In this article, which forms part of a series (be sure to read our articles on Sustainable Development Goals for Architects and Builders in California and the United Kingdom), we’re focusing on SDGs that are especially relevant to the built environment and examining current New York City progress, legislation and targets in relation to each.
We’re also highlighting ways in which StoneCycling can work with architects, contractors and developers with NYC-based projects in making progress towards achieving each SDG.
At StoneCycling, we see waste as synonymous with raw material and prove that it’s possible to build high-quality, aesthetic structures from waste with our unique range of WasteBasedBricks®. While production of our WasteBasedBricks® takes place in the Netherlands at present, North American demand is increasing and we’re in the process of searching for a local production partner in the USA. For now, however, we believe that building global reference projects has an important role to play.
If you have any questions, please leave a comment at the bottom of this article.
Sustainability in Construction in New York City, USA
In New York City, nearly 70% of greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings [source]. To put that into context, the global average is about 40%. Moreover, construction and demolition waste is responsible for more than 60% of the city’s solid landfill waste, compared to a national average ranging between 25 and 45% [source].
In an effort to combat climate change and make strides towards achieving the 2030 Agenda, NYC passed the Climate Mobilization Act in 2019. Paramount to this act is Local Law 97, which requires owners of buildings exceeding 25,000 square feet to adhere to ambitious emission standards by 2024. By 2030, large building emissions must be cut by 40% (from a 2005 baseline), and by 2050 that figure will double. Still, New York City lacks a mandated green building code, and current sustainability standards focus mostly on energy conservation.
Further legislation addressing construction and demolition waste management is necessary, and barriers to access for low income housing must be addressed. With city-wide goals to make use of 100% clean electricity sources by 2040 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 [source], it is clear that the building and construction industry has a crucial role to play in achieving these ambitious targets.
Global Sustainable Development Goals
Formulated in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a collection of 17 interrelated goals that serve as a road map for creating a better and more sustainable future for all.
The SDGs are categorised according to five broad themes (People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace and Partnership) and are intended to be achieved by 2030.
In 2018, New York City became the first city in the world to publish a Voluntary Local Review (VLR) covering city-level progress on the SDG’s.
Going one step further in 2019, NYC released its OneNYC 2050 strategy outlining 8 goals and 30 initiatives that align with the SDGs. Indicators have been set to track progress and include benchmarks such as air quality, greenhouse gas (GHG) eliminated, reduced or offset, and share of NYC trips taken by sustainable mode of transportation – to name just a few.
Sustainable Development Goals in the NYC Built Environment
GOAL #7 AFFORDABLE AND CLEAN ENERGY
In order to meet its goals of sourcing 100% clean electricity by 2040 and achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 [source], buildings in New York City (both new and existing) will need to become significantly more energy efficient. According to the latest data, only 17% of NYC’s greenhouse gas emissions have been eliminated, reduced or offset when compared to a 2005 baseline, and only 27% of the city’s electricity comes from clean sources [source].
The City of New York’s Building Code defers to the New York City Energy Conservation Code’s (NYCECC) requirements for all new construction and renovation. The latest NYCECC standards were released in 2020 and include some of the most stringent requirements in the nation.
Notable additions include tighter building envelope specifications, reductions in commercial lighting allowances and higher efficiency requirements for residential lighting and hot water infrastructure. The new code also requires commercial buildings to configure HVAC controls to a specific function and implement hourly whole building energy monitoring [source].
Moreover, new provisions in the 2020 NYCECC incorporate NYC’s new emissions legislation, which is discussed in greater detail below.
HOW STONECYCLING CAN HELP
Bettering energy efficiency is central to New York City’s goal to realise 100 percent clean electricity by 2040.
Preliminary research done by an external agency found a 25% reduction in energy for our WasteBasedBricks® (compared to ordinary bricks) when production is fully scaled up. Even so, our aim is to produce building materials with a positive carbon impact, and we’re currently working towards carbon neutral production methods.
GOAL #9 INDUSTRY, INNOVATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE
New York City’s Building Code is applicable to all residential and non-residential construction and renovation. The code includes mandatory measures across a number of applicable areas, but notably lacks a mandated green building code.
However, the City of New York requires almost all capital projects it owns or funds to be designed in accordance with LEED, the preferred green building rating system in the USA [source]. Many commercial developers also opt to use LEED voluntarily. In fact, New York consistently ranks in the top five US states when it comes to annual LEED certification and recertification.
Providing a framework for healthy, highly efficient and cost-saving green buildings, LEED can be applied to nearly all building types and phases.
LEED Credits are awarded across nine categories: Integrative Process; Location and Transportation; Sustainable Sites; Water Efficiency; Energy and Atmosphere; Materials and Resources; Indoor Environmental Quality; Innovation; and Regional Priority. A specific number of points are assigned to each credit and points are added together to produce an aggregate score.
HOW STONECYCLING CAN HELP
Our products can aid developers in meeting institutional, legislative or investor requirements and assist homeowners in living in a more environmentally responsible way.
At present, our production is based in the Netherlands, but our mission is to establish production sites in all of our major global markets and produce building materials using purely local waste. As we recently completed a large project in New York and are getting more and more requests from the United States, our next step is to find a local production partner in North America.
Developers who use LEED v4.1 for new construction or major renovations get a higher score if they use our sustainable building materials towards the following credits:
- Environmental Product Declarations
- Sourcing of Raw Materials
- Material Ingredients
- Construction and Demolition Waste Management
- Low-Emitting Materials
The final point contribution of our WasteBasedBricks® to the project depends on the total design. Learn more about the benefits of LEED Certification for architects here.
