Who Cares About Energy Codes?
The architect’s guide to New York City’s
aggressive carbon reduction code
In 2025, New York City will become one of the first cities in the world to adopt a predicted energy use code, as part of Local Law 32 of 2018. Building Energy Exchange’s Architect Advisory Council’s 2020 initiative has shown that the profession must radically adapt to meet these ground-breaking requirements, and provides actionable recommendations to catalyze the design and construction of predicted energy use code compliant buildings, as well as the integration of high performance building practices in architecture.
The recommendations from the Architect Advisory Council span three key topics:
About the Council
Supporting Building Energy Exchange’s (BE-Ex) mission to accelerate the transition to healthy, comfortable, and energy efficient buildings, the BE-Ex Architect Advisory Council was convened to help inform how the building design and construction industry must rapidly evolve to address the effects of climate change.
High performance buildings are central to New York City’s plan to reduce emissions 80% by 2050, and the City is enacting changes to codes and regulations that fundamentally transform building performance requirements.The BE-Ex Architect Advisory Council’s 2020 initiative proposes ways the profession must adapt to meet these new ambitious requirements, and provides actionable recommendations to normalize high performance building practices in architecture.
The Building Energy Exchange convened a group of leading architects and engineers with demonstrated experience in high performance design and construction, and related organizational representatives, to serve on the 2020 council, including:
BE-Ex Architect Advisory Council 2020 Co-Chairs
Gina Bocra, AIA, LEED Fellow, Chief Sustainability Officer, NYC Department of Buildings
Chris Corcoran, Program Manager, Team Lead – Codes, Products, and Standards, NYSERDA
Fiona Cousins, PE, CEng, LEED Fellow, Principal, Arup
Bruce Fowle, FAIA, LEED AP, Founding Principal Emeritus, FXCollaborative
John Lee, RA, Principal, Distant Lands
Richard Yancey, FAIA, LEED AP, Executive Director, Building Energy Exchange
Rebecca Esau, AIA, LEED GA, Manager, Projects, Building Energy Exchange
Architect Advisory Council Members
Illya Azaro, FAIA, +LAB Architect PLLC, incoming 2021 President AIA New York State
Kai-Uwe Bergmann, FAIA, BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group
Stephanie Carlisle, Carbon Leadership Forum
Jared Della Valle, FAIA, Alloy
Carl Elefante, FAIA, FAPT, Quinn Evans
Rocco Giannetti, FAIA, NCARB, LEED AP, Gensler
Mark Ginsberg, FAIA, LEED AP, Curtis + Ginsberg Architects
Stefan Knust, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, WELL AP, CPHC, Ennead Architects
Yasemin Kologlu, RIBA, LEED AP BD+C, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
Deborah Moelis, AIA, CPHD, Handel Architects
Dan Piselli, AIA, LEED, CPHD, FXCollaborative
Mallory Taub, WELL AP, LEED AP BD+C, Gensler
Kim Yao, AIA, 2020 President AIANY, Architecture Research Office (ARO)
Elias Dagher, PE, LEED AP, CPHC, Dagher Engineering
Sarah Sachs, LEED AP BD+C, Buro Happold
Benjamin Prosky, Assoc. AIA, Executive Director, AIANY / Center for Architecture
Georgi Ann Bailey, CAE, Hon. AIANYS, Executive Vice President, AIANYS
Charlie Marino, CEA, LEED AP O+M, ASHRAE NY
Elizabeth Kelly, New York City Mayor’s Office of Sustainability
Laurie Kerr, FAIA, LEED AP, LK Policy Lab
Michael De Chiara, Esq., Zetlin & De Chiara LLC
Michael Rosenberg, FASHRAE, LEED AP, CEM, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
In 2021, we are at an inflection point in the climate crisis: innovative solutions are becoming funded initiatives; ambitious policies are becoming laws; and the United States has re-joined the Paris Agreement. Of the sectors that contribute the most to our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions —such as transportation and electricity —perhaps the most elusive is buildings. This includes the carbon associated with building and operating our homes, offices, shops, and factories. While electric vehicles are gaining traction with commitments to phase out combustion engines and clean energy is now both cost competitive and heavily incentivized, buildings require a multifaceted and nuanced approach that must engage an incredibly diverse set of decision-makers.
New York has been one of a growing group of cities to recognize the central role of buildings in effective climate action and initiate aggressive measures to curb their emissions. For these measures to succeed, however, architects must expand their professional and ethical duty for ensuring the safety and health of our built environment to include climate action, and seize their agency in leading a rapid transition to high performance buildings. Just as the profession took on the responsibility of making architecture accessible to all, we must ensure that buildings are an effective part of the climate solution. Building performance must become a fundamental design element, no longer an afterthought with responsibility for compliance relegated to another consultant.
New York’s forthcoming predicted energy use code (Local Law 32 of 2018), as well as the groundbreaking building carbon emission limits, of 2019’s Local Law 97, will require fundamental changes to the practice of architecture. The Building Energy Exchange’s 2020 Architect Advisory Council has outlined how the profession must adapt to comply with these new laws —and lead the path forward to a cleaner and healthier city. The Council determined three areas that require action: the profession, the design and construction process, and the practice of architecture.
• Profession: Architects must take a leadership role in setting a project’s performance goals and standards, and in ensuring they are met. This will require changes to the way risk and liability are assigned, and a fluency with energy modeling tools and new performance technologies and systems.
• Process: Change comes slowly to the building sector. Architects must champion a new ‘business as usual’ that fully incorporates performance into every stage of the design, construction, and occupancy process; and imagine new business models to deliver on this imperative.
• Practice: Architects must apply their systems- thinking expertise to ensure successful outcomes through an integrated practice with clear verification, quality assurance, and accountability. They must advocate for these principles to be adopted universally as required practice.
The existential threat of climate change provides an opportunity for the profession of architecture to lead the transition to carbon neutral and energy efficient buildings, dramatically reducing their 40% contribution to the world’s GHG emissions. In successfully adapting the standards of practice to meet New York’s new energy code, the profession can also renew their fundamental role of shaping a better world for generations to come.
How to Take Action and Embrace Energy Codes
New York City’s commitment to climate action presents a once-in-a generation opportunity for architects and design professionals to lead the effort in reducing GHG emissions from buildings. Developers and building owners alike will seek the expertise of the design industry on how to comply with new requirements and codes. To succeed, architects must claim responsibility for delivering low carbon, high performance buildings. Energy code compliance must no longer be an afterthought in the design process, relegated to another consultant.
The following pages outline action-oriented recommendations for architects to embrace energy codes and take a leadership role in solving the climate crisis. These recommendations were determined by the Building Energy Exchange’s 2020 Architect Advisory Council through four roundtable workshops, surveys of the profession, and multiple in-depth interviews with council members who offered a richness of perspectives, ideas, and experience.