Bringing Building Code up to Code
Event: Green the Codes: PlaNYC on New York City’s Building Codes
Location: Tishman Auditorium, 12.17.07
Speakers: Dan Doctoroff — Deputy Mayor; Patricia Lancaster, FAIA — Commissioner, NYC Department of Buildings; William C. Rudin — President, Rudin Management; Ashok Gupta — Director, Air and Energy Program, U.S. Green Building Council, New York, & board member, Natural Resources Defense Council; Nancy Clark — Assistant Commissioner for Environmental Disease Prevention, NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; Edward Ott — Executive Director, Central Labor Council
Moderator: Russell Unger — Executive Director, U.S. Green Building Council, New York
Organizers: USGBC-NY; Parsons, The New School for Design; The New School Tishman Environment and Design Center
It would be Dan Doctoroff’s last public speech as Deputy Mayor, pointed out Russel Unger, executive director of the U.S. Green Building Council. Offering advice for his successor in the form of “Doctoroff’s Three D’s of Deputy Mayorhood,” he said he’d learned the first one — “distract,” followed by “duplicate” good ideas worldwide, and “distinguish” oneself from anyone named Moses — the hard way: “If you want approval for a major rezoning… first pretend that you want to stick a stadium in the middle of it.”
Doctoroff went on to make a case for PlaNYC 2030, particularly its green component, as his and Mayor Bloomberg’s real legacy, and for the Building Code as a powerful instrument for realizing it. Finding widespread evidence of the need for greener construction, the city is combining economic incentives with the code to induce developers to improve the performance of both new and older buildings. Revised last spring (its first major overhaul since 1968), approved by City Council to take effect in July 2008, and scheduled for periodic revision on a three-year cycle, the code will now address sustainability as well as safety. The next revision, Doctoroff said, will focus largely on green features. By 2015, the code will require all existing buildings larger than 50,000 square feet to perform audits and retrofits, which he said will pay for themselves within five years; all new buildings will have to meet higher standards for energy and water efficiency, recycling of construction debris, recycled content, and other sustainability strategies.
Buildings Commissioner Patricia Lancaster, FAIA, summarized the new features, promising her department would have “new tools to enforce the codes.” To streamline approval of innovations, the code will allow materials that meet national standards, removing the local roadblock of the department’s Materials and Equipment Acceptance (MEA) index. It will also conform to the International Code Council format and allow electronic processing. The next iteration of the code will promote a citywide greener profile through reflective or green roofs, more efficient heating/cooling, graywater processing, and energy-saving relaxation of continuous ventilation requirements in some parts. Fee rebates will create incentives for LEED status, demolition-waste recycling, and use of renewable energy. Lancaster cited Local Law 86 as evidence that the public sector intends to lead by example.
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