Green grades coming for large buildings in New York | Climate and Consequence

Letter grades in the windows of restaurants and coffee shops are a familiar sight in New York City. But soon large commercial and residential buildings will begin posting their own ratings—only these will be so-called green grades.

"This about the way a building uses their energy, it's about their energy efficiency," Department of Buildings Commissioner Melanie La Rocca said. "Right now in New York City, 70% of our emissions come from buildings."

The A–F letter grades will be required for about 40,000 buildings in the city that measure 25,000 square feet and up.

The scores behind the grades are generated through the EPA by a company called Energy Star, based on data building owners have been required to submit to the city for years.

The law mandating the grades is part of a bigger climate mobilization plan which will require city buildings to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the coming years.

"It could be something as simple as switching out your lightbulbs, or it could be something a little more complicated like: is my building facade, my envelope, meeting the needs we need to be advancing?" La Rocca said.

The cost implications of improving energy efficiency and better a building's grade are wide-ranging but the commissioner said that doing nothing carries the biggest cost.

"It's very simple: going green saves you green, so we know sustainability does lead to cost savings," she said.

Individuals will have a part to play, too.

"Energy use is driven by people, it's not driven by buildings," said John Mandyck, the CEO of the Urban Green Council, a nonprofit whose mission is to make buildings more energy-efficient. He said the letter grades are a good first step that will increase public awareness of energy issues.

"It will prompt discussion. If someone works in a building that has an A grade and goes home to a building that has a C grade, that might prompt a discussion," he said. "You might start to realize that maybe my building has a C grade because I'm leaving the lights on when I go to work."

Building owners have to submit their energy usage data to DOB by May 2020. The letter grades will start to go up in the months after. Buildings that don't comply and don't post the grades will face yet-to-be-determined fines.


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