Eco Thinking: Solar Energy, Green Roofs and Legislation

As our industry is moving forward new laws are being passed to help us sell and implement these ideas. The NYC City Council passed three laws that will make New York City rooftops greener places.  These still need to make it passed the mayor's office for them to get Local Law numbers.

There are laws that are get in the way of green buildings and finding ways to help change this is essential. The three following bills are introduced to get around some of these regulations.

Introduction 341, Allow Large Solar Rooftop Installations, currently the Building Code provisions limit the amount of rooftop that can be covered with mechanical equipment to 1/3 of the roof; otherwise it is counted as another floor of the building. Under the new law, solar equipment is not counted towards these limitations and can cover as much of the roof as permitted by other codes (such as the Fire Code).

Introduction 358 applies the approach to combined heat and power. Currently, the Building Code exempts a range of mechanical equipment on rooftops, including HVAC equipment and water tanks from building height restrictions. However, until these two laws were passed, solar and CHP equipment were not included in these exemptions – they are now.

Introduction 347, Reduce Summer Heat With Cool Roofs. This law updates existing Building Code requirements for reflective roof coatings to better align with LEED and clarifies exceptions to the standard. Under the changes, cool roof coatings will be required for reroofing of existing rooftops, and also for buildings constructed under the 1968 building code and normally exempted from many newer requirements. The law also clarifies that exemptions for green roofs apply to agricultural plantings and adds exemptions for:
*ballasted roofs;
*roofs used as playgrounds;
*areas under mechanical equipment or other rooftop structures;
*portions of roofs covered with decking materials.

You can read a far more detailed explanation of Introductions 347 (cool roofs) and 341 (solar), as well as all implemented NYC Green Codes Task Force recommendations on the Urban Green Website web site.

As changes are being changed at city level so are changes coming on a NY State level.  The Solar Industry Development and Jobs Act   "holds the promise of vastly reducing greenhouse gas emissions, creating good jobs and reducing our dependence on imported fossil fuels. The New York Solar Jobs and Development Act is projected- -- conservatively -- to produce 22,198 direct and induced jobs, not including potential manufacturing jobs and other indirectly induced jobs. These local employment opportunities range across a broad spectrum of salary levels, skill and education requirements, and employment fields.
Moreover, New York would benefit from some $20 billion in economic activity. This legislation holds serious advantages over the current energy policy, which sends tax dollars out of state to bring in (environmentally-degrading) coal energy from around the country."

Organizations such as The Urban Green Council and The New York State of Conservation Voters are pushing for and helping these changes - check out the websites above and support these great organizations that are making a difference.

Webcast: Benign by Design: Characterizing and Balancing Risk

Check out this free webcast from "Benign by Design: Characterizing and Balancing Risk"talking about the California Department of Public Health’s Standard Method for the Testing and Evaluation of Volatile Organic Chemical Emissions from Indoor Sources Using Environmental Chambers Version 1.1 (Emission testing method for California Specification 01350) highlights how a hazard is identified and characterized and, from that, an estimate of risk is made. The goal is to understand risk from exposure to chemicals by various routes; dermal, oral and inhalation. Finally, we must ensure that products designed to reduce toxic material burden also meet functional requirements.
In this webcast you will learn:

  • The current requirements of the California product emission testing method (“01350” or “standard method”) and future plans by the California Department of Public Health to revise that method.
  • How risk is estimated from an understanding of our exposure to the hazard.
  • Challenges in eliminating chemical classes with respect to fire and electrical safety.

Green Buildings 101: Sustainable Sites (SS)

One of the first sections of any LEED reference guide is Sustainable Sites.  Understanding SS is one of the first steps on a LEED project. Why do you think that is? Is there a reason why it is the first section?  Understanding what this section is about will let us understand these questions.
SS is the first section of LEED as it is the first thought that a developer, contractor, company, design firm, etc. need to think of before a project can begin and break ground.  What site to choose?  Where to build?  Where to move your company?....

