By: Nancy Anderson, Ph.D.
January 04, 2007
New York joins the A list of sustainable cities in January 2007 as it puts Local Law 86, its high performance "green" building statute, into effect. But as with many things, the devil's in the details and many of those details should be in the rules now undergoing public review. Given the practical importance of these rules, in February 2006, the Sallan Foundation convened the first of many meetings of the Local Law 86 Roundtable. The Roundtable assembled experts and advocates who shared their ideas, learned from each other and conveyed to the Bloomberg Administration both support for the new law and advice on how to make a success of something so new and so ambitious. As underlined in my recent testimony on these rules, "Roll out of Local Law 86 will be the first major deliverable in Mayor Bloomberg's sustainable development initiative, "plaNYC", and, it's the only part of his initiative that has the force of law."
In light of our high hopes for making high performance building the "new normal", this edition of Torchlight presents on-the-record testimony made by Roundtable participants on January 2, 2007 about Local Law 86's proposed rules. Given the high stakes involved in succeeding, it is my hope that this testimony informs and inspires sustained attention to the rollout of "plaNYC".
Nancy Anderson, the Sallan Foundation
Good Afternoon. I am Nancy Anderson, Executive Director of the Sallan Foundation, whose mission is advancing useful knowledge for a greener city. Thank you for the opportunity to provide comments about the Local Law 86 draft rules.
Roll out of Local Law 86 will be the first major deliverable in Mayor Bloomberg's sustainable development initiative, "plaNYC" and, it's the only part of his initiative that has the force of law. As such, all eyes will be on the impact and efficacy of this statute in the New Year and for years to come.
It is important to state on the record that these draft rules offer a generally robust framework for implementing Local Law 86. Let me point to three examples of this strength — which could be made even stronger with certain additions to the final rules. First, although the Local Law 86 definition of the term "capital project" is incorporated by reference in the draft regulations, it should be expanded in the final rule to clarify that the law covers a broad class of City funded projects where monies come from the City treasury but originate with State or Federal sources. The definition of "capital project" should also clarify that the law covers all City agencies and entities, including the City's Economic Development Corporation, units of the Mayor's Office and the offices of the five Borough Presidents.
Second, it is my understanding that the United States Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards governing City-funded construction and renovation will be synchronized with LEED updates through new rule making by the Mayor's Office of Environmental Coordination (OEC). Such coordination is essential for making Local Law 86 a living document in a fast-evolving arena. Language in Section 10-02 of the regulations should be sharpened to clarify this process. Third, responsibility for implementation, administration and oversight is properly centralized directly in OEC. Given that many government and non-government entities will be called on to ensure the success of this local law, creation of a responsibility center is good management.
Let me turn now to the exemption criteria as a means to support successful implementation. Section 10-07 of the draft rules sets forth the authority of OEC to grant exemptions from the provisions of Local Law 86. As drafted, the exemption language sets forth broad but vague and inadequate criteria. Here are four suggestions for establishing a more workable standard. First, No more than 10% of exemptions granted by OEC in any one fiscal year may be for projects in any one borough that would otherwise have to be built to LEED or LEED equivalent standards. Adoption of such language would insure that all boroughs equal benefit equally from the impact of LL 86. Second, no project designed to achieve LEED certification or an equivalent standard shall be exempted by OEC from LL 86 construction or renovation requirements. This provision shall also apply to any LEED certification or equivalent standard projects that are part of any mixed-use projects.
Third, any request by a City agency or other entity for an exemption as outlined in section 10-04 of this chapter, and all explanations and supporting documentation submitted as part of that request by such City agency or entity, shall be published on the OEC website 90 days prior to the issuance of a decision by OEC about whether to grant such exemption. The public shall have 45 days from this publication date to submit comments on the proposed exemption to OEC These comments shall become part of the public record and shall be included in OEC's final decision about any exemption request. Each final decision shall be published on the OEC website five days prior to the granting of any exemption.
