Home News The Race to Decarbonize New York City Condos, Co-ops

The Race to Decarbonize New York City Condos, Co-ops

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(Illustration by The Real Deal with Getty)

Mary Anne Rothman is concerned about Local Law 97.

An ambitious law passed in 2019 sets a cap on building greenhouse gas emissions throughout New York City. The largest carbon emitter of approximately 5,400 buildings must be below the emissions cap by 2024. The rest of the top 75% emitters are through 2030.

Buildings account for 70% of New York’s global warming emissions, with multifamily housing being the biggest culprit. Boilers, furnaces and water heaters alone account for 40% of New York’s carbon footprint.

But as the first compliance deadline approaches, some cooperatives and condominiums are struggling to raise funds and prepare construction services to legalize before the law’s harsh penalties apply.

Emission limits for each building are based on its size and type. Supermarkets, for example, may have higher emissions than condominiums because they require huge refrigerators to keep food from spoiling.

But one scary constant applies to all buildings, regardless of how dense they are. Each tonne of emissions over the limit is subject to a fine of up to $268.

“Not everyone is thrilled about this legislation,” said Rothman, executive director of the New York Cooperative and Condominium Council, understating.

For many years the real estate industry Call for law reformbut the objection is almost entirely commercial property ownersCondos and co-ops have virtually disappeared from the conversation.

Many members of that world don’t even know the law. Rothman said he couldn’t recall a single conversation he had with a condominium or co-op board member in the past eight months.

“My biggest fear is,” Rothman said.

glass house people

New York’s penchant for glass skyscrapers complicates compliance. In 2010 the city introduced its first energy code aimed at making construction more efficient. According to the Urban Green Council, apartments built after that consume half as much fuel per square foot as apartments built before 1980.

the city later passed More efficient countermeasures It has pushed builders towards greener technologies, such as better insulation and tighter building wraps.

But as Dutch architect Stefan Ahr writes about modern skyscrapers in his book Supertall, modern tastes make green design more difficult.

The taller the skyscraper, the more pressure the upper floors exert on the lower floors. Therefore, ancient architects built tall structures with wide bases and small peaks. The tapering approach worked well for Pyramid, but in a dense metropolis with expensive land like Manhattan, the developer doesn’t have room for a wide base to support his 80-story skyscraper.

Instead, builders must rely on one of the wonders of modern architecture: concrete.

Today’s concrete is very strong. A table-sized slab in the 800m-tall Burj Khalifa can support the Eiffel Tower. Environmentally speaking, though, concrete is the emissions equivalent of his two-pack-a-day smoker.

The manufacture of cement, the glue that holds concrete together, requires large amounts of fossil fuels. Overall, concrete accounts for 5-8% of global fossil fuel spending.

The good news for city buildings is that past emissions from construction don’t count against the Local Law 97 limit. The bad news is that retrofitting older buildings that were built before energy efficiency became an issue is very expensive.

Anything new has its own emissions issues. Rising hundreds of feet and bathing in unobstructed sunlight, the glass towers require powerful air conditioning systems. Air conditioners account for his 10% of US emissions.

One57, the Extell Development Billionaires’ Row condo tower that sparked Manhattan’s skyscraper boom, emits more than 5,600 tonnes of carbon annually, according to the latest urban benchmark figures (as of 2020). However, according to Local Law 97, One57 he shall not exceed 5,000 tons. That means the building could be fined $200,000 a year.

15 Central Park West of Zeckendorf Development, one of the cities most advantageous condo So far, that limit appears to have been exceeded by almost 125 tons. A fine of $33,000 will be imposed.

However, these are rounding errors for newly built ultra-luxury buildings, and the monthly common service fee is single apartment It can be 5 digits.

the age before beauty

Mark Schwartz, a member of the 1235 Park Avenue Condominium Board, looks at the 60-unit building, built in 1928, like an aging parent.

“My dad is about the same age and they both need bypass surgery or something all the time,” Schwartz said. Orsid, the building’s estate manager, reached out to Schwartz in 2019 to tell him the building needed to get its act together.

The building hired contractors to identify ways to achieve compliance. Since then, the board has added small efficiencies to its maintenance needs. For example, improved insulation with new roofs and modern steam heating valves.

“A lot of the work we did 10 or 15 years ago is now coming back to help us,” says Schwartz. “But if you have to do all this at once, that’s a big deal.”

Orsid has launched an information blitz to meet legal deadlines for the nearly 200 co-ops and condominiums it manages. “People are thinking, ‘Oh, compliance, I just need to check a box,'” said company executive Dennis De Paola. There is none.”

It can be especially difficult in condominiums where residents own their own units rather than share in the building and may be resistant to change. It can also cause delays in funding and difficulties in arranging contractors.

In a recent Q&A session, city officials asked 17 attendees to finance the renovation in a variety of ways. There are many options, including Con Ed, NYSERDA, and HPD, but the owners seem to be inundated with information, even if they pay attention.

It can be complicated even for civil servants who work mainly in housing. Pierina Sanchez, chairman of the city council’s Housing and Buildings Committee, lives in her 75-unit co-op, one of the buildings she must reduce emissions by the 2024 deadline. Sanchez says there is a shortage of engineers to help with compliance.

“I feel the pain myself, along with my neighbors,” Sanchez said. I was.

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