Local Law 97 is a topic of big debate in New York City, as it works to limit fossil fuel emissions of large buildings. A public hearing on the law drew a big crowd to discuss how the regulations should be enforced.
Michael Samuelian, Director of the Jacobs Urban Technology Hub at Cornell Tech in New York City, is an expert in urban planning, real estate, and the role technology plays in today’s and tomorrow’s cities.
“Notwithstanding the challenges that commercial real estate owners are going through today, addressing climate change cannot wait for a more convenient time. This transition will be painful and inconvenient for many, but the time is now to change the way we heat and cool buildings.
“Local Law 97 is one of the most powerful building regulations in the country and New York City must continue to lead the fight to decarbonize our cities. This law will supercharge the tech transition and inspire new innovative approaches to energy usage that we will need for a less carbon-dependent future for our children.”
“Local Law 97 is one of the most ambitious municipal climate laws in the world. If thoughtfully implemented, it has the potential to help decarbonize New York City’s number one source of greenhouse gas emissions: the fossil fuels used to heat, cool, and power buildings.
“The law and others like it have already started to catalyze in NYC the creation of whole new industries and technologies to improve the efficiency of buildings and provide cost-effective alternatives to reduce emissions and shift from fossil fuel heating, cooling, and power.
“This is an enormous task, and success will require deliberate and coordinated action from New York City, New York state and the Federal Government to reduce costs and provide support to building owners while also holding the line with real consequences if buildings are failing to act.”
“Decarbonizing buildings is capital-intensive and has significant implications for building owners and operators and the energy supply infrastructure. Laws and regulations that mandate decarbonization goals are necessary to create momentum around decarbonization. Voluntary commitments have not worked in the past. We know how and have the technology to create sustainable architecture, yet buildings are still among the biggest carbon emission emitters in the U.S.
“However, trying to solve the climate crisis through regulation alone probably will not succeed. It may even be counterproductive and may fail to create a positive momentum around improving our building stock and investing in long-term sustainability.
“Mandates or penalties should be paired with substantial financial and regulatory support to create an incentive system that is based on detailed and rigorous analysis (not a one-size-fits-all mandate) of the building stock and the energy supply infrastructure to understand potential synergies between building energy demand profiles and to uncover the potential of economies of scale that single building owners would not be able to tap into.
“Simply letting building owners figure it out by themselves seems like a big missed opportunity and will lead to less optimal, non-synergetic, and potentially significantly more expensive solutions.”