Fourth, to maximize compliance with Local Law 86 by all City agencies and entities that receive funds from the City treasury, any City agency or entity that files no exemption requests over a three year period shall receive in their budgets 65% of the savings accrued from lower use of fuel and electric over that time period. Non-government entities shall be granted a one-time real property tax waiver equivalent to 65% of the savings accrued from lower use of fuel and electric over that time period. Records of such savings shall be submitted in writing to OEM and OEM shall use its discretion in making the decisions whether to grant such funds or waivers in part or in whole. These four proposals are in the spirit of the language in Section 224.1(h) of Local Law 86, which require the Mayor to submit an annual report to the City council on granted exemptions.
Finally, let me turn to the Annual Report provisions found in Section 10-06(b)(2) of the draft rules. Section 3 of Local Law 86 sets forth certain categories of information that must be provided in the annual report written by OEC. They include "a list and brief description, including square footage and total cost, of any capital project" subject to the law as well as the estimated level of covered projects' LEED certification. The statutory language also requires "an assessment of health, environmental and energy-related benefits achieved" in addition to other data on energy efficiency investments and payback times.
The public disclosure, analysis, assessment and planning functions of the Local Law 86 Annual Report would be improved with the stipulation of broader and deeper set of reporting requirements in the final rule. In May 2006, at the request of the Mayor's Office, the Local Law 86 Roundtable convened by the Sallan Foundation prepared and submitted a set of recommendations about how to achieve these purposes. Among the highlights of the Roundtable's recommendations were that the report should establish a uniform reporting framework consisting of milestones that apply to all agencies and entities covered by the law. This framework would fulfill two functions of value both to the government and the public. First, it would clarify what specific LEED or LEED equivalent goals that milestones are intended to meet. (ex: projected fuel savings or use of mass transit by City employee building occupants.) Second, over time such a reporting framework could provide comparable quantitative data sets about how these milestones are being met. In turn, this would allow for a pattern analysis based on succeeding annual reports. Today, I am submitting this recommendations document as part of my testimony and I urge OEM to adopt its approach as part of its final rulemaking.
Stephen Boese, Healthy Schools Network
Thank you for providing us the opportunity to offer our comments regarding the proposed rules for green building standards for New York City, implementing Local Law 86. Healthy Schools Network is a national children's environmental health advocacy organization with roots in New York City and New York State. Our work in green design for schools begins with our advocacy for healthy and safe schools for all school children. The full array of laudable green design benefits, including energy efficiency, conservation of resources and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions must also be integrated with design benefits that promote improved children's health, enhances children's learning and provides a quality learning environment for children and school staff.
We support Local Law 86 because it represents a step in the right direction for promoting healthy and high performance school design. Local Law 86 presents a tremendous opportunity for the New York City Education Department and the New York City School Construction Authority to work together with the administration to develop child centered green designed schools that would facilitate the critically important goals of
- improving children's academic achievement
- improving children's health
- reducing the impact of the city's terrible asthma epidemic on our city's children
all of which can be accomplished while saving resources for the city. Schools also represent the biggest component of Local Law 86. New York is now implementing a funded $13 billion school construction plan and the impending resolution of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit promise additional school capital funds. In addition, public schools are a part of every community and neighborhood in the city. And of course, schools are where we keep our children everyday. For six hours or more everyday, children breathe the air in their school. They live and learn in the classrooms and hallways. The school not only has a direct impact on their health and ability to learn, but the overall environment of the school itself "teaches" important lessons to the students about the value of education, the city's commitment to their health and well being. A healthy and high performance school also teaches students about the value of environmental stewardship, and serves as a valuable reinforcer of the value of environmental stewardship in communities throughout the city and for future generations. Schools are central to the City's sustainability goals, as well as to the success of Local Law 86.
The law states that schools must meet LEED certification standards. We have long held that this is a step in the right direction, yet Local Law 86 also represents an excellent opportunity for the city to surpass LEED certification standards and make some potentially profound steps towards improving the lives of children, schools, education, and the neighborhoods and communities of our city. We have advocated for New York City schools to meet instead the NY-CHPS standard, a child focused high performance school design guideline developed by NYSERDA and the New York State Education Department.
