On May 1, 2012, the New York City 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, along with other innovations. Subject to certain limitations, the amendments will allow building owners to incorporate elements of environmentally-friendly construction even when those elements would otherwise violate applicable bulk regulations, such as restrictions on building size or height. Other amendments will allow solar power generation or charging of electric vehicles in certain zones, clarifying regulations that were originally written to exclude gas stations and conventional power plants.
Existing buildings will now be able to add up to eight inches of insulation to their exterior even if the added material would violate existing regulatory limits on building size. The changes to the zoning regulations allow existing buildings to add insulation without counting such additional thickness against floor area restrictions, so long as the additional insulation meets certain energy-efficiency requirements. Similar revisions permit existing buildings to add up to eight inches of insulation without counting them against a building’s maximum height or the minimum setback and open space requirements, and allow new buildings to incorporate thicker insulation in their exterior walls if the insulation exceeds the requirements of the New York City Energy Conservation Code by a specified percentage.
Other changes are designed to encourage the use of solar energy for power generation. The revised regulations allow buildings to add solar energy systems to their roofs without counting them against a building’s maximum height. The solar panels themselves must meet additional height restrictions according to the building’s zoning designation and whether the roof is flat or angled. 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.
The new zoning rules also allow several other environmentally-friendly elements as “permitted obstructions” on building roofs. These include wind turbines on buildings over 100 feet tall and buildings near the waterfront, rooftop greenhouses, like the one planned for Sunset Park, “blue roofs” that use weirs and detention mechanisms to slow the release of stormwater, and “green roofs” that use rooftop vegetation to retain water, reduce heat gain, and provide recreational space. The rules also permit boilers to be placed on building roofs, rather than in the basement. This eliminates the need for interior chimneys, increases energy efficiency, and reduces fire risk.
For more information on the New York City Zoning Resolution, please contact Steven Barshov.