Sustainable Sites has these prospective people thinking of finding a location:

1.      that needs to be redeveloped or that might need to be redeemed
2.      that is close to public transportation, housing and amenities for employees
3.      that will have developed strategies to maximize outdoor space
4.      that will have developed strategies to protect water ways and overall surrounding environment

Sustainable Sites section has 8 credits that help in understanding how to achieve the above listed items. These credits show the how to, the requirements and give examples of strategies and potential technologies.  There is a prerequisite, which has to be met, that states the construction site needs to be protected and that no pollution happens from site activity. The 8 credits are:

1.      Credit 1, Site Selection – choosing a site that reduces environmental impact from the location of a building on a site.
2.      Credit 2, Development Density & Community Connectivity – developing in urban areas with existing infrastructure, protect greenfields and preserve habitat and natural resources.
3.      Credit 3, Brownfield Redevelopment – rehabilitate sites that are contaminated to reduce pressure on undeveloped lands.
4.      Credit 4, Alternative Transportation: 4 options – reduce pollution and land development impacts from automobile use.  This gets one thinking about public transportation, bicycles, energy efficient vehicles and parking capacity.
5.      Credit 5, Site Development : 2 options – Promoting biodiversity by conserving existing natural areas and restoring damaged areas or having a high ratio of open space to development footprint.
6.      Credit 6, Stormwater Design: 2 options, Quantity and Quality control –  limiting distribution and pollution of natural water flow by managing stormwater runoff and / or reducing impervious cove, increasing on-site infiltration, reducing or eliminating pollution from stormwater runoff, and eliminating contaminants.
7.      Credit 7, Heat Island Effect: 2 options, Non-roof and Roof – Reducing heat island (thermal gradient differences between developed and undeveloped area) to minimize impact on microclimate, human and wildlife habitat.
8.      Credit 8, Light Pollution Reduction – minimize light trespass from the building and site, this would reduce sky-glow to increase night sky access, improve nighttime visibility through glare reduction, and reduce development impact on nocturnal environments.

Overall choosing a site is the first step in any project and by understanding the credits of this section, we would understand that the Sustainable Sites (SS) section defines the need to:

1.      Choose a site to build on that has been built on by others.
2.      Choose a site that is close to transportation, amenities and housing.
3.      Redevelop and/ redeem a site to make it both ecologically friendly and environmentally friendly.
4.      Reduce the impact of heat island effect and light pollution that impacts our ecosystem and human health.
5.      Protect our air and water ways from pollution.

Eco Thinking: Greener Greater Buildings (GGBP) Plan: 4 Energy Laws

This week I went to The Urban Green Council's free training session on NYC's Greener Greater Buildings (GGBP) Plan: 4 Energy Laws.  It was very informative and they have 2 more scheduled on their calendar for all that are interested; check it out at 

The Mayor’s office, building department and other organizations such as The Urban Green Council have free information workshops to help in the understanding of the requirements.  For more information and free training sessions check out  or
NYSERDA also has programs that can help with funding the Benchmarking, Energy Audits, and much more; check out their website for more information at .  Just remember this organization does not know the letter of these laws, so when looking for funding on parts of the requirements, like benchmarking, a business owner or manager will have to understand the whole energy picture of their building to get help from the right program offered.

Overall these laws were made for owners to be able to understand and manage their energy use, while improving our built environment.  Also, these buildings will be graded and made public for all to see.  This will also benefit the real estate market in the future as prospective buyers will know the efficiency of the building they are buying and the cost savings they will have with that efficiency.

Part of Plan NYC’s GGBP is a concentration on existing building’s energy and water efficiency.  Why a concentration on existing buildings?  Buildings make up about 75% of NYC’s carbon emissions and by 2030 existing buildings will make up of 85% of the cities real estate.  There are 4 laws that building owners and managers need to be aware of and understand.  The Laws are as Follows:

Local Law 85, NYC Energy Conservation Code – Compliance went into effect July 2010
Local Law 84, Benchmarking Energy and Water Usage  – compliance needs to be met by May 1st 2011
Local Law 87, Energy Audits and Rerto-commissioning – compliance for some area’s starts in 2013
Local Law 88, Lighting Upgrades and Sub-metering – compliance by 2025

Check out my full article on coming soon