All of which makes us question why there is so little in the City's proposed guidelines regarding schools, school children and the potential benefits of healthy and high performance green design. We cannot at this point comment as to whether the planned impact of Local Law 86 is supportive of children's health, learning and well being because there is no detail in the proposed guidelines regarding how schools will comply with the new law. We understand the School Construction Authority has been conducting an extensive process to develop their own school design guidelines to comply with the new law. We have further found that this process has been closed, without the opportunity for public comment or input. The law may permit a closed process for schools. However, for all the reasons outlines above, school design is a community issue, with implications for public health, community development and neighborhood sustainability. If any component of Local Law 86 implementation warrants public input, then certainly schools should be at the top of the list.
We urge the administration to make public the SCA school design guidelines, and to provide an opportunity for community input. Green schools have succeeded where all members of the school community have offered their input on the use, benefits and functionality of the school. Top-down central planning such as is now being demonstrated by the SCA and the administration is not conducive to quality high performance school design. We therefore urge the SCA and the administration to
- publicly disclose their school high performance design guidelines
- provide ample opportunity for community input
- provide an opportunity for technical review by high performance design experts
- the SCA should also provide a side-by-side spreadsheet style analysis of their green design criteria in comparison to LEED and NY-CHPS to facilitate understanding of their proposal
We of course hope that the SCA's plan for complying with Local Law 86 is in fact child centered and focused on children and all building occupants, and that they are aiming to achieve a healthy and high performance design template that will promote the highest ideals of green and high performance school design. However, a critically important component to the high performance school design process is community input. We hope that a draft of the planned SCA high performance school design guidelines will soon be made available for public comment. We welcome the opportunity to work constructively with the SCA and the administration to achieve the best possible high performance design guideline that will not only meet the needs of children and educators throughout the city, but also serve as a national model of community influenced green design for schools in a complex urban environment.
Stephan Chenault, Sierra Club, New York City Group
The Sierra Club, New York City Group, is supportive of the City of New York's growing commitment toward environmentally sound and healthy building design and construction. In this regards, Local Law 86 and its adoption of LEED certification standards is a welcome step forward.
In addition, the Sierra Club urges the City of New York to ensure the implementation of LL86 with LEED standards for Material and Resources, specifically the following:
- MR Credit 5.1 and 5.2: Regional Materials;
- MR Credit 6: Rapidly Renewable Materials; and,
- MR Credit 7: Certified Wood.
These measures are essential to ensure the City of New York contributes to the conservation of natural resources, including forests, which are of invaluable ecological, cultural, and economic importance. The Forest Stewardship Council, an international certification program supported by environmental, labor, and human rights groups across the globe, is currently the only accrediting body that meets the high standards to protect these ecological, human rights, and economic values. LEED standards call for the use of Forest Stewardship Council certified wood and it is essential that this FSC standard remain intact in LL86 implementation. In addition, the regional materials credits would support the local economy and businesses. Thank you for your attention to these recommendations.
Chris Garvin, Cook + Fox
Thank you for meeting with me, as part of the LL86 Roundtable, last week to discuss the implementation rules for Local Law 86. It was an informative meeting and I would like to commend your office's work on developing the draft rules.
The following are suggestions that we have developed that we believe would improve the rules and the process of their implementation:
- Under the definition for 'substantial reconstruction', the phase 'the building's floor area' should be expanded to 'the building's floor area of the city controlled portion of the building' in order to address significant renovation of leased space in large buildings. In addition, there may need to be a minimum square footage that is attached to the definition to clarify the applicability. This would also address the issue of multi-use buildings in which the city funding is for only a portion of the overall building.
- Under the definition for 'reporting form', the requirements should be more specific in order to give the OEC more data from which to understand the values of each project. Specifically, aligning the reporting requirements to the issues raised by the Mayor's Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability, specifically CO2 emissions. In general, basic building data (area, floor size, use type(s)), mechanical system type, fuel type, LEED checklist (when applicable), energy reduction calculations, and water reduction calculations. This will allow the City to quickly and easily measure progress toward meeting the City's Sustainability goals.
- Regarding 'an alternative, not less stringent, green building standard', in order to meet this requirement any alternative standard must maintain the third-party verification protocols that occurs with the LEED programs in order to be equivalent. Any other type of standard would be seen as an attempt to subvert the intent of the law.
- Under the 'Statement of Basis and Purpose', second paragraph, an additional power and duties of the Director of the OEC should be "updating the green building standard to the most up-to-date version as deemed appropriate and that all 'equal' standards are also updated accordingly."
