NYC Building-Based Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Targets Study

New York City, NY

NYC Building-Based Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Targets Study

New York City’s nearly 1 million buildings generate about 73 percent of its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. HDR led a technical study for the NYC Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, to identify GHG emission reduction strategies for the building sector. Ours is the city’s most comprehensive, building-based energy analysis to date and was supported by a 50-member working group of leaders in real estate, architecture, engineering, construction, finance, affordable housing and environmental justice.

We ultimately concluded that deep energy reductions are possible through integrated improvements to heating and cooling systems and building exteriors. Our team provided a plan to reduce building-based GHG emissions 80 percent by 2050, in concert with the city’s larger #80x50 #OneNYC campaign.

History and Methodology

Since 2005, NYC has reduced overall GHG emissions by 19 percent through regulations and reforms. Nevertheless, the city recognized that the goal of 80 percent by 2050 would require deeper cuts from areas such as buildings.

Our team started by leveraging existing data to understand how energy is used in NYC buildings. That data came from building-level benchmarks that cover more than 2.1 billion square feet and system-level audits that examined current energy performance and consumption.

We categorized the city’s buildings into 21 typologies based on age and height. Organizing and evaluating the data helped us pinpoint the biggest opportunities to reduce energy use and GHG emissions in new and existing buildings.

For existing buildings, our team performed a detailed evaluation of energy conservation measures to improve the energy efficiency of current systems. Additionally, we prepared energy models to evaluate 2050 retrofit paths to find ways to achieve deep carbon reductions. Potential retrofit paths included electrification, re-cladding, upgraded steam systems and air sealing.

We also evaluated the impact of future energy codes for new construction and major structural alterations, using a complex life-cycle cost and emissions analysis tool developed by our Economics & Finance group.

New York has already implemented priority actions. These include developing a new energy code that requires comprehensive retrofits to heating distribution systems and launching organizations such as Community Retrofit NYC to provide educational, engineering, financial and construction support to residents and building owners.

The city will also lead by example by applying higher standards to new, city-owned buildings and substantially renovating existing buildings. Implementing new measures across all buildings will provide residents a healthier environment in which to live and work.

New York City, NY
New York City Economic Development Corporation and Mayor’s Office of Sustainability

New York, NY
United States