Getting in Front of Energy Penalties

Can you put a specific price on a building’s energy emissions? In New York City, starting in 2024, you can: $268.

That’s the penalty building owners will be charged for every metric ton of CO2 generated above an established limit beginning in two short years. Local Law 97, passed in 2019, will apply these limits for buildings in excess of 25,000 square feet from 2024–2029 before they become even more stringent (and with harsher penalties) from 2030–2034. While there are some additional complexities to the law—limits vary depending upon the type of building and its current emissions—the message is clear. Inefficiency now comes with a cost, and it can add up quickly.

New York City isn’t the only major city deploying these measures to reduce carbon emissions and promote greater sustainability. Washington, D.C., recently proposed a similar law that would take effect in 2025. Surely other cities aren’t far behind.

These measures are part of a more widespread push toward sustainability, but they strike me as a fairly distinct shift from how the industry has traditionally thought about a building’s efficiency. Energy efficiency is typically framed around the benefits—lower energy bills, occupancy comfort and, yes, reduced emissions. And it’s true that reaping these benefits requires an investment that some building and property owners may have previously not deemed necessarily worthwhile. But major municipalities instituting financial penalties for poorly performing buildings is a new kind of motivator for building owners and managers.

The commercial glass and glazing industry has some opportunity here, because high-performance window and glass systems are a great way to improve a building’s energy efficiency without sacrificing too much of the window-to-wall ratio. And I think this kind of financial imperative to improve energy efficiency in all buildings—new and old—will continue to drive greater acceptance of progressive window technologies.

One example is high-performing vinyl window systems, which can deliver outstanding energy benefits in a variety of applications where metallic systems have traditionally held the majority of market share. Not only are the energy benefits striking (especially when combined with warm-edge spacer systems), but there is also more evidence of their ability to deliver long-term performance. Last month I wrote about project-specific mock-up testing and why it’s becoming increasingly important to help validate the expected energy and structural performance of new, efficient building technologies. Vinyl systems, when installed with the right technique and care, absolutely have the potential to meet and exceed expectations.

For commercial glass professionals, we can advocate for technologies like these for our customers. For building owners in New York City and potentially other major municipalities, it’s decision time—invest in bolstering the efficiency of your properties today, or pay the price tomorrow.