- The current draft rules reference LEED v2.1 for the energy calculation methodology, to reduce confusion and ease implementation this should be revised to reference LEED v.2.2 and as subsequently amended.
- Under section 10-07 Exemptions, to insure equity and appropriateness of exemptions the City needs to improve the exemption policy by requiring cost analysis and life cycle analysis to any project requesting exemption in order to provide the Director of the OEC with legitimate (third party verified) data from which to make decisions.
- The City must implement a large scale educational program to communicate the requirements and develop the skills needed to fulfill the promise of Local Law 86. Both municipal employees at all affected agencies and municipal vendors and contractors need to be acting in concert with the spirit of the law for it to truly succeed.
- In the larger context, it is urgent that the City Council and Mayor move forward with legislation that requires ALL new construction and substantial renovations in the City meet LEED requirements similar to the recently passed Washing DC legislation. For details of the legislation download a PDF of the District of Columbia Green Building Act of 2005.
Personally, I am proud of the City Council and Mayor's Office for developing this legislation and hope that the implementation throughout all of the City Agencies is as successful as possible. We look forward to working on future legislation that is even more ambitious to transform the entire building industry in New York City in to an wold-class example of Sustainability.
Eva Hanhardt, Pratt Institute
My name is Eva Hanhardt and I am an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Planning and the Coordinator of the Environmental Systems Management Program at the Pratt Institute Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment. I appreciate the opportunity to provide comments about the Local Law 86 draft rules.
I want to commend the Bloomberg Administration for its commitment to the successful implementation Local Law 86. which will be one of the first major deliverables in Mayor Bloomberg's sustainable development initiative. As a Professor of Planning, I am particularly pleased that implementation of plans for "green" energy efficient high performance development will be supported with the force of law.
Indeed, the draft rules offer an excellent framework for implementing Local Law 86. There are several particular areas, however, where I feel additional clarification would improve their effectiveness.
- In respect to S10-07 — Exemptions — It would be extremely important to have some identification of findings that the Director of the Office of Environmental Coordination would be using in determining ", in his or her sole discretion, such exemption is necessary in the public interest." Such a clarification would serve to make the process more transparent and predictable for all concerned — agencies as well as the general public. Examples of findings can already be found in considering variances at the Board of Standards and Appeals and special permits at City Planning.
- The draft rules state that "Requests for exemption, including an explanation of the reason for such request and supporting documentation, shall be submitted to the Office of Environmental Coordination as soon as is practicable after the agency becomes aware of the necessity for such exemption" The rules should make it clear how the public can have access to the requests for exemption including the stated reasons and the supporting documentation.
- The Office of Environmental Coordination is responsible for "publishing findings, where necessary, on whether proposed green buildings standards are not less stringent than the applicable Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design ("LEED") standard." It is important that these published findings are also made available to the public in a timely and relevant manner.
- Finally, in determining the green building standards ratings, the City should make every effort to take advantage of the economic and job development potential for New York City and New York State in using locally produced "green" materials and products - including FSC certified wood. The City should work with the State to modify any State laws or regulations which currently make this difficult.
Again, I want to commend the Bloomberg Administration for its efforts and look forward to seeing New York become the "greenest" and most sustainable city in America.
Tanu Kumar, New York Industrial Retention Network
Thank you. I am Tanu Kumar, Director of Business Services for the New York Industrial Retention Network and responsible for implementation of NYIRN's Green Manufacturing Initiative to help New York manufacturers capitalize on the growing market for green products. NYIRN is a citywide economic development organization that works with more than 400 manufacturers each year to promote both blue-collar jobs and sustainable development.
Our commitment to sustainable development grows out of the recognition that promoting green business practices is in the best economic interest of both the individual businesses and the City as a whole. Increased construction of high-performance energy efficient buildings by private developers has already sparked the growth of green manufacturing, i.e. the making of products that cut energy consumption, promote a healthy environment or otherwise reduce the environmental footprint left after production and use. 71% of the companies participating in a recent study by NYIRN and ITAC reported that their clients were interested in green products.
