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New York Building Congress outlines carbon neutrality steps

New York Building Congress outlines carbon neutrality steps

Dive Brief:

  • The New York Building Congress has made recommendations in a new report as to how New York City’s construction industry can help reduce carbon emissions and meet the city’s and state’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.
  • In New York City alone, there are approximately 1 million buildings contributing to more than 70% of the city’s emissions through embodied carbon, not counting the estimated 100 million square feet of space that will be added in 2021. 
  • The NYBC’s recommendations include using modular construction, which reduces material waste and the number of deliveries to the jobsite, and designing for disassembly, which means that building components can be disassembled easily and reused in order to minimize material waste when the time comes for the building to be demolished.

Dive Insight:

The NYBC’s recommendations come at a time when President Joe Biden’s administration is trying to win support from a majority of lawmakers for its $2 trillion American Jobs Plan infrastructure proposal. That plan also has a significant focus on climate change. In a recent appearance before the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said that “every infrastructure decision is already, inevitably a climate decision as well.”

Other suggestions that the NYBC made are that:

  • The city should consult with the building industry as it develops low-carbon policies and should update its climate action plan to include embodied carbon.
  • The city might consider creating a database of low-carbon projects for developers, owners, contractors, architects and engineers to use as a benchmark for their own projects.
  • The city Department of Buildings should expedite permitting for low-carbon projects.
  • The city should incentivize low-carbon construction through tax abatements, density bonuses and carbon performance grants and certifications.

The NYBC also suggested that New York use sustainable materials that could reduce embodied emissions such as:

  • Different mixes of cement.
  • Recycled steel or steel from electric arc furnaces.
  • Wood sourced from sustainably managed forests, prolonging carbon storage.
  • Lightweight gypsum board. 
  • Insulation made of natural materials using blown-in applications.

The NYBC also suggests following the World Green Building Council’s approach to decarbonizing:

  • By 2030, all new buildings, infrastructure and renovations will have at least 40% less embodied carbon with significant upfront carbon reduction, and all new buildings must be net-zero operational carbon.
  • By 2050, new buildings, infrastructure and renovations will have net-zero embodied carbon, and all new and existing buildings must be net-zero operational carbon.

This approach, according to the NYBC, has won the support of companies like AECOM, JLL, Schneider Electric, Skanska and WSP.

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