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New York Rolls Out CRE-Friendly Playbook For Building Owners To Slash Emissions

Empire State Realty Trust CEO Anthony Malkin, former President Bill Clinton, Gov. Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams unveiled a green building playbook on April 21 in Manhattan.

New York State is rolling out a new online tool to give building owners a pathway to reducing their properties' emissions through a step-by-step process ahead of the city’s tough new carbon cap laws.

The Empire Building Playbook: An Owner’s Guide to Low Carbon was developed by Empire State Realty Trust with funding from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. The manual was unveiled at the Empire State Building Thursday by Gov. Kathy Hochul, Mayor Eric Adams and former President Bill Clinton.

“The free, online Playbook charts a path for landlords, tenants, and service providers to reduce greenhouse gases and related carbon associated with the operations of buildings, achieve the goals of New York State, and comply with Local Law 97,” ESRT CEO Anthony Malkin said in a statement. “The Playbook demonstrates the case of how to achieve 75 to 90 percent emissions reductions with a payback of four to eight years through a combination of building system upgrades with a renewably sourced grid.”

The guide is backed by the Clinton Global Initiative, and it highlights case studies like Durst’s One Bryant Park, Hudson Square Properties’ 100 Avenue of the Americas and Vornado’s One Penn Plaza. It also lays out the process owners should follow to significantly reduce energy use and carbon emissions.

The first step the manual outlines is the “kickoff phase” that involves building teams, setting goals and laying out goals and timelines. Second is the “building discovery phase,” which involves understanding the building's challenges and opportunities. Next, the playbook recommends doing energy and carbon modeling, then finally running a financial analysis to look at the cost-effectiveness of decarbonization and timelines.

Starting in 2024, New York City buildings 25K SF and larger must significantly cut their greenhouse gas emissions under Local Law 97. The legislation passed as part of the city's 2019 Climate Mobilization Act, and as the law stands now, any buildings that fail to comply will face fines of $286 for every ton of carbon dioxide emitted over the building's cap.

The city may soften those fines. New York City Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Rohit Aggarwala testified before a New York City Council committee this month that the Adams administration is considering “flexibility in terms of fines” for buildings that aren't compliant by the time the deadlines arrive.

Members of the commercial real estate industry have criticized the program in the past. Last year, Durst Organization Chairman Douglas Durst said it was impossible to make some buildings even more efficient than they already are.

“The Local Law 97 punishes people like us who have spent years making our buildings efficient by insisting we pay fines if we don't make them more efficient, and every year we spend money to make them as efficient as possible,” he said during a Bisnow webinar.