Urban Fold

In City Greening, Buildings Need Policy, Too

New York mayor Michael Bloomberg's widely-touted plan for a greener city have left out the major energy consumer in Manhattan: the thousands of buildings not owned by the city.

"The streams of traffic crashing against the city's various choke points may be New York's most iconic image of waste and pollution. But, in fact, the city's buildings – its defining physical elements –account for the bulk of the New York's energy use and carbon emissions. The city's 750,000 buildings – residential, commercial and government -- are responsible for nearly 80 percent, or 47 million metric tons, of New York City's total carbon dioxide output. That's the equivalent of 150 Empire State Buildings worth of greenhouse gas being pumped annually into the atmosphere – hanging heavily over its economy, landscape and environment."

"Buildings in the city's commercial sector, alone, which includes offices and retail space, kick out 25 percent of all emissions (transportation, by contrast, accounts for 23 percent)."

"Despite this, Bloomberg's ambitious PlaNYC2030 is largely silent on reducing pollution from buildings other than those built or owned by the city. It says virtually nothing about commercial buildings. Can New York City expect to meet its goal of reducing overall emissions by 30 percent by 2030 if it does not move aggressively – like London – to encourage and, in certain cases, impose efficiency standards on commercial property, one of its largest polluting sectors?"

Full Story: Cleaning Up New York’s Buildings

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