NYC Government Policy Briefing – February 2010

February 21, 2010

Already in February 2010 there has been three major policy announcements to further integrate smart building strategies into the city’s built environment.  This news in the short term particularly impacts clean energy business owners and those doing business with the city – in the long term the City has begun the process to overhaul its entire regulatory framework.  Below is a brief overview of the Speaker’s State of the City Address, the release of the NYC Green Code Task Force’s 111 recommendations, and a link to the DDC’s new Active Design Guidelines – all after the jump. 
Speaker Quinn’s State of the City Address
On Thursday, February 18, Speaker Quinn gave her State of the City Address.  The speech took an “It’s the Economy, Stupid” approach, focusing on economic growth, job growth, and training.  Three aspects are of import to green building advocates:

  • Renewable Energy Investment Initiative
    The City has made a commitment with “some of the largest firms in the city,” including Citibank and New Grid Energy Solutions, to invest in the renewable energy sector by bringing new business to the city and assisting existing efforts.  The initiative will be chaired by David Arena of Grubb & Ellis.
  • The Municipal Entrepreneur Testing Service (M.E.T.S)
    M.E.T.S. will allow tech startup companies to “test products like solar panels and energy efficient light bulbs in the thousands of city-owned buildings.”  The aim is to speed up firms’ entry into the marketplace, and thus, create jobs.  M.E.T.S will “turn our entire city into a real world testing lab.”  The Speaker pointed out Council Member Nelson’s (D – Brooklyn) efforts, along with DCAS, EDC, and former KeySpan CEO Bob Catel.
  • Innovation Review Board
    This project will attempt to connect tech businesses with building owners seeking energy efficient products (potentially due to the City’s regulations) following the passage of legislation sponsored by Council Member Jim Gennaro (D – Queens).  The Innovation Review Board would speed up the governmental approval process of new energy efficient technologies.

In conjunction, the City will expand a program city-wide, developed by the Pratt Center, and in conjunction with Council member Erik Martin Dilan (D – Brooklyn), to help homeowners make energy efficiency upgrades.  Finally, the Speaker plans to pass legislation sponsored by Council Member Jessica Lappin to create a loan program for energy efficiency upgrades for building owners.  The City has already applied for $40 million in federal funds to get the program started.  As more information is made available about these programs, we’ll report it here.

Urban Green Task Force Recommendations
On February 1st, the NYC Green Codes Task Force issued 111 recommendations to green the City’s existing building code.  Described as “the most sophisticated and comprehensive analysis of building codes ever conducted by a municipality anywhere,” the council of 200 experts met at the request of the Mayor and the Speaker to comprehensively review the City’s building regulations.  The recommendations range from removing barriers to green practice to requiring higher performance.  The full text is available through the Urban Green Council, who spearheaded the effort, and are organized by category.  This is the first major step in a process that will see some suggestions be implemented through executive power, and others through City Council approval.  There has been considerable press coverage of these proposals.  Great places to start are the NY Times piece, on WNYC, and in Crains.

NYC Active Design Guidelines
In early 2010 the NYC Department of Design and Construction released the Active Design Guidelines Manual.  This document “provides architects and urban designers with a manual of strategies for creating healthier buildings, streets and urban spaces,” and includes urban design strategies, building design strategies, and recommendations on coordinating active design with guidelines like LEED and PlaNYC.  This holistic approach to improving physical health is a great read that emphasizes the other side of green buildings that is arguably often overlooked – the experience of the tenants.

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