NYIRN has launched two initiatives, funded in part by the City Council and the Mayor's Office, to help companies capitalize on these emerging markets and create jobs. NYIRN's North Brooklyn Energy Grant Program has helped 22 manufacturers reduce energy consumption and costs, and green their operations. The Green Manufacturing Initiative, mentioned above, builds relationships between architects, developers and other potential buyers in the City's real estate community with local manufacturers of green products who tend to be small companies that otherwise cannot reach this market. Both programs help prepare New York City manufacturers to participate in implementing and benefiting from Local Law 86.
The City Council's passage of Local Law 86 was a landmark in moving the City toward sustainability. It is clear that part of the Council's intent in passing LL 86 was to stimulate new jobs in local green manufacturing. The LEED standards referred to in the local law include a preference for the purchase of locally produced materials and products. The intent behind this preference is to reduce energy consumed in transportation, create markets for recycled materials and foster local green development.
However, it is not clear that the draft rules allow the City to realize the Council's intent and take full advantage of the potential of Local Law 86. The draft rules omit any provisions to allow the City to specify the purchase of local materials because of possible conflicts with NYS Municipal Law. State law requires the award of contracts to the lowest responsible bidder to potentially avoid so-called "social benefit" goals. Apparently, adding local preference into the procurement process has been interpreted as a "social benefit."
This prohibition obviously undermines both the environmental and economic goals of Local Law 86, and diminishes the impact of this law on New York's long-term sustainability initiatives.
These potential restrictions are based upon a section of the NYS Municipal Law that does not clearly apply to local procurement and other bidding-related issues within Local Law 86. The prohibition that a city cannot consider the "social benefits" of products is only an interpretation of the State Law, and one that has been overlooked by other NYS municipalities when purchasing renewable energy and locally produced farm products.
Local Law 86 mandates that certain City-funded construction projects meet the USGBC's LEED Silver or similar standards for green building. New York companies have a particular competitive advantage in this green building market since the LEED standards award points to buildings that use a certain amount of locally grown and/or manufactured materials and products. The rationale behind the local procurement preference point is threefold: to cut down on energy consumed in transportation; to employ and create markets for recycled materials; and to strengthen local economies.
In conclusion, we urge the City to interpret State law to allow a procurement preference pursuant to Local Law 86. Failing that, representatives from the business community and labor and environmental organizations have all indicated their support if necessary for a change in State law to carve out an exception to the NYS Municipal Law, to allow the City to realize the full benefits that should result from its commitment to sustainable development. I strongly urge you to consider the implications of the current draft rules for local economic growth, and if necessary to work with us to advocate for change at the State level that would benefit the long-term sustainability for New York City.
Carol Rosenfeld, Environmental Defense & Natural Resources Defense Council
Good afternoon and thank you for the opportunity to comment today. My name is Carol Rosenfeld and I am a Research Fellow in the Living Cities Program at Environmental Defense. Environmental Defense is a national non-profit environmental organization, headquartered in New York City, with 400,000 members around the country and over 50,000 members and activists in New York. The Living Cities program at Environmental Defense is dedicated to practical solutions that secure clean air, water and lands in urban areas like New York. My testimony today is on behalf of Environmental Defense as well as the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). NRDC is a national non-profit environmental organization headquartered in New York City, with more than 500,000 members around the country and more than 50,000 members in New York, and uses law and science to protect the planet's wildlife and wild places and to ensure a safe and healthy environment for all living things. Both Environmental Defense and NRDC strongly supported the passage of New York City's green buildings law, Local Law 86, in 2005.
Even without government mandates and incentives, building green makes good sense. Owners, developers, builders and tenants of sustainable developments often cite the tangible benefits they receive in terms of energy savings from lower heating, cooling, ventilation and lighting costs, lower maintenance effort and costs, and reduced water usage. For example, hundreds of green buildings have cut energy use by more than 25%. Other benefits include higher worker productivity with lower absenteeism and turnover, improved health and a greater sense of well-being, reduced neighborhood noise and light pollution, and improved behavior in institutional settings. There are also broader social benefits, such as smaller streams of solid waste and water, lower use of fossil fuels and the accompanying production of global warming gases, reduced air, water and ground pollution, and preservation of biodiversity.
