On Monday, April 22, the New York’s city council voted in favor for the Climate Mobilization Act (CMA), a group of bills and resolutions designed to drastically improve energy efficiency in New York City. Green Building construction are front amenities and development standards are one of the key focal points to the “New Green Deal” for New York with green roofs taking the spotlight. 

Following behind Toronto, San Francisco, Denver, and Portland, Oregon, all new residential and commercial buildings in the city will be required to outfit rooftops with either plants, solar panels, mini wind turbines, or some combination of the three.

“The Climate Mobilization Act is a downpayment on the future of New York City—one that ensures we lead the way in the ever-growing fight against climate change,” said council member Costa Constantinides.

The CMA is one of several proposals that would help The Big Apple become a global leader in the reduction of climate change effects and is estimated to result in the equivalent of taking more than one million cars off the road by 2030.

The bill covers all new buildings, as well as those undergoing certain major renovations. An accompanying bill adjusts requirements for smaller buildings and looks at ways of phasing in the change to avoid negatively impacting homeowners and small business owners.

Changing the material on rooftops may seem trivial in nature, but the impact of changing materials can be massively impactful. Vegetated green roofs have been known to reduce the urban heat island effect, as the plants and organic matter are better able to absorb light and energy that would otherwise be emitted as heat. By reducing heat emissions, green roofs can drastically reduce demand for power. In a research report published by the National Research Council of Canada, an extensive green roof can cut a building’s daily energy demand for air conditioning by 75 percent.

The act’s “Dirty Building Bill” aims to fully reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050 through energy-saving solutions and retrofits such as installing better insulation.

While the impact of the Climate Mobilization Act is difficult to fully articulate, one estimation believes that the number one contributor of carbon emissions in the city is the buildings themselves. There are 50,000 buildings over a 25,000 square feet area, which represents just 2% of the city’s total buildings, account for nearly half of all building-related carbon emissions.

By addressing this a mere 2% of the current building supply, the resulting impact could be as much as 25x – a shining example of maximizing output from minimal input (see Pareto’s Rule).

Going green is a big step for a city this size, but it’s one that can only benefit its citizens and the planet.

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