Council Poised to Ease Zoning to Boost Green Building

Zoning changes aimed at making it easier to construct energy-efficient buildings are expected to win approval from the City Council on Monday.  


Energy consumption by buildings is responsible for 80 percent of the city's carbon emissions, according to the Bloomberg administration. But experts say current zoning rules discourage property owners from constructing green buildings or retrofitting older structures.

"There’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to put solar panels on top a roof," said Russel Unger, executive director of the Urban Green Council. "We want people to insulate the exterior of their buildings, and this is going to make that happen. Or at least allow it to happen.”

The new rules would allow developers to add insulation and sun control devices to building walls without that extra thickness being counted against them when a building's floor area is calculated.

Unger says the set of proposals rolled out by the city Planning Commission last year "removes restrictions that exist right now on adding solar and wind energy systems onto rooftops." 

Supporters of the new rules say those energy-efficiency upgrades can help residential buildings cut up to 10 percent from their utility bills. But some real estate industry leaders are concerned about the amount it will take for those savings to offset the cost of installing solar or wind energy systems.  

The amendments would apply to all varieties of buildings, from commercial high rises to single-family houses.