5 Ways Building Owners Can Go Green in NYC

Sustainability is becoming more popular every year in the U.S. as the new generation tries to help clean our environment through greener initiatives. Now, even large cities are doing their best to join in on the fight against climate change.

For example, New York City passed the Local Law 97 plan (LL97) in 2019 that requires most buildings that exceed 25,000 square feet to meet new energy-efficiency standards and gas emissions by 2024. Notably, condos and other co-ops in NYC are most affected by this law, so owners of these types of buildings must figure out how to adapt and change their typical methods of operation to comply with new requirements. Below, we’ll cover some of the best ways that owners can effectively go green to abide by this law.

Utilize Solar Power

Solar power is a great way to help conserve energy. In fact, using solar power in any capacity can make a difference in the environment, whether it’s a small change — like adding solar-powered lights around the house — or a substantial project, like installing solar panels. In particular, the LL97’s main goal is to reduce the emissions produced by the city’s largest buildings by 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050.

There are plenty of benefits for buildings to switch to solar power. In addition to ensuring that they comply with LL97, solar power also helps reduce a building’s carbon footprint. According to some studies, condos and co-ops in New York City use almost 60% more electricity than a typical multifamily rental building. Issues like these are what LL97 was designed to combat. By going solar, these buildings could reduce the number of greenhouse gas emissions produced by each kilowatt-hour of solar that is generated.

Moreover, large buildings in New York City can implement this change in numerous ways. For instance, they can install items such as solar panels, solar-powered lights and solar heating. The most popular (and common) method is solar panels. Granted, the cost of solar panels depends on the model and manufacturer. For condos and co-ops in the city, it could cost anywhere between $16,000 to $31,000, depending on the type of system that will be suitable for the building size, as well as the number of residents.

Implement Smart Home Technology

Energy waste is a problem in the U.S., especially in big cities like New York City. That’s because many building owners don’t realize the environmental effects of constantly running their water; air conditioning (A/C) and heating units; and electricity. For example, A/C and heating units use so much electricity that they are a major contributor to global warming. To that end, some researchers have reported that, by 2050, A/C and heating units will be responsible for around 25% of the cause of global warming.

In a condo or co-op, in particular, residents and workers often forget to turn off a light when they leave a room. While this may seem insignificant, over time, it will cause a bigger issue. One solution to this is to implement smart home technology in every unit in the condo or co-op. There are a variety of benefits to utilizing this type of technology. First, it keeps you and the building in check: There would be no need to remember to turn off the lights, faucets or heat. Additionally, you can save energy by installing different types of smart home technology. In fact, homes equipped with smart technology can reduce energy consumption by up to 45%.

Large buildings can implement this by installing smart technology in each unit:

  • Smart thermostats can reduce energy use by up to 20% per room. Note that it does cost a few hundred dollars to install smart thermostats. Depending on the type of thermostat and wiring, this can be as high as $1,000 per room.
  • Automatic lights can reduce energy consumption by up to 45% compared to normal light switches. Again, installing automatic lights would also cost a few hundred dollars, but this depends on the sensors used.
  • Automatic faucets can save 700 gallons of water per year compared to sinks with traditional faucets. Installing automatic faucets would cost around a few hundred dollars per sink.

Start Recycling

Some may think it does very little, but recycling provides substantial benefits for the environment, since waste is an issue in big cities such as New York City. Not only does this give a false negative stigma of New York as “dirty,” place but it also causes building owners to lose significant amounts of money each year by constantly wasting and replacing materials. But owners could save money and comply with the new law by recycling.

Furthermore, recycling provides several benefits, such as helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by decreasing energy consumption. It’s also good for the economy. Especially in large buildings, recycling saves money. More precisely, condos and co-ops can save anywhere from $3,000 to $4,000 per year by recycling paper alone.

Plus, recycling is fairly easy to implement in buildings. All building owners would need to do is place recycling bins in accessible locations throughout the building for ease of use. They could have bins for paper or cardboard boxes, as well as specific metals, plastic and glass. Owners and boards would also need to explain to residents why recycling is crucial. They could even offer rewards or incentives to help encourage better recycling. Additionally, a recycling program can cost between $50 to $150 per ton, while a trash/disposable program can cost anywhere between $70 to $200 per ton, making this one of the most cost-effective methods to green a building.

Install LED Lights

Another simple, yet effective way for building owners to comply with LL97 is to install LED lights throughout the building.

LED light bulbs have become increasingly popular due to their energy efficiency and low carbon footprint and installing them is extremely beneficial for the environment and buildings: LED lights use 75% less energy than incandescent lighting and other halogen lights. Not only that, but they also lower overall carbon emissions because traditional lights account for about 5% of emissions. LED lights also have a longer lifespan, which means building owners can save money by not having to replace these lights as often as traditional lighting, like incandescent and halogen light bulbs.

Meanwhile, building owners can also choose from a variety of LED lighting options, including warm or cool lights; LED miniature bulbs; LED smart bulbs; LED filament bulbs; and more. It all depends on the type of bulb and wattage they want. Of course, LED lights typically cost around $4 to $8 per bulb depending on the type chosen, which may be a little more expensive than traditional bulbs. However, these buildings will save a lot more money and energy in the long run. 

Conserve Water

Water waste has always been an issue in the U.S. Millions of tons of water are wasted every year by residential buildings and businesses. Water usage for residential or commercial use represents around 5% of the nation’s overall carbon emissions. This gets even worse when you focus on a single area, like NYC: On average, New York City uses 1 billion gallons of water per day, which doesn’t even include water that isn’t used.

Once again, conserving water can be beneficial for all parties: It helps the environment, saves money, ensures building owners follow the law and more. And, with proper education about water waste, building residents can help conserve more water overall, too.

Like the other strategies, there are a variety of ways that NYC building owners can implement this change. As previously mentioned, installing automatic faucets in each unit can help conserve water because these faucets shut off when not in use. Another idea is to promote it to their residents by kindly asking residents to turn off faucets when not in use. Likewise, condo/co-op owners could follow California’s lead by limiting the amount of water that can be consumed by each building.


While these techniques cannot fully satisfy the requirements of Local Law 97, they are a sure way for buildings to become more sustainable and make straightforward and cost-effective progress towards meeting the goals set forth by the law.