Some of the most innovative sustainability work is happening by cities for cities. Last year, mayor de Blasio unveiled his ambitious One City: Built to Last, announcing the City’s bold objective to cut carbon emissions 80% by 2050. As Strategic Advisor to the Technical Working Group assembled by the mayor to help implement the plan, we look forward to working with the city to achieve these ambitious goals. And OneNYC, the mayor’s update to the PlaNYC initiative, helps shed light on some of the pathways to get there.
One of our earliest contributions to greening codes in NYC’s building sector was the Green Codes Task Force, which we convened and led in 2010.
Because proposals can’t do much without action, we created a Green Codes Tracker to help keep tabs on the progress of our various initiatives, with 52 of 111 implemented to date. By 2030, Green Codes measures already implemented will:
- Reduce citywide carbon emissions by almost 5%
- Lower daily water consumption by the equivalent of 30 Central Park Reservoirs; and
- Divert 100,000 tons of asphalt from landfills annually.
The vast majority of New York City’s 950,000 commercial and residential buildings were constructed in times of presumed energy and water abundance. As a result, limited and expensive resources were needlessly squandered by outmoded plumbing, heating and electrical systems or, worse, careless construction standards in new buildings.
Much of NYC has also been constructed with materials now recognized as hazardous to human health, a condition often worsened by improper ventilation. Inconsistent standards for storm-water runoff, sidewalk construction, and preservation of trees and parks at construction sites are the source of additional problems.
All these issues point to the importance of improved city codes and policies, along with removing barriers to more sustainable codes.