New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine June 2020 free digital issue




Some Co-ops and Condos to Get a Break on Carbon Emissions

Frank Lovece in Green Ideas on December 3, 2019

New York City

Exempt Buildings

Some co-op and condo boards can forego retrofits such as solar panels and green roofs.

Dec. 3, 2019

Many co-op and condo boards are terrified of the looming expenses of complying with the Climate Mobilization Act, which sets strict caps on future building carbon emissions. But for buildings with any rent-stabilized or affordable apartments – including HDFC and Mitchell-Lama co-ops –  there is a checklist of 13 energy-conservation measures that must be implemented in lieu of having to stay below the emissions cap. The checklist means that these buildings can forego retrofits such as solars panels or green roofs.

These 13 "prescriptive measures" include such steps as repairing all heating system leaks, insulating all pipes for heating and hot water, weatherizing and sealing windows and ductwork, installing timers on exhaust fans, and installing radiant barriers behind all radiators.

Is there concern that some buildings might keep a single rent-regulated apartment simply to keep the boards from having to do the calculations and instead use the “prescriptive” path? How many otherwise affected buildings does this represent? "I wish we had that stat," says Vicki Been, deputy mayor for housing and economic development. "But as you may know, the state refuses to make info available on rent-regulated apartments at the individual apartment level."

And it may not matter. "The law was not intended to allow building owners to get out of any kind of performance," says Mark Chambers, director of the Mayor's Office of Sustainability. "Buildings that have a single rent-stabilized unit are not exempt – they just have a prescriptive pathway. There are a lot of energy-conservation measures they need to do."

Opponents of the new law, including the Real Estate Board of New York, deride loopholes that exempt city-owned buildings, including New York City Housing Authority buildings, as well as places of worship and buildings under 25,000 square feet.

"This law is designed to yield significant energy reductions from large buildings, which account for the lion's share of emissions," Chambers says.  "But this is not the end of the story. We begin with these larger buildings. We're going to have to develop similar packages on how best to address buildings under 25,000 square feet."

Indeed, such exemptions may have to be modified if New York City is to reach its goal of 80 percent lower greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050. For boards whose buildings are not exempt, remember this: the act's deadlines or 2030 and 2050 are closer than they appear. "This stuff is real and it's looming, so boards need to be prepared," says Michael Scorrano, managing director of the energy consultancy the En-Power Group. "Start now contemplating what type of measures you can implement over the next 10 years. A lot of this stuff could overlap with capital improvements you'd need to make in the building anyway. Start engaging now so it's not a panic to get this done last-minute. Be proactive. Anytime you can save energy, you might as well get the benefits as early as you can."

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