Eight years ago, in the face of rapidly rising carbon emissions, PlaNYC—New York City‘s sustainability and resilience blueprint—set a goal of reducing emissions 30 percent citywide by 2030 compared to a 2005 baseline. “Enormous progress has been made thus far: the growth has been stopped and emissions have substantially decreased—by 19 percent,” observed Laurie Kerr, Urban Green Council‘s Director of Policy. “But as impressive as that is, we need to do more, faster.”
Enter One City: Built to Last, the city’s ten-year building upgrade plan aimed at helping reach Mayor Bill de Blasio’s ambitious “80 x 50” goal: 80 percent citywide reductions by 2050. Kerr and John Lee, Deputy Director for Buildings and Energy Efficiency at the NYC Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, will be on hand next week at Facades+ NYC to outline the initiative with special reference to the design and construction of high performance building envelopes.
The AEC industry holds the key to the 80 x 50 mission, said Kerr. “There are tricky technical, financial and logistical issues to solve. The cutting edge will need to push the craft and the supply chain to arrive at solutions that are efficient, scalable, and appealing to tenants.” But the answer to the environmental challenge will necessarily entail behind-the-scenes work as well as splashy innovation, she noted. “The rank and file will need to become proficient in new techniques, such as PassivHaus, that require dramatically greater vigilance on un-sexy issues like thermal bridging and infiltration.”
Much of the burden for improved performance falls on the building exterior. “High performance envelopes are going to play a major role in achieving 80 x 50—we’re simply not going to get there without them,” said Kerr. “This will be true for new buildings, but it will be even more important for the existing building stock, which may need everything from sealing, to better windows, to re-wrapping or interior insulation on some properties.” The call for upgrades on a large scale is sure to benefit the AEC industry financially, she pointed out, but its members will have to work for their money. “It will entail considerable creativity and craftsmanship to develop and deliver the cost-effective strategies for each facade type—from midcentury modern to brownstones to brick towers in the park,” said Kerr.