Back in 2019, New York City Council passed the Climate Mobilization Act (CMA), which is an ambitious legislative package aligned with the City’s commitment to the carbon reduction targets set out in the Paris Agreement. It requires the economy-wide Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions to be lower by 40% before 2030 and 80% lower by 2050. As the centerpiece of CMA, Local law 97 regulates Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions from buildings larger than 25,000 square feet. The law sets GHG emission limits based on occupancy groups, which becomes effective in 2025.
The law sets out detailed requirements for two initial periods: 2024-2029 & 2030-2034, the future requirements through 2050 are awaited. The law applies to buildings over 25,000 gross square feet. The building must meet the annual carbon intensity limits during each compliance period based on the building type.
Compliance is brought about by submitting an emissions intensity report sanctioned by a registered design professional every year come 2025.
By May 1st, 2025, covered buildings will need to submit a report showing their GHG emissions for the prior calendar year (2024). This reporting is required annually, and it must be prepared by a registered professional. Buildings that do not submit an annual report before May 1st or release over-limit Greenhouse Gases will be fined.
The following 2 case studies are actual buildings that The Cotocon Group is working with as an ENERGY STAR Service and Product Provider (SPP). The GHG emissions projections showing the growing risk of violation in 2025 if they are run by 2020 standards.
2021 ENERGY STAR Score: 55
Occupancy Group B (Office)
2021 ENERGY STAR Score: 43
Occupancy Group R-2 (Residential)
The following building types are not required to comply to the Local Law 97:
Non-compliance is deemed penal with fines designated by The City at $268 per metric ton for the exceeded carbon footprint! Fines are also designated for submitting false reports and worse, for not submitting a report.
How to calculate your building’s fine?
-Convert the building’s carbon footprint from Kg to metric tons by dividing by 1,000
-Multiply the difference between the limit and your actual carbon footprint by $268
We understand how overwhelming this might seem, we highly recommend reaching out to experts like The Cotocon Group that can hand-hold you through the entire process.
This is how a building emits carbon
“Carbon emissions or carbon footprint of a building is measured by totaling the carbon dioxide that is emitted into the atmosphere during the production of the energy that is consumed by a building for all its operations.” The emissions are usually a result of fuel combustion. They occur on-site as a result of an oil/gas boiler and off-site perhaps at a power plant to generate current.
The law aims to check on-site as well as off-site emissions in a single limit which will be facilitated by reductions in lighting, heating, cooling etc.
How to measure carbon intensity?
This is a rather complicated procedure and is best handled by an expert. US EPA’s free Energy Star Portfolio Manager is a good place to start after having submitted energy benchmarking data onto it by May 1 to comply with the LL84. The tool will then convert the submitted data into the building’s energy usage into carbon emissions. These figures are not the entire prerequisite of LL97, but they are a good place to start to compare your carbon limits with those of 2024 and 2030 (as long as the units used don’t vary).
After finding the total carbon emissions in the Portfolio Manager, you’ll have to calculate the carbon emissions limit to gauge whether or not you’re complying. Find your building type and simply multiply the limit by the gross square footage, and you will derive the permissible limit. If the total is higher than the limit, then you are in the need of immediate interventions.
How is a commercial building impacted?
The initial limits of 2024 and 2030 are intended to impact the worst 20% and worst 75% carbon emitters, respectively. An average building is likely to meet the 2024 requirements but will potentially be able to meet the 2030 requirements only with sincere, external interventions.
Building owners have thus been granted these 10 years to identify and implement energy upgrades.
How can I reduce carbon emissions?
Having a devoted carbon reduction strategy- for the near, medium and long term is non-negotiable these days. And requires coordination among all stakeholders. Follow these tips to help you kickstart the process.
1. Choose carbon sequestering materials
2. Maximize structural efficiency
3. Operator and occupant training
4. Optimized HVAC
5. Check water usage
6. Use recycled content
7. Use efficient lighting (sensors, LEED, PE etc)
Orient your tenants!
Tenants are responsible for more than 50% of energy usage. Therefore, the goal of energy optimization cannot be achieved without their cooperation. Orient your tenants the day they move in, or meet with the existing tenants and on-board them completely.
NYSERDA offers an incentive program called ‘the Commercial Tenant Program’ that promises to cover some energy reduction costs of the tenant spaces.
1. Who does this law impact?
The law applies to buildings over 25,000 gross square feet. The building must meet the annual carbon intensity limits during each compliance period based on the building type.
2. What date does it go into effect?
The two submission years are 2024 & 2030.
In 2024: the carbon limits come into effect.
In 2025: buildings will need to submit a report showing their carbon emissions in 2024
In 2029: the permissible caps will get significantly lowered .
3. How does this relate to Local Law 87?
Local law 87 provides the roadmap to further compliance with LL 97. With the correct retro-commissioning measures implemented post an energy audit, low-cost carbon solutions will inevitably get taken care of.
4. How does it relate to building energy grades (LL33)?
Local Law 33 which enables building grade energy ordinance requires buildings greater than 25,000 square feet to publicly showcase the energy grade received by the building at their entrances. These grades are determined by a building’s ENERGY STAR PORTFOLIO Manager score which is derived from the annual energy benchmarking data.
5. What do I need to take into account while designing a new building?
Needless to say, design with MINIMUM carbon emissions in mind so that when the building is fully operational, it by default complies to the law. Install solar photovoltaic (PV) or a green roof. You will, this way also comply with LL 92.
6. What kind of fines am I looking at in cases of non-compliance?
The City at $268 per metric ton for the exceeded carbon footprint! Fines are also designated for submitting false reports and worse, for not submitting a report.
7. How does this relate to Local Law 84 and 133?
Right now, they are two separate laws. As currently written, you will still need to submit annual energy usage to ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager for compliance with Local Law 84 (LL84) and Local Law 133 (LL133), and a separate report (signed off on by a “registered professional”) for the new emission law.
But we believe that management and enforcement of all these energy-related laws will be brought together under the same new “office of building energy and emissions performance,” which may streamline the reporting requirements. Whether or not the City streamlines the reporting, we plan on making the process as easy as possible for our clients.
The pathway to compliance with the Local Law 97 is rather long drawn and mingled with prior compliances with other laws, most importantly it is the law with one of the highest penalties. The Cotocon Group promises expert counsel of only the very experienced and skilled to make the whole process smooth and seamless.