City’s green zoning rules would loosen restrictions on energy saving building features

From left: greenhouse (credit: Ari Burling, NY Sun Works); wind turbine (credit: Zimmer Gunsul, Frasca Architects); insulation (credit: Chris Benedict, R. A) and City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden

The City Planning Commission unveiled a proposal today to amend New York City’s zoning code to make it easier for buildings to incorporate environmentally friendly additions such as solar panels, wind turbines and wall insulation.

New Yorkers spend $15 billion annually to heat and power buildings, contributing 80 percent of the city’s carbon emissions. But building owners currently face height and floor area restrictions that can stand in the way of adding energy-saving features on building exteriors. In November, City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden said her department would soon propose rule changes to do away with these hurdles, but she declined to provide details.

The package of rule changes, dubbed Zone Green, would permit solar panels, green roofs, storm water detention systems, skylights and other green features on buildings, despite height restrictions, and would allow owners to install wind turbines up to 55 feet above rooftops on waterfront buildings and buildings taller than 100 feet. Free standing turbines would be permitted on waterfront blocks in commercial and manufacturing areas.

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The proposal would also loosen restrictions on sun control devices that help provide natural light, exempt greenhouses up to 25 feet from floor area and height limits on non-residential buildings, and specify that electric vehicle charging is allowed in all parking facilities. Building owners could also add external wall insulation without impacting floor area calculations, among other things.

The rule changes are subject to a full public review process before the city’s community boards, borough presidents and city council.