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NYC's Tall Order for Greener Buildings

Making existing buildings more energy-efficient can cost millions of dollars. But under Mayor Bill de Blasio’s new mandate, owners must either upgrade or pay a hefty fine.
Heating buildings accounts for some 40 percent of New York City's carbon emissions.
Heating buildings accounts for some 40 percent of New York City's carbon emissions.Mike Segar/Reuters

New York City’s building owners are facing a tall order: Mayor Bill de Blasio announced earlier this month that the city will become the first to mandate that existing buildings—from municipal offices to private businesses, hospitals, and apartments—must drastically curb their carbon emissions. Those who don’t comply will face hefty penalties amounting to as much as $2 million a year for a 1 million-square-foot building.

The mandate, which will target 14,500 buildings above 25,000 square feet, will also set a “fossil fuel cap.” The cap will require buildings to be upgraded or retrofitted with things like more energy-efficient heaters and boilers, as well as solar panels and windows that reduce heat loss in the winter and heat gain in the summer.