In the wake of the climate crisis, U.S. cities are enacting sustainability policies to reduce greenhouse gases and increase energy efficiency. However, while the policies are ultimately beneficial, commercial real estate owners are finding it difficult to transform their properties into energy-efficient buildings.
“Building owners and property developers are experts in their own fields, but that is not always so when it comes to energy efficiency and sustainability,” said Rob Holdsworth, the vice president of Energy Partners. “We can show them that there are greener ways to run their facilities that benefit both the environment and their bottom lines.”
This past April, the New York City Council launched the largest single carbon reduction effort of any global city. The Climate Mobilization Act includes 10 bills and resolutions that will make drastic changes to the city’s energy efficiency.
The act targets older buildings larger than 25K square feet and requires them to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030. The environmental impact will be the equivalent of taking one million cars off the road.
Global heating, the latest term for global warming, is caused by the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect is when certain gases in the atmosphere prevent heat from the Earth from escaping. Carbon dioxide, which makes up 0.05% of the world’s atmosphere, is one of these gases. Carbon emissions mainly come from biofuel, steam, heating oil, natural gas, and electricity.
Buildings that violate the Climate Mobilization Act will be fined $268 for each excess ton of carbon they emit per year. In large cities like New York where properties account for 67% of the 50 million metric tons of emitted carbon per year, this fine could amount to millions of dollars.
To avoid these fines and to do their part in fighting the climate crisis, commercial real estate owners will need to replace outdated heating, cooling and lighting systems, and retrofit older buildings with updated energy efficient technology in the next 10 years.
While this new policy only affects New York City, experts say that many cities are getting ready to follow suit with their own energy standards.
Homebuyers can also do their part by investing in newer homes certified by Energy Star, the national energy-efficiency rating program. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Energy Star houses use 20% less energy than homes built to the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code.
If moving to a new home isn’t in your wheelhouse right now, you can still invest in energy efficient appliances and reduce electrical use. Up to 45% of the average energy bill goes toward heating.
Regular HVAC maintenance and repairs can help to lower your heating and cooling bills and make your system more efficient. Experts recommend HVAC system inspections at least twice a year to maintain energy efficiency.
“This isn’t just about New York,” said Holdsworth. “Stringent energy efficiency regulations are coming out in Philadelphia, Boston, Seattle, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and many other major cities across the country. There are countless buildings across America, and they may all soon need to comply with these rules.”