Is 2025 Light Years Away? Maybe Not.

Local Law 88 is the last of New York’s four Greener Greater Building initiatives and won’t be mandatory until 2025. But last week’s State of the Art: Lighting Design & Controls event made clear that building owners have much to gain by starting compliance now. Chris Cayten (CodeGreen Solutions) outlined LL88’s requirements and discussed sub-metering, while Chad Groshart (Atelier Ten) described the interplay of design and lighting technology. And Chuck Cameron (Stan Deutsch Associates) discussed what to consider when choosing controls.

Affecting the same 50,000-plus square foot buildings that are now benchmarked under LL84, LL88 requires lighting in all commercial and public spaces to meet the city’s energy code by 20251. While a decade may seem like a long time, owners have good reason to get a jump on upgrades now. First, retrofits done over the next ten years will count toward compliance in 2025—even if codes tighten between now and then. It also means owners and tenants can begin saving energy—and money—that much sooner. Plus, because the law requires more construction within tenant spaces than the other three Greener Greater Building laws, owners benefit from reviewing lease terms with tenants now to plan when lighting retrofits can be most easily performed, as well as to negotiate who will pay for them.

The goal of lighting upgrades is not just to satisfy code, of course, but to add value for those using the space. According to Groshart, daylight should be an obvious first choice to lower energy use and provide ambience. Beyond this, however, owners have some important choices to make—a basic one being whether to choose LEDs or fluorescents for lighting retrofits. On one hand, LEDs are more expensive, and fluorescents can equal them in terms of lifespan. However, when dimming comes into play, LEDs become relatively more cost-effective, given the added cost of fluorescent controls. Which approach is best comes down to the occupant task lighting needs within a space, followed by spatial accents and ambient lighting. All these strategies––natural and electrical––go further with higher reflectance levels, Groshart added. 

Cameron spoke about how controls can tie efficiency and functionality together. Echoing Groshart’s focus on occupant needs, much of Cameron’s presentation centered around users and important questions owners and managers should ask: What is the space used for? When are the hours of operation? Do tenants know how the lighting systems work? Based on this information, controls can be designed to optimize scheduling, sensor function, and the level of tenant control. Cameron then illustrated the value of early compliance by citing that the 2015 New York State code significantly increases the requirements for controls, which could create new challenges for those waiting to comply with LL88.

Of course, design and installation are only the beginning of the process. Commissioning is needed to make sure everything works as planned, and maintenance alerts as part of the building’s operation plan can ensure continued performance.


1 The law also requires any tenant space or building over 10,000 sf to be sub-metered. As with lighting, compliance will require careful planning and coordination with tenants: owners will have to determine the best location for meters, whether to turn off power during installation, and negotiate whether the tenant or owner is responsible for the meter.

About the author

Matthew Shurtleff
Matthew Shurtleff is a guest writer for Urban Green and was a member of our Monthly Programs Committee.