with the Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability) and its newly minted leader, Nilda Mesa.
  2. The New York City Energy Efficiency Corporation (NYCEEC).
  3. The Building Energy Exchange. Together they are charged with breathing life into the mayor’s “Retrofit Accelerator” initiative which is key to reaching New York City’s real estate community and establishing technically and economically viable pathways for energy efficiency retrofits in private sector buildings.
Kenneth Smith of the Empire State Development Corporation announces a $3.5M grant to New York City to push forward to 80 by 50 agenda, much of it going to BEEx as the resource hub for the Retrofit Accelerator. Photo credit: Building Energy Exchange, New York City

Kenneth Smith of the Empire State Development Corporation announces a $3.5M grant to New York City to push forward to 80 by 50 agenda, much of it going to BEEx as the resource hub for the Retrofit Accelerator. Photo credit: Building Energy Exchange, New York City

Back to the BEEx launch event – one major announcement by Kenneth Adams, President & CEO of the Empire State Development, a New York State agency, was met with a collective gasp and applause and also picked up by the Wall Street Journal the following day: A $3.5M grant was awarded to New York City to push forward to 80 by 50 agenda, much of it going to BEEx as the resource hub for the Retrofit Accelerator. So it seems that the momentum for tackling existing building energy efficiency on scale is building up, both in terms of an organizational structure coming into focus and serious funding being allocated. At Urban Fabrick we are looking forward to witnessing great progress in 2015 and beyond!

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