Global climate change is not a beast that can be tackled alone. It can only be met with sheer numbers and deliberate action. In this effort to “do one’s part” we sort our trash from our recycling, turn off lights when we leave rooms, and take public transportation; and while we take these actions, we see those around us pitching-in. This communal green economy does not exist solely in the private sphere, however. Some of the biggest players in reducing emissions and saving energy are the companies that we interact with daily — but their actions look drastically different from ours. Buildings contribute 71% of New York City’s greenhouse gas emissions, and the ever-growing city’s skyscrapers and high rises can guzzle energy resources. Thoughtful building, planning, upgrading, and streamlining are all aspects that can be utilized to cause less harm to our environment. To visualize where they stand in the coalition for a greener future, transparency is a necessity. It is this transparency that the Local Law 33 centers, as a part of the larger initiatives of the Climate Mobilization Act. Rolling out at the beginning of November, the updated law will require local buildings to post their “energy efficiency grades” in public view.
These grades exist on a scale from A-F, and they are meant to be indicative of the energy and water usage for each building. The grades are not “one size fits all,” so to speak, as it takes into account the building’s size, type of structure, and number of occupants it serves. The grade is also not fixed. It will be updated annually, allowing businesses the opportunity to make improvements and also compensating for changes that might occur during that time. An “A” rating, as could be predicted, are the ideal standard that businesses should aspire to. Grades between 85 and 100 will land them in this range. The lowest grade, an “F”, is only given to those buildings whose owners have not complied with the Department of Buildings’ rules. A “B” rating is given to buildings with emissions scores between 70 and eighty-five. Those with scores between 55 and 70 will receive a “C”; and those below 55 but still compliant will be marked with a “D”.
All buildings larger than 25,000 square feet will be under the scope of Local Law 33. Much like restaurants are required to post their compliance with health codes and subsequent rating, New Yorkers may soon see more energy ratings appearing in local buildings. Local Law 33 requires them to be posted in visible locations near each public entrance. The goal of this is to allow customers to see which businesses are “pulling their weight.” As Melanie E. La Rocca, commissioner of the DOB said to the New York Times, “people want to know what they are walking into, what they are living in and what their contribution to meeting their values are.” Another, possibly intended, effect however, is a sort of shame on some businesses that have to display their “D” ratings, possibly affecting their consumer base, and consequently motivating future improvement on their energy use. These building grades are not as clear cut as the restaurant ratings that consumers are quite in tune to, but perhaps Local Law 33 can be an effective push towards more energy efficient buildings and practices in NYC.