Just a Suggestion: Task Force Puts Forth 111 Recommendations on How City Regulations Can Promote Sustainability


Earlier this week, the Green Codes Task Force – a group convened in July 2008 by Mayor Bloomberg and Council Speaker Quinn to review the regulations affecting buildings and provide suggestions on amending these regulations to promote sustainability – released their report.

The report covers a wide array of topics, ranging from health and toxicity to energy and water to urban ecology.

The recommendations suggest changes to the general approach to new construction and existing buildings.  Additionally, specific changes to the building code and zoning regulation are suggested.

Some tangible changes that the Task Force recommends are:

  • Do not exempt existing buildings from updated codes, specifically the new building code.  This recommendation seeks to apply the new, more environmentally conscious building code to building built using the 1968 code.  It is important to note that this recommendation runs counter to the City’s recent Stalled Buildings Program (described in a previous post) which allows stalled projects to maintain building permits obtained under the old building code.
  • Several recommendations suggest a greater promotion of stairway use in buildings; one such recommendation is to institute a zoning bonus to reward stairs that are “prominent and accessible”.
  • “Permitted Obstructions”, a defined term in the zoning code, are items that are allowed to exist where the building proper is not.  These include elevator bulkheads, mechanical equipment, etc.  This definition, however, does not address alternative energy equipment such as solar panels, exterior insulation for greater energy efficiency, and solar shades to decrease cooling demands.  There are several recommendations that suggest an overhaul to this definition.
  • The recommendation to take climate change into account during CEQR, the City Environmental Quality Review, is one that is very important and is actually already in the process of being adopted.  The results of this change to Environmental Assessment/Impact Statements (EAS/EIS) and the subsequent impacts on design of developments will be fascinating.

These recommendations are just advisory, but as the Task Force was commissioned by the Mayor and the City Council, it will be very interesting to see what kind of traction these suggestions get.

Take a look at the report and let us know which suggestions you think make the most sense for the City and why.