If you own a building in NYC, you are probably aware of the Local Law 97 (LL97). The law was created with the goal of reducing NYC building emissions. The emission reduction targets by 2030 is 40%, and 80% by 2050. These targets are with respect to the emission levels in 2005.
According to the law, an emission limit will be imposed on building over 25,000 sq. ft. and a penalty of $268 per metric ton CO2 will be applicable over the limit. If two or more buildings with total area of above 50,000 sq. ft. are under the same tax lot or a part of same condominium project, LL97 will be applicable for those buildings. LL97 will come into effect in 2024, with the first emission report due on 1st of May, 2025. This means, to avoid any penalties, you need a building that is LL97 complaint by the end of 2023.
You would need an approved design and construction permit from the NYC Department of Buildings (DOB) regardless if you are already paying any applicable penalties or not. Also, the emission report must be stamped by a professional engineer (PA) or a registered architect (RA).
Local Law 97
Building owners must act quickly as delaying the process would come with following challenges –
- As the deadline approaches, firms that offer engineering services will be high in demand, and the required skilled labor might face shortage.
- With the NYC DOB handling a large number of construction permits as the deadline approaches, this might delay building retrofit projects.
- Incentive programs that cover building retrofit projects might have less funds available.
- The impacts of inflation will make the construction materials and services more expensive.
Penalties for Missed or False Reports
Apart from penalties that come with building emissions crossing over the limit, there are penalties for missing the report submission deadlines, and for submitting a false report. Even if the building owners are likely to face penalties, they should submit an accurate emission report. Refraining from doing so is against the law and could lead to imprisonment.
- In case of missed report, the applicable penalty is $0.50/sq. ft. per month. Considering a 100,000 sq. ft. building, a building owner would have to pay $50,000 every month.
- In case of false report, the applicable penalty is $500,000. Deliberate false reporting could also lead to 30 days of imprisonment.
Thus, building owners are strongly advised to submit an accurate emission report on time to avoid such hefty penalties.
To ensure your building is LL97 compliant and avoids any applicable penalties, the following are the tips that you need to consider.
Also read: Local Law 97 – All About NYC Local Law 97
- Getting a Professional Energy Audit
The main purpose of getting an energy audit is to identify the upgrades that have the potential to cut down the energy consumption of your building. Now one common misconception is that energy efficiency measures for other buildings will work the same for your building. Every building is unique and has its own energy consumption profile. This means to save the maximum amount of energy, each building will need a different set of energy efficiency measures.
The 2 main strategies that reduce building emissions are –
- Direct reduction of energy consumption
- Reducing carbon footprint per unit of energy
For direct energy consumption reduction, measures like upgrading to LED lighting, HVAC equipment upgrades, or building envelope upgrades are commonly used. On the other hand, switching to clean or renewable energy sources like solar panels is used to reduce the carbon footprint per unit of energy. Combining both the strategies will help you achieve the lowest carbon emission for your building.
Keep in mind that LL97 does not demand zero emissions, it only introduces a limit to emissions based on the square footage and the occupancy classification of your building.
- Claiming The Energy Incentives
Building energy retrofit projects come with a high upfront cost. To reduce this, developers can take advantage from several types of incentives applicable. For example, depending on the project conditions, developers may qualify for the incentives from Con Edison or NYSERDA.
Since the incentive programs have limited funds, building owners that act quickly can benefit from it without facing any issues due to limited funds. Also, rebate amounts decrease over time as the programs reach their goals.
Another alternative is the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) which is a nationwide incentive for solar systems. The incentive program gives back 26% of the project costs as federal tax reduction. This incentive will decrease to 22% in 2023, and only 10% for businesses (0% for homeowners) from 2024 and onwards.
Solar panels can not only help you meet LL97, but also offer high tax credit if installed before 2023. Local grid electricity has an emission factor of 0.000288962 metric tons CO2 equivalent per kWh. This means, every kWh by the solar panels cuts down about 289g of emissions.
- A Way Around the Recent Inflation
The inflation rate in the US has reached 7% in 2021, which is the highest increase since June 1982. The rise will have its impacts of the key factors in the construction industry. Building energy retrofits projects are likely to become even more expensive over time.
A way around the inflation impact is to get the building retrofit projects designed and approved as fast as possible. This way the key materials required for the construction stage can be bought before the inflation effects kicks in and makes the materials more expensive.
The best course of action is to consult to a firm with expertise in energy auditing and project design.
Michael Tobias, PE, is the principal and founder of New York Engineers. He leads a team of over 50 MEP/FP engineers. Although New York Engineers main headquarters are in NYC, the business has led over 1,000 engineering projects in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Florida, Maryland, and California, as well as Malaysia and Singapore. Michael is an advocate for green technology and energy efficiency, and approaches engineering as a vehicle to raise the quality of life.