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New York City’s Greener, Greater Buildings Plan: Lighting Upgrade Law (Int. No. 973)

Last night, I sat on a panel that discussed – among other issues – New York City’s Greener, Greater Buildings Plan, so I thought it would be timely to revisit each of the four pieces of legislation that comprise the plan in more detail. So, this article is the first in a four-part series that will take a closer look at each bill, which Mayor Bloomberg signed into law on December 28, 2009 as an amendment to the Building Code and New York City Charter.

We’ll start with the Lighting Upgrade Law, which amends Chapter 3 of title 28 of the New York City administrative code (i.e. the Building Code) and adds articles 310 – Required Upgrade of Lighting Systems – and 311 – Installation of Electrical Submeters in Tenant Spaces.

Article 310 of the Lighting Upgrade Law requires owners of all buildings larger than 50,000 square feet to upgrade the building’s lighting systems to energy efficient systems that comply with the standards for new lighting systems set forth in Section 805 of the New York City Energy Conservation Code (“NYCECC“) by January 1, 2025. Section 805 is actually part of the part of the Energy Conservation Construction Code of New York, which sets standards for the energy performance of buildings throughout the State of New York. (NYCECC, which we will discuss in much more detail in a subsequent article here at GRELJ, incorporates the state energy code by reference). Section 805 covers lighting system controls, the connection of ballasts, the maximum lighting power for interior applications, and minimum acceptable lighting equipment for exterior applications, but specifically excludes lighting within residential buildings from its purview.

Required upgrades are accomplished pursuant to Article 310 by installing or modifying the lighting system to comply with NYCECC’s standards for new systems for the following lighting elements: (i) lighting controls (including interior lighting controls, light reduction controls, and automatic lighting shutoff); (ii) tandem wiring; (iii) exit signs; (iv) interior lighting power requirements; and (v) exterior lighting. Owners must file a report with the Department of Buildings prepared by either a registered design professional or licensed master or special electrician certifying that the upgrade has been completed and that the work is in compliance with the technical standards of the New York City electrical code.

Upgrades are not required for (i) an element of a lighting system that is already in compliance with NYCECC; (ii) lighting power densities in any space bounded by permanent floor-to-ceiling partitions and/or closable doors that are in compliance with NYCECC; (iii) lighting systems within low-rise residential units (R2 or R3) or spaces that serve such units, including, but not limited to, hallways, laundry rooms, or boiler rooms; and (iv) lighting systems within houses of worship.

In addition, Section 311 of the Lighting Upgrade Law requires that, by January 1, 2025, owners or lessors of commercial buildings that are larger than 50,000 square feet measure the electrical consumption of certain covered tenant spaces by installing submeters. “Covered tenant spaces” are (i) individual tenant spaces larger than 10,000 square feet on one or more floors; or (ii) a floor that is larger than 10,000 square feet which consists of individual tenant spaces that are let or sublet to 2 or more tenants. For the latter, each individual tenant space can have its own submeter, share a submeter with the other tenant spaces on the floor, or share one submeter that covers the entire floor.

From a green leasing perspective, although submeters must be installed as set forth in Section 311, the Lighting Upgrade Law does not require the landlord to apportion the cost of electricity among the building’s tenants or subtenants in any particular fashion. However, the landlord is required to provide each tenant or subtenant within a covered tenant space with a monthly statement showing the amount of electricity measured by the submeter for each tenant or subtenant during the month, and any amount charged to the tenant or subtenant for electricity. If the covered tenant space is a floor with multiple tenancies (as described above), and the tenant’s submeter covers other tenant spaces, the statement for that tenant must show the electrical consumption for the area covered by the submeter and the percentage of that area which is leased by the tenant. As Model Green Lease Task Force head Alan Whitson frequently observes, “what gets measured gets improved,” a mantra which is clearly the basis for this provision within Section 311.

Next we’ll take a look at NYECC and some interesting legal aspects of the legislation that are making some of Gotham’s building owners and facility managers nervous about what could be coming next from the City Council.

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