in Climate Change, Density, Urban Density

Zoning GHG

New York City’s newest set of proposed zoning changes will re-write rules to remove impediments to constructing and retrofitting buildings in every land use. The objective: reduce urban energy consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) production. The bottom line is the $15 billion/year spent on heat and power in buildings representing 80 percent of the city’s carbon emissions.

Reduction in consumption improves well being.

Can zoning regulations reduce the urban carbon footprint and lower energy costs? For example, assuring buildings have a good air barrier and insulation on the exterior will yield energy performance. So why is encouraging a good air/insulation barrier (four to eight inches) a zoning issue?

The added bulk to get energy efficiency is counted under existing regulations.  This reduces the usable space within the building and ends up in a cost/income trade-off, and it tends to build in a substandard “triple net” energy cost transfer from the developer to the leaseholder or owner. The new regulations will exempt the added bulk concerning floor area limits (FAR) and open space regulations (OSR).

Will this reduce the TDC/ROI energy trade off? (total development cost to return on investment ratio)

Solar panels, rooftop greenhouses will also be exempt from FAR and height limits in some cases, as long as the greenhouse is on top of a building that does not include house residences. The result of these changes will be slightly bulkier, somewhat taller buildings that are more energy-efficient.

A number regarding the discount from $15 billion in today’s energy cost and the reduction of GHGs also requires an estimate. The cost of confirming compliance is yet another public responsibility. This requires a factor that is sufficiently offset by penalties that are equal to the obvious incentives.

The City Planning Commission process began December 19, 2011, with the new regulations’ submission to the five borough presidents and the city’s 59 community boards. The goal is to formalize the new regulations by Spring 2012.

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