Bright Minds Break Down the Outlook of Local Law 97 & Options to Proceed

Adam McCarvill / Program Coordinator, CEBIP

With construction codes pushing new buildings toward net zero, and roughly 80 percent of the world’s expected 2050 building stock already in existence, we need to start asking the tough questions about meeting emissions limits in line with the Paris Agreement.

Let’s shift the focus to a smaller scale, where the United States’ municipalities hold the power over building codes.

New York City is on the leading edge of this green buildings surge by having enacted Local Law 97 (LL97) in 2019, part of a suite of laws called the Climate Mobilization Act. For context, this law aims to reduce building-based emissions by 40 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050. One might ask what this means in terms of scale. LL97 affects more than 50,000 privately owned buildings across New York City that are 25,000 square feet or larger, regardless of property type, age, or landmark status.

So, if this was all done in 2019 (including 3 recent varying rulings) and the initial target is set for 2030, why is it relevant now? Emissions limits are starting in 2024, where building owners must pay $268 per metric ton of CO2 by which they exceed the emissions limit. Currently, the 2024 limits affect approximately the bottom 20 percent of performers. Perhaps not worrying to most, but it becomes troubling when it is realized that about 65 percent of large buildings in NYC will be affected by 2030 limits.

To comply with LL97, and avoid annual fees upwards of a million or more, owners need to submit proof by May 1st, 2025, that their buildings met the limit in 2024. The challenge doesn’t stop there as the 2030 compliance looms…

Building owners, take a breath in, now breathe out.

Silvia Khurrum from ConEdison, a CEBIP board member, broke it down into pillars for us. This puzzle is addressable with proper strategy starting with energy modeling, demand side management, looking at the building envelope and eliminating thermal barriers and losses, going after the deep retrofits, and installing clean energy. She laid it out in that specific pecking order of operations.

As she puts it about the initial step of energy modeling, “Opportunity within your building just by purely looking at your data, I think it’s this really low hanging fruit, low cost, and high return sort of strategic bird’s-eye-view that the building should have in terms of awareness on their energy consumption and not only from an EUI perspective but also carbon intensity.”

ConEd’s Real-Time Energy Management (RTEM) program provides excellent solutions for commercial and multifamily buildings with central cooling to optimize their performance by: aiding in visualizing and managing your energy consumption and equipment performance, diagnosing faulty equipment systems in real-time, and identifying no- and low-cost operational improvements. This might be a great solution if your building meets the requirements.

You might then ask, who can help provide the proper holistic problem-solving framework and execution for buildings that might not benefit from such a program? Enter USL Technology Inc.

USL Technology Inc. is a Minority and Woman-owned Business Enterprise (MWBE), sustainability and technology consulting firm headquartered in New York City, that provides technical and strategic sustainability-focused solutions to business owners and operators throughout the five boroughs and Westchester County. Specifically, they collaborate with design, construction, real estate, and building operations professionals to ensure the services offered are in line with NYC local laws and with the businesses’ sustainability and resiliency goals.

Fatou Jabbie is at the helm and is an expert in the building’s space, with a solid, grounded knowledge of the direct implications of LL97 for building owners. She has created a strong working partnership with Johnson Controls to streamline the system integration process, bringing the right people into each conversation, while directly advising the building owners who have the budget in their hands when all’s said and done.

To her, it is about helping clients navigate the intricate communication networks so that the right solutions are piloted in the right buildings. From her perspective, it is all about having a systems thinking approach. This ties back to the importance of the innate design of a building, where championing conversations with design teams to aid in meeting energy codes needs to become the bottom line.

Tenant engagement misalignment is most substantial in buildings in disadvantaged communities and lower letter buildings (class B, C, D). Unlike Class A buildings, which generally have internal teams to address energy efficiency, for Class B and below, it is a matter of resource limits and taking a different approach—one that USL Technologies Inc. is more than capable of carving out and executing.

With the strong, sound minds of Silvia and Fatou embedded in the buildings space, there is much hope and opportunity around demystifying the pathway and reaching building decarbonization goals. Continue Reading…


Silvia Khurrum, Project Manager in Buildings Decarbonization at Con Edison

Fatou Jabbie, CEO at USL Technologies Inc.

Fun Facts

  1. In 2019, the New York City Council passed Local Law 97, requiring buildings over 25,000 sqft to adhere to emissions limits, such as reducing their greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030. (NYC)
  2. Fossil-fuel combustion attributed to residential and commercial buildings accounts for roughly 29 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. (C2ES)
  3. Buildings account for more than one third of domestic climate pollution and $370 billion in annual energy costs. (DOE)
  4. The US DOE’s Blueprint projects reductions of 90% of total GHG emissions from the buildings sector, which will save consumers more than $100 billion in annual energy costs and avoid $17 billion in annual health costs. (DOE)
  5. To obtain LEED certification, a building must meet specific performance criteria in several categories, including Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality, and Water Efficiency. (UGREEN)