New York Solar Panel and Green Roof Legislation Goes Into Effect

In November of 2019, the City of New York enacted new laws that will affect all roof construction in the metropolitan area. Aiming to attack issues of sustainability, including clean air and power conservation, laws 92 and 94 state that any major construction on a roof must be covered in either solar panels or a green roof system. 

Part of the City Council’s Climate Mobilization Act, these are single steps in the city’s campaign to move toward the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and an increase in renewable energy sources. 

What Is the Extent of the New Laws?

Laws 92 and 94 come together to establish the legal requirements and exceptions for new construction and the inclusion of solar panels or green space when building new roofs or improving old ones. 

Specifics include: 

  • The laws together affect new construction, new roofs on expansions and additions for existing buildings, as well as roofs that are being fully replaced. 
  • “Replacing the entire existing roof deck or roof assembly will trigger compliance with these new laws,” reports Hoffman Architects. 
  • Affected buildings and construction types are required to install either solar paneling, green roofs, or a combination of the two. 
  • There is a certain size that a contiguous roof area must meet before it is required to create a sustainable roof zone. For residential spaces, the requirement is 100 square feet or greater, and for all other buildings, it is 200 feet. 
  • Overly steep rooftops are exempted from the green space requirement, as they would be nearly impossible to plant vegetation on. 
  • Apartment terraces and schools will not be affected by this legislation.
  • Property owners are required to buy and maintain the solar panels, but legislators expect that energy savings will make up the cost. 
  • All new filings on or after November 15th, 2019, for building permits are required to certify their compliance with the new laws. 

How Will This Affect Future Construction Projects?

There are several ways in which these new laws are going to affect future endeavors, some of which homeowners and property owners have begun to voice since the legislation’s passing. Homeowners and developers have expressed concerns about the additional cost inherent in the addition of solar panels or green roofs, not just from the installations themselves but also the loss of interest from potential buyers with skeptical views of sustainable technology. For new construction, it will always mean that consideration for these new systems will go in at the planning stages, just as electrical and other utilities might. 

While property owners building or expanding their dream home must bear the financial burden of installing and managing their solar panels, to the tune of an average of $30,000, legislators believe that the savings in energy costs will make up the cost. Some say this is not happening quickly enough, and question a lack of tax incentives to help in this manner. For developers of larger structures, that savings may become more quickly apparent. However, it is still an additional cost to consider in the planning stages, just like mandated bird-safe glass on high rises, reported here at CISLeads in 2019.

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