For these reasons, we fully support the spirit of Local Law 86 and the Proposed Rules being commented on today. There are just four areas on which we are commenting: the process for allowing exemptions to the law, the process for setting an alternative standard to LEED, the annual reporting requirements, and the importance of promoting sustainable procurement practices.
- Exemption. Currently, the Rules state (Section 10-07) that the Office of Environmental Coordination (OEC), as a delegate of the Mayor, may exempt projects not exceeding 20% of the capital dollars that fall under Local Law 86 if in his or her opinion an exemption is "in the public interest." Reasons for requesting an exemption and explanatory documents must be submitted to the OEC for review. To ensure that as few projects are exempted as possible, the criteria for exemptions need to be narrower than this. New green building legislation in the District of Columbia, for example, holds that exemptions may be granted only if "circumstances exist that make it a hardship or infeasible" for a project to be a green building, such as if green building materials are unavailable or if a certain green building requirement is incompatible with current building standards. We suggest either non-vested third party or public review of exemptions to determine if such exemptions are truly in the public interest. Since there is such a strong public interest in having green buildings, as described above, any projects applying for exemption would need to prove that they truly could not possibly meet the green building standards. Additionally, this review could ensure that any exempt projects are equally distributed among the boroughs, so that each borough is able to benefit from Local Law 86. In its annual report, OEC should respond to these reviews and include a justification of its final decision about approving or disapproving each exemption. Additionally, it is not clear from the regulations how Local Law 86 applies to mixed-use buildings or buildings where the City leases space. OEC needs to clarify what happens in these instances. We encourage OEC to include mixed-use and leased buildings under Local Law 86, and to have the cost of a given capital project govern the level of these buildings' inclusion.
- Alternative Standard to LEED. Local Law 86, as incorporated into the City Charter, provides that qualifying capital projects "shall be designed and constructed to comply with green building standards not less stringent than the standards prescribed for buildings designed in accordance with the LEED green building rating system...." The law provides that "[i]f the mayor elects to utilize green building standards other than the LEED green building rating system, the mayor shall publish findings demonstrating that such other green building standards are not less stringent than the LEED standards described above...." The City's proposed rules briefly reference that the Office of Environmental Coordination may approve "an alternative, not less stringent, green building standard," but do not provide a process for how any such alternatives can be developed or approved. We recommend that the City, at minimum, provide that a panel of experts including architects, green building developers and environmentalists should review and comment on any proposal for an alternative standard, and also that a public comment period be provided on any proposal for an alternative standard.
- Annual Report. Section 3 of Local Law 86 describes the annual report that must be written by OEC. While the reporting requirements described in this section are adequate, they could be expanded to improve the information available about the impact of Local Law 86. The annual reports can be crafted in such a way that they serve as a resource for City agencies and others looking to build green buildings. As part of the Local Law 86 Roundtable, we submitted a document detailing our recommendations for strengthening the annual reporting requirements. These include creating a baseline of indicators across city buildings of the type affected by the law such as energy consumption, water use, purchases of recycled construction materials, etc. A standard reporting framework for city agencies could be used to re-collect this information each year. The annual report could then be a demonstration of the City-wide savings and environmental benefits generated by Local Law 86. This methodology would also allow for the development of City-wide goals related to green buildings, such as energy savings targets and stormwater runoff reductions. We are attaching excerpts from the Local Law 86 Roundtable memo with further suggestions to this testimony.
- Sustainable Procurement. Local Law 86 and its implementing regulations provide an important boost to promoting green building in New York City, but there is much more that the City can and should do to promote sustainable development and greater investment in green building. An important next step for the City should be to incent greater use of green products in City buildings, such as sustainable wood, renewable energy and locally-procured materials. We urge the City to review its procurement policies to ensure that the City leads by example through purchasing green products whenever possible. We understand that the City has a concern that it may not be possible to specify certain green building requirements in an RFP due to constraints imposed by the procurement requirements of the New York State General Municipal Law. However, we believe that the City's reading of this law may be unnecessarily restrictive and that the competitive bidding of green products may well be possible under existing law. As part of the Mayor's Sustainability Initiative, we urge the City to review its ability to require the procurement of green products and to identify with the Sustainability Advisory Board and other stakeholders any perceived legal or practical barriers to green product procurement that may exist and how best to remove them. We also urge OEC to help agencies to generally specify just the desired green building rating in their specifications, and then have these agencies work with contractors to fulfill these three important criteria as part of the larger set of green building standards that must be met. This approach was used successfully in the Bronx Library Center.
