Written by Janet Joseph, Senior Vice President for Strategy and Market Development, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA)
Most assume our carbon emissions mostly come from the transportation and utility sectors. But, in fact, the biggest emitters of pollution? New York State’s buildings. Buildings are directly responsible for more than half of the greenhouse gas emissions in New York State. And how much do New Yorkers pay for those dirty emissions? An exorbitant $31 billion annually for electricity and heating fuels combined.
But there is good news on the horizon. New York State is taking the lead on addressing one of the most pressing issues of our time — climate change — by fostering a transformative path to lower our carbon footprint and increase energy efficiency and lower our building emissions.
As part of his clean energy and jobs agenda, Governor Cuomo’s Green New Deal offers an exciting opportunity to deliver low- and zero-carbon buildings. A core component of this nation-leading plan is decarbonizing the State’s electric, transportation, and building infrastructure while also prioritizing the needs of low- and moderate-income New Yorkers. This is part and parcel of super-charging our State’s economic growth. New York is already making great strides in reducing its greenhouse gas emissions, and we can build on this success to move to a carbon neutral economy by focusing on our buildings sooner rather than later.
How are we reducing energy waste in our building stock? A number of ways. First — a solution we already know about: Net zero carbon buildings are highly energy efficient buildings. With the remaining energy needs provided by renewable resources, either on-site or off-site, these low-carbon buildings can provide more comfortable and healthier environments in which to live and work, cost-effectively. Right now, net zero buildings are at an early stage of adoption.
Governor Cuomo is focused on a revolutionary path to a better future by jumpstarting wider use of net zero building by launching a $30 million Buildings of Excellence Competition to advance the design, construction, renovation and operation of low- and zero-carbon emitting buildings. Approximately 100 million square feet of new construction is built each year in New York State and the average structure remains in use for anywhere between 50 to 100 years. Over time, buildings become more challenging and expensive to renovate to reduce energy and carbon emissions. The best time to reduce energy waste in a building is before it has been constructed. The Buildings of Excellence Competition provides a tool to tackle this issue.
The competition, administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), will recognize cost-effective and replicable low-carbon or zero-carbon buildings that reduce energy costs for residents while remaining profitable for developers, and providing comfortable, healthy, and aesthetically pleasing environments for residents.
A new report funded by NYSERDA and released by the New Buildings Institute, New York Getting to Net-zero Status Report, shows our state is leading the Northeast in net-zero buildings with 27 documented ongoing and completed net-zero building projects and a total of 132 net-zero, high-performance, and Passive House building projects (a rigorous, voluntary standard for energy efficiency). The report also shows that steady cost compression can lower net-zero construction costs to be competitive with conventional construction.
The Buildings of Excellence competition is an exciting transformational approach to our built environment that allows us to tackle one of the biggest carbon saving opportunities in the new construction market. Multifamily construction projects are expected to represent approximately 40 percent of the new construction market going forward. Creating and maintaining affordable housing is one of our biggest societal needs and goals of this administration. People need quality housing that is safe, affordable, and is resilient to extreme weather events.
Public-private partnerships have always played a key role in driving change and this competition captures that spirit by giving developers and architects the opportunity to lead. The Buildings of Excellence Competition, and programs like it, are part of NYSERDA’s $50 million investment to drive change in the multi-family construction industry.
Moving New York State’s building stock to net zero is an opportunity to improve the way we build while delivering economic gain, providing better living environments, and delivering cost savings to residents and commercial businesses. We need you to enter with your best ideas and plans to build a better future for all New Yorkers.
Learn more at NYSERDA.