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April 24, 2009

New York City to Green Its Building Stock

Carl-Pope-&-Michael-Bloombe
Photo courtesy of the City of New York

On Earth Day, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn announced a landmark plan to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions in the nation's largest city by requiring owners of thousands of older buildings to make their structures more energy-efficient.

Among the speakers atop a green roof at Rockefeller Center was Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope, above, the only non-New Yorker at the event, which included city officials, labor leaders, builders, and environmentalists. (Quinn is pictured between Pope and Bloomberg.)

The package of legislative, regulatory, and investment programs will make New York the first major American city to ensure that all of its big buildings become energy efficient over the next ten years. City officials estimate the plan will create 19,000 jobs, save $750 million in annual energy costs, and reduce the city's carbon footprint by 5 percent.

The program would begin in 2013, with more than 2,000 buildings performing audits and starting upgrades each year for a decade. Improvements will be mandatory only if energy audits show that the costs of the improvements could be recouped through declines in energy bills within five years.

"The key factor making this so important is simple: market size," Pope says. "By assuring designers and manufacturers of energy-retrofit technologyefficient windows, insulation, high performance furnaces and air conditioning systemsthat as long as their products pay for themselves within five years they will have a huge market, New York City, Bloomberg's program is going to fundamentally change the national marketplace for energy retrofits."

Carl-Pope-Charlie-Rose 

Later that day, Bloomberg, Quinn, and Pope appeared on PBS's Charlie Rose show. "We're doing this because it will create cleaner air for our citizens to breathe, it will create jobs, and it will make more money for building owners," Bloomberg told Rose. "Labor unions, developers, building owners are all on boardit's a win win win for everybody, and it's using today's technology."

Pope said the move will "set the template for what buildings in America will be like 30 years from now. Just as New York skyscrapers at the end of the 19th centure became a model for America, New York's energy efficiency at the beginning of the 21st century is going to become a model for America."

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