At the Mayor's recent speech on his new sustainability plan for the city, he said, "It is up to us to look ahead, as earlier generations did, and to begin planning for a better, stronger, and more sustainable future for our children, and for theirs." We see Local Law 86 as the first step toward achieving this vision, and we hope to see a broader version of the law encompassing private development down the line.
Thank you for the opportunity to share our thoughts and opinions on the Local Law 86 regulations. If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Zoilo Torres, New York City Apollo Alliance
Ladies and gentlemen of the NYC's Office of Environmental Coordination: Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the proposed rules governing green building standards for the implementation of Local Law 86.
My name is Zoilo Torres, Campaign Director for the New York City Apollo Alliance — a coalition of labor unions, business, community-based organizations, educators, and environmental justice organizations convened by the Urban Agenda. We would like to point out that the NYC Apollo Alliance worked diligently to get Local Law 86 enacted and look to its implementation with great anticipation.
We found the proposed rules governing green building standards to be encompassing of key areas of the law, and fairly comprehensive. The rules define a green building rating system. They include clarifying definitions. The rules outline the appropriate occupancy groups, the specific project types, and city and city-funded capital projects to which the requirements apply. The rules summarize building standards; set energy and water cost reduction targets, and provide methodologies and schedules for calculating cost savings. They set thresholds and standards for US Green Building Council certification, reporting procedures, and the process for Mayoral exemptions of projects.
Many will or have presented comments on the mentioned elements of the rules. We will like to address three areas of concern: The Mayor's "sole" discretion to exempt projects "in the public interest," the issue of maintenance as a standard in green construction and building renovation, and priority targets for building renovations and retrofitting.
The rules should more clearly define the phrase "in the public interest," for it is used in connection to the Mayor having "sole discretion" to exempt projects from the building standards we are currently discussing. The absolute nature of the term "sole discretion" is especially unsettling in light of the economic and public health implication such exemptions have for NYC's population.
Local Law 86 clearly established that the city own approximately 1, 300 buildings, and leases over 12.8 million square feet of office space. The legislation will affect some $12 billion in construction over the city's ten year capital plan.
Local Law 86 also states that buildings, particularly city own buildings, are responsible for enormous consumption of energy, cause widespread pollution and water use, and significantly impact on the health of the occupants and worker productivity. However, remedial measures contained in Local Law 86 and implemented by the proposed rules and standards can go a long way in not only correcting our current course toward environmental degradation, but can also encourage market transformations in a manner that will stimulate the creation of green collar jobs for our underemployed. The potential ramifications of future Mayoral project exemptions merit greater public accountability and not sole Mayoral discretion. A public review process should be included in reporting procedures called for by the rules. This will ensure that the work of greening our city proceeds unhampered by compromised interests.
Next on the green agenda to be sure, is extending green building requirements to the private development review process as was done in Boston this past December.
Green building standards should also speak to building maintenance as this is part of the renovation and upgrading process of city own buildings. For this to be feasible, new skills will have to be acquired by glaziers, masons, and carpenters. There will be a heighten demand for building maintenance people, electrical workers, plumbers and pipe fitters. Solar panel and heating and ventilation installers will have to be trained in new green technologies, including energy auditors to ensure the systems function and continue to function properly. Standards should be drawn against the backdrop of future workforce and economic development goals, which are included in Local Law 86 as well.
Finally, the sheer numbers of city own buildings in our city behoove us to begin the work by focusing on specific priority buildings. We in the NYC Apollo have launched a campaign to retrofit 100 largest energy-consuming buildings. We understand that the Department of City-wide Administrative Services through its Office of Energy Conservation has audited and identified almost 200 buildings that meet the mentioned criteria. Living up to an energy conservation and a renewable energy future, should begin by correcting its biggest offenders.
The NYC Apollo Alliance is ready to work with your office in arriving at a set of building rules and standards that effectively implement the law on which the rules are grounded, and help bring the city closer to achieving a future of sustainable development.