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New York City Approves "Zone Green" Amendments to the City Zoning Resolution

On May 1, 2012, the New York City Council unanimously approved changes to the New York City Zoning Resolution that will encourage green construction for new buildings and green retrofits for existing buildings, among other environmentally-sound innovations. These "Zone Green" amendments are complementary to Mayor Bloomberg's PlaNYC program, the goal of which is to make the City "greener and greater."

As a result of the request of Mayor Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a Green Codes Task Force was established under the supervision of the Urban Green Council (NYC City Chapter of the USGBC). By February of 2010, the Task Force made a series of recommendations for green amendments to city ordinances, which led to the Zone Green amendments. These new "green" amendments to the City zoning code are the latest sustainability initiatives for the City and just one more way that PlaNYC is making it easier for New York City to become more sustainable.

InNew York City, energy used in buildings accounts for 75% of the greenhouse gas emissions and 85% of the water use. Green buildings use energy and water more efficiently, contain fewer toxic materials, and contribute to an improved outdoor environment by increasing vegetation, combating urban overheating, and managing stormwater. These new amendments will allow building owners to incorporate green building measures that would otherwise violate the current building or zoning codes.

For example, under these new amendments existing buildings will now be able to add up to eight inches of insulation to their exterioreven if the added material would violate existing regulatory limits on building size (floor area restrictions), building height, or minimum setback and open space requirements, so long as the insulation meets certain energy efficiency requirements.

The new amendments also allow buildings to add solar energy systems to their roofs without counting them against a building's maximum height, with certain limitations. Buildings will also be allowed to add solar panels or exterior solar shades to their exterior walls as "permitted obstructions" that can project into open space required by the zoning code. Other "green" energy elements are also allowed as "permitted obstruction" on building roofs, including: wind turbines on buildings over 100 feet tall and buildings near the waterfront, rooftop greenhouses, "green roofs" (roofs that use rooftop vegetation to retain water, reduce heat gain, and provide recreational space), and "blue roofs" (roofs that use weirs and detention mechanisms to slow the release of stormwater).

The new amendments also permit boilers to be placed on building roofs, rather than in the basement, which can eliminate the need for interior chimneys, increase overall energy efficiency, and reduce fire risks.

The new Zone Green amendments can be found here.

To learn more about PlaNYC and green building, read our articles:

"N.Y.C.'s Greener, Greater Buildings Plan: The Time Is Now" by James J. Periconi

"Green Building: There's No Escaping It" by James J. Periconi and Abigail M. Jones

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