Everything You Need to Know About Local Law 154: Decarbonizing New York City´s Future Buildings

May 09, 2022

Understand the implications of this historic piece of legislation and develop a plan for compliance.

Everything You Need to Know About Local Law 154: Decarbonizing New York City´s Future Buildings

Local Law 154 (“LL154”) was passed on December 15, 2021 by the New York City Council. The law sets strict CO2 limits on the construction of new buildings, effectively requiring new buildings to be completely electric and free from fossil fuels by 2024 (for buildings less than 7 stories tall) and 2027 (for buildings more than 7 stories tall). With the passage of this law, New York City became the largest city in the world to phase out fossil fuels from newly constructed buildings. Below we outline what the bill means and the building electrification measures necessary to meet the new guidelines.

SEE MORE: Preparing for the Law 97 Climate Legislation 

The rationale behind the bill

LL154 was supported by local environmental groups who ran a “gas-free NYC” campaign for a number of reasons, one being that the passage of the bill may improve indoor air quality as a result of removing gas stoves in residential units.

Residents of the US spend approximately 90% of their time indoors, where pollutant levels can reach 2-4x higher than outdoor levels. Gas stoves—which are a significant source of indoor air pollutants and have been linked to higher incidences of respiratory illnesses like asthma in children—will be phased out of new construction with the passage of the bill.

Another reason that local environmental groups support the bill is that it will facilitate efforts to phase out fossil fuels (i.e., to decarbonize) and align with the global effort to mitigate climate change. The use of fossil fuels for heating and hot water alone accounts for 40% of total citywide GHG emissions in New York City. Not only this, but buildings in New York currently consume more fossil fuels than buildings in any other state across the country, highlighting the importance of decarbonizing this sector.

Additionally, the implementation of the bill may create green job opportunities connected to the need to electrify and upgrade building infrastructure. A countrywide effort to electrify the economy could create 25 million well-paying jobs.

Details from the bill and exemptions

Instead of banning the use of fossil fuels directly, LL154 prohibits the combustion of any substance emitting ≥25 kg CO2e/mmBtu, as per the EIA’s database. This essentially prohibits fossil fuel combustion (propane, diesel & home heating fuel, kerosene, natural gas, gasoline, residual heating fuel, etc.) in new buildings. Some renovations may count as a “new building” for the purposes of this law. Work that increases the floor service area of an existing building by more than 110% counts as a gut renovation, meaning the building will be considered new, and is thus subject to construction codes for new buildings. Enforcement of LL154 will occur through the Department of Buildings’ existing construction document review process. 

Some types of buildings are exempt from the law, including those where fossil fuel combustion is required for manufacturing or laboratories, laundromats, hospitals, crematoriums, or commercial kitchens, buildings used by utilities to generate electricity or steam, and buildings used to treat sewage or food waste. Additionally, New Yorkers need not worry about canceling their summer barbecue parties: appliances such as propane grills are exempted, because they are not connected to gas lines or fuel oil piping and are not used for heating or hot water.

The Office of Climate and Environmental Justice is also required to conduct a number of studies connected to the implementation of LL154. This includes a study regarding the use of heat pumps, which are anticipated to replace gas boilers to heat air and water in new buildings, and a study that will investigate the reliability and resiliency of the city’s electric grid in both current and projected 2030 peak load scenarios. You can expect more data and chatter to develop on these topics in the coming months and years.

How will this affect my business? 

If you are concerned about how you can comply with LL154 or other local laws that affect building energy consumption in New York City, Environ can work with you to develop a custom-tailored approach to navigating the landscape of incentives and financing options, and can assist with future-proofing your buildings and sustainability plans.