On February 1, 2010, the New York City Green Codes Task Force issued a set of more than 100 recommendations for revising the City’s construction, fire, water, sewer, and zoning codes to incorporate a broad range of energy efficiency and environmental measures.
The Task Force was assembled in July 2008 by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and brought together city officials and more than 200 volunteers from architecture, public health, construction, real estate, organized labor, housing, and other fields.
According to the report, while many of the 111 recommendations were tailored to the City’s codes, they will be applicable to other jurisdictions. The recommendations cover measures to reduce carbon emissions as well as adapt to the effects of climate change. The Task Force recommendations cover overarching code issues, health and toxicity, energy and carbon emissions, building resilience, resource conservation, water efficiency, stormwater, and urban ecology. Most broadly, the Task Force recommended that environmental protection be expressly recognized as a fundamental principle in the City building code. Another broad recommendation simply urged full enforcement of the City construction codes by developing an effective compliance strategy and addressing known impediments to enforcement.
Broad health and toxicity recommendations would include steps to limit harmful emissions from carpets, paints, and glues; restrict use of formaldehyde in building materials; and filter soot from incoming air. The recommendations also included smaller steps such as encouraging stairway use to promote exercise and increasing the availability of drinking fountains to reduce environmental stress from bottled drinks. Air quality recommendations ranged from controlling volatile organic compounds and particulates during and after construction, to reducing bathroom mold through materials substitution, to phasing out dirty boiler fuels.
For energy efficiency, the Task Force recommended broad changes to simplify the City’s excessively complex code structure, which creates loopholes and makes enforcement difficult. According to the report, narrower code changes could promote use of insulation by allowing it to be counted as internal floor space or be added to side and rear yard setbacks of buildings; increase the allowable size of exterior window shades; or encourage window screens and openable windows for natural ventilation. In another energy recommendation, the Task Force said solar panels and other alternative energy roof installations could be encouraged through code changes to allow them as “permitted obstructions” that would not be counted against building height restrictions.
The recommendations for building resiliency were aimed at helping modern buildings withstand natural disasters, blackouts, and climate change effects such as rising sea levels, stronger winds, and wetter conditions. These recommendations ranged from using natural light and ventilation to reduce the dependency of modern buildings on electric lighting, mechanical equipment, and externally supplied energy, to requiring toxic materials to be stored in flood-proof areas.