New York’s Green Zone Goes For Code

East
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
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A large solar array planned for the Brooklyn Army Terminal. (Courtesy NYCEDC)

A large solar array planned for the Brooklyn Army Terminal. (Courtesy NYCEDC)

City Planning hasn’t missed a beat since celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 1961 Zoning Amendment with a conference in November that brought together zoning czars from academia, business, and government to discuss challenges ahead for planning in New York City. On Monday, Amanda Burden of the City Planning Commission (CPC) announced a new Zone Green initiative making it easier —at least zoning-wise—for sustainable upgrades of residential and commercial buildings across the city.

Zone Green focuses on retrofitting existing buildings to high performance standards. To that end and as part of the mayor’s efforts to green NYC’s one million buildings (and lower the $15 billion per year it takes to power and heat them), the new zoning text allows for the addition of external insulation within property lines while exempting insulation from floor area requirements; permits solar panels on roofs to exceed maximum building height limits; allows window shades and screens, whether vertical or horizontal, to project from building facades. The new code is more flexible about rooftop bulkhead regulations in order to encourage and allow cogeneration facilities, skylights, storm water management tanks, as well as—with CPC certification—greenhouses as long as they are not residential in any way. Small wind turbines would be allowable on buildings taller than 100 feet and those under 100 feet that are near the waterfront (except in low-density residential neighborhoods).

The new proposal continues the department’s innovative approach that has wielded zoning to applications well beyond building mass and height in order, among other things, to encourage fresh food sources in neighborhoods with heavy concentrations of obesity; mandate access to stairs as an alternative to elevators and escalators also for healthier urban living; and even acknowledge that some New Yorkers just want to be alone by including single seats in parks and on the waterfront.

Green Zone will be backed by new amendments to the City’s energy code; it has been submitted to public review by all community boards, borough boards and presidents for 60 days as of Dec 12 through approximately med-February when all comments will be reviewed by CPC and the City Council.

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