Of all the tools designed to provoke urban compliance, the most effective, it seems, is the old-fashioned letter grade. That’s the tool New York City restaurants have to use, for instance, to communicate their health department ratings to would-be diners.
Thanks to newly-passed legislation, New York is becoming the first city in the country to require that “energy grades“—A to F ratings based on federal Energy Star energy efficiency scores—be posted at the public entrances of commercial and residential buildings over 25,000 square feet. Currently, the city collects energy and water usage data on private buildings over 50,000 square feet and public buildings over 10,000 square feet and posts the results for these 11,000-plus properties online. The new rules will broaden energy reporting requirements to owners of eligible private buildings, too, and cover around 20,000 structures total.
On December 19, the New York City Council passed the bill, 1632A, authored by Council Member Dan Garodnick. If the mayor signs off on the bill, its first provisions will go into effect immediately, but owners won’t have to post letter grades in 2020. To get their scores, building owners will need to fill out an online assessment of their property’s performance, and the results will be available in a searchable database, in addition to being posted on the building’s public entrances.
“As the federal government shirks its stewardship of our environment, it is up to cities to step in,” said Garodnick.
Despite the US’s recent withdrawal from several global sustainability pledges, the city is still aiming, per the 2015 Paris Agreement, to reduce its greenhouse emissions by at least 80 percent by 2050. Efforts to do so include transitioning to a renewables-based electric grid, achieving Zero Waste landfills, and replacing fossil-fuel based heating and hot water systems with high efficiency systems.
“Nearly 70 percent of greenhouse gas pollution in New York City comes from buildings,” said Rory Christian, director of the New York Clean Energy Environmental Defense Fund, in a prepared statement. “Requiring large buildings to post their energy efficiency grades is a natural next step in the evolution of the city’s energy policies.”