The effects of climate change and global warming are accelerating at an extraordinary rate, driven largely by greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In large cities, buildings are one of the main sources of these emissions.
New York City has determined that their buildings make up two-thirds of the city’s total emissions. To combat the crisis, the New York City Council passed an ambitious and groundbreaking legislation in 2019 called the Climate Mobilization Act (CMA). The centerpiece of this legislation is a bill known as Local Law 97.
What is Local Law 97?
Local Law 97 is a bill that requires all New York City buildings larger than 25,000 square feet to lower their greenhouse gas emissions 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050. To reach these goals, the legislation places a cap on emissions levels based on a buildings’ occupancy and sets forth specific deadlines.
There are two significant dates for compliance for buildings in each occupancy group. The first cap begins in 2024, requiring a reduction of emissions from the highest emitting 20% of buildings. The second cap begins in 2030 for the highest emitting 75%.
Each year, buildings must submit a report prepared by a registered design professional, demonstrating their calculated limit as well as their GHG emissions for the previous year. Buildings that exceed their calculated emissions limits are subject to a fine. To oversee the implementation of Local Law 97 as well as any future building emissions related legislation, the bill has created the Office of Energy and Emissions Performance within the Department of Buildings (DOB).
As this legislation rolls out, the NYC DOB updates the Sustainable Buildings page on their website with any new and relevant information. A few key updates to note:
- New digital maps were added to the website so that the public can see which buildings must meet the requirements of Local Law 97.
- December 29, 2022: The DOB released the latest Local Law 97 Advisory Board report, which includes recommendations to help the city reach its goals, including calculating and reporting GHG emissions, maximizing reductions, and assisting owners with compliance, among other things.
- October 6, 2022: The DOB released their Proposed Rules for Local Law 97 to help answer questions about the law, and a public hearing was held on November 14, 2022.
- The DOB released a Covered Buildings List that includes all buildings that may be required to comply with Local Law 97.
- June 2022: The New York City Council approved a budget, including $2.4 million to support the DOB Office of Building Energy Emissions Performance in overseeing the implementation of Local Law 97.
- October 5, 2021: The DOB clarified in a bulletin that under Local Law 97 “energy used to charge vehicles will not be included in emissions from buildings, as such emissions are considered transportation sector emissions.” This only applies to unidirectional EV chargers for now. However, they plan to address bi-directional EV chargers in the future.
- October 2021: Guidelines for Local Law 97 and certain types of affordable housing were released.
- The DOB added a reporting page to their GHG Emissions Reporting page to their website to offer a more in depth explanation of the legislation.
Local Law 97 Fines and Penalties
Beginning May 1, 2025, building owners must file an annual Greenhouse Gas Emissions report prepared by a registered design professional by May 1 of each year to show that they are compliant with the building emissions limit established by Local Law 97.
Buildings that include affordable and rent-regulated housing are not exempt and will still be required to submit a compliance report by May 1, 2025, but they may be treated differently under the articles of the law and need to take prescriptive measures.
As noted on the DOB’s Compliance page of their website, a building that exceeds its annual cap as set forth in Local Law 97 “will be liable for a civil penalty equal to the difference between the building emissions limit for that timeframe and the reported building emissions for that year.” In addition to the civil penalties for non-compliance, the DOB may also decide to issue further violations, which will be updated on their compliance page. Building owners who do not report their building’s emissions will face further penalties and fines.
How Building Owners Can Transition to Clean Energy
While initial compliance of Local Law 97 doesn’t begin until 2024, it will take significant planning to implement the changes and upgrades necessary for the required energy management. Starting the process now will save you time and headache in the long run. Link to Capital Planning
The DOB has provided recommendations for building owners in their Advisory Board Report released in December 2022, and continued guidance will provide information on things such as retrofits and strategies for various building types. Having said that, every building has its own unique issues, and hiring a professional, like an energy consultant, allows you to get recommendations that fit your specific needs.
Benchmarking the building’s current emissions can help anticipate whether it may be in violation of the law’s 2024 requirements and give guidance on what adjustments or improvements the owner needs to make in order to be compliant. These improvements may include adjusting temperature set points, repairing heating system leaks, insulating pipes, adding solar panels, retrofitting HVAC systems, switching to LED lighting, and installing energy efficient windows.
The government has also created some useful resources to assist building owners as they make any necessary changes. The Sustainability Help Center offers guidance in understanding the laws, compliance requirements, and reporting as well as important dates and deadlines. And the NYC Accelerator can assist in connecting building owners with contractors as well as offer financial and technical assistance.
Financial Incentives, Programs, and Guidance
Several rebates, tax incentives, loans, and grant programs are being made available for qualified building owners.
New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA)
NYSERDA, together with utility, offers incentives like:
- Low Carbon Pathways, which range from $700 to $5,000 per dwelling unit for the installation of low carbon upgrades in existing multifamily buildings
- NY-Sun, a program that offers $.40 per watt through a NY-Sun approved contractor when you install a solar system
- AMEEP: The New York State Affordable Multifamily Energy Efficiency Program, together with the Joint Utilities of New York and NYSERDA, offers incentives for the installation of energy efficient equipment and technology as well as enhanced heat pump incentives.
Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program
PACE provides long-term loans to qualified building owners for little or no money down in order to finance energy-efficient improvements and retrofits. In general, these loans are long term, low interest, and fixed rate and can often be offset by the amount of money saved annually through the resulting savings in energy costs.
FAQs about Local Law 97
Who is affected by Local Law 97?
As stated on NYC’s Sustainable Buildings Page, Local Law 97 applies to the following with some exceptions:
- A building that exceeds 25,000 square feet,
- Two or more buildings on the same tax lot that combined exceed 50,000 square feet,
- Two or more condominium buildings governed by the same board of managers that together exceed 50,000 square feet.
What buildings are exempted?
Buildings that are not required to comply with Local Law 97 may include industrial buildings whose main power production is electricity or steam. Other exemptions may be detached or semi-detached buildings, three-stories or less, whose HVAC and hot water systems are owned and maintained by the building owner and whose service areas do not exceed 25,000 square feet. For the full list of exempted buildings see the DOB’S greenhouse gas emissions reporting page.
How do I comply with Local Law 97?
Building owners are required to submit a report of their building’s GHG emissions, prepared by a registered design professional, by May 1 of each year, beginning on May 1, 2025. Buildings that are non-compliant, meaning they exceed their calculated emissions limits, are subject to a fine.