New York City; Oakland, California; and Knoxville, Tennessee, have made local strides in sustainability and resiliency that set an example for the globe. With LEED v4, they are now able to take even bigger steps. Whether building skyscrapers, developing waterfronts, or designing affordable housing, city leaders are demonstrating the ingenuity inherent in LEED strategies. The application of LEED v4 to such varied projects demonstrates its capacity for supporting city plans with sustainability built into their promise.
New York, New York
Among the U.S. cities taking proactive steps toward meeting global prerequisites for green building design, New York is a forerunner. Mayor de Blasio’s desire to see the city emerge as “the global leader in sustainability and resiliency” has resulted in the “One City, Built to Last” plan developed by the Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability. It calls for measures to improve the energy efficiency of the city’s buildings and to adapt to more renewable energy sources.
“One City, Built to Last, by Mayor de Blasio, builds off Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC from 2007, New York’s first comprehensive plan for sustainable growth,” explains Laurie Kerr, director of policy at Urban Green. PlaNYC set the goal of reducing the city’s carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030. It launched the first major efforts by any jurisdiction to address energy use in existing buildings: the Greener, Greater Building Plan; the Mayor’s Carbon Challenges; and the Green Codes Task Force.
“PlaNYC grew out of the realization that marrying planning with sustainable strategies was the best way for the city to grow and maintain quality of life,” says Kerr, adding that the realization that 75 percent of the city’s carbon emissions come from energy used in buildings helped concentrate efforts on the building sector. “Then Hurricane Sandy happened, which made the urgency for sustainability and resilience even more clear to New York’s policy makers.”
One City, Built to Last is a move from PlaNYC’s “interim goal” of 30 percent carbon reduction by 2030 to the long-term goal of an 80 percent reduction by 2050 (“80 x 50”). Achieving 80 x 50 will require three significant changes: New buildings will need to use roughly one-third the energy of traditional buildings; existing buildings must cut their energy use in half; and the majority of fuel used in buildings and cars needs to be electrified. “These are extremely demanding requirements,” notes Kerr.
In March of 2016, the New York City Council approved two important amendments to Local Law 86; they require all new city projects—starting in 2018—to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) v4 Gold certification, and to use less than half the energy of current code or of the average energy use of existing buildings as measured by benchmarking. “This is meant to create a knowledge base that can transform NYC’s design and construction industry,” explains Kerr.
Included in the new framework is the application of Passive House strategies. The term Passive House refers to a rigorous, voluntary standard for energy efficiency in a building to reduce its ecological foot-print. “Passive House has had a slow movement in the United States, but is now picking up speed,” notes Kerr. “[It] has been gaining increasing interest in NYC as a strategy, especially for residential construction.” A major project is underway on the Cornell Technion Campus, where the first high-rise residential building in the world built to Passive House standards is under construction. Additionally, several multifamily projects are being considered. “It is likely that Passive House or at least Passive House–like strategies will move into the mainstream for most residential work,” says Kerr.
What is clear is New York’s determination to design low-energy intensive buildings—both large and small—that meet LEED v4 certification requirements. By diversifying its strategies to achieve optimal performance in a variety of capacities, it promises to build itself up as a sustainable city—indeed, One City, Built to Last.