GOAL #11 SUSTAINABLE CITIES AND COMMUNITIES
In 2019, New York City introduced ‘OneNYC 2050’, an ambitious strategy built on the premise that the “fights for environmental sustainability, economic equality and social justice are deeply intertwined” [source]. The strategy adopts a holistic approach to combating climate change, overcoming inequity and strengthening democracy, and is closely aligned to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
For each of ‘OneNYC 2050’s 8 goals, measurable indicators and sub-indicators have been set to track progress, and include climate-focused metrics such as air quality and greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) eliminated [source]; as well as more social metrics like voter registration, high school graduation rate and earnings disparity by race.
Closely linked to the Climate Mobilization Act and Local Law 97, NYC’s built environment will be most impacted by indicators related to greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and clean electricity. However, metrics pertaining to affordable housing, eviction legislation, poverty levels and unemployment are also relevant to the sector.
HOW STONECYCLING CAN HELP
Our WasteBasedBricks® align with New York City’s ambitious sustainability goals. As with traditional bricks, our products are considered sustainable by virtue of the fact that they’re made to last more than 100 years.
However, unlike standard bricks, our WasteBasedBricks® also consist of at least 60% waste and focus on the use of waste as a resource. Taking it a step further, at the end of their lifecycle, they can be recycled and used as ingredients for new WasteBasedBricks®.
GOAL #12 RESPONSIBLE CONSUMPTION AND PRODUCTION
Construction waste is a major problem in NYC given that the city must export any waste that cannot be recycled [source]. While disposal of construction and demolition debris is required, New York City has yet to implement a C&D waste recycling mandate.
It is currently estimated that approximately half of the city’s construction and demolition waste is recycled, with the remaining 50% dumped in landfills across New York and other neighbouring states [source]. While the City of New York announced a goal to send zero waste to landfills by 2030 in 2015 [source], progress has been disappointing thus far.
Still, many commercial developers in NYC voluntarily opt to comply with a green building rating system containing a C&D waste component.
For instance, under LEED, credits include Building Life-Cycle Impact Reduction; Environmental Product Declarations; Sourcing of Raw Materials; Material Ingredients; and Construction and Demolition Waste Management. Demonstration of waste diversion and prevention also both qualify for points.
HOW STONECYCLING CAN HELP
StoneCycling relies on the use of safe and legal mineral waste streams to produce our WasteBasedBricks®. Our products are also durable and can be recycled and used as ingredients for new WasteBasedBricks® at the end of their life cycle, adding value to building life cycle assessments.
At StoneCycling, we now additionally have a preliminary EDP (Environmental Product Declaration). If you’re interested in learning more or would like to request a copy, please get in touch.
GOAL #13 CLIMATE ACTION
In 2019, the City of New York passed The Climate Mobilization Act; the largest climate solution put forth by any city in the world to date. Consisting of several laws, it requires solar panels or green roofing for all new buildings (or major roof renovations), establishes long-term, low-interest financing for energy and efficiency upgrades, and amends energy efficiency grading calculations [source].
The centrepiece of The Climate Mobilization Act, Local Law 97 sets carbon emission caps for energy use in NYC buildings exceeding 25,000 square feet. The law will come into effect in 2024 and become increasingly stringent in 2030. At present, many New York City buildings significantly exceed the proposed emissions limits and will require comprehensive retrofits or alternate compliance by 2030 [source].
Even so, more progressive legislation is needed if the city is to meet its goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.
HOW STONECYCLING CAN HELP
Our WasteBasedBricks® reduce embodied carbon by upcycling waste that would otherwise end up as construction landfill.
StoneCycling also utilises CO2 compensated production methods and aims to produce locally, with local waste. However, when this is not possible, we offer the option of compensating your transportation footprint.
WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?
Collaboration is essential if we want to create a more sustainable built environment.
Are you an architect, developer, contractor or interior designer based in New York City? Are you currently working on realising projects in NYC? Contact us to share your ideas and explore ways that we can work together.
You can also visit our FAQ page for answers to all your questions.
- The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development [2015, United Nations]
- Achieve Carbon Neutrality And 100 Percent Clean Electricity [2019, OneNYC2050]
- Construction & Demolition Waste Manual [2003, NYC Department of Design & Construction]
- The Climate Mobilization Act [2019, NYC Mayor’s Office of Climate and Sustainability]
- Local Laws of The City Of New York [2019, City of New York]
- New York City’s Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development [2019, NYC Mayor’s Office for International Affairs]
- ONENYC 2050
- A Livable Climate [2020, ONENYC2050]
- Construction Codes [2014, City of New York]
- Energy Conservation Code [2020, City of New York]
- What’s New In The 2020 Energy Code? [2020, Urban Green Council]
- LEED rating system [U.S. Green Building Council]
- NYC Capital Green Building [2016, City of New York]
- LEED certification for new buildings [U.S. Green Building Council]
- Building Life-Cycle Impact Reduction [U.S. Green Building Council]
- Environmental Product Declarations [U.S. Green Building Council]
- Sourcing of Raw Materials [U.S. Green Building Council]
- Material Ingredients [U.S. Green Building Council]
- Construction and Demolition Waste Management [U.S. Green Building Council]
- Low-Emitting Materials [U.S. Green Building Council]
- Innovation [U.S. Green Building Council]
- OneNYC 2050 – Building A Strong And Fair City [2020, City of New York]
- OneNYC 2050 – A Livable Climate [2019, City of New York]
- Wasted Potential: The consequences of New York City’s recycling failure [2020, Politico]
- One New York – The Plan for a Strong and Just City [2015, City of New York]
- NYC Building Emissions Law Summary [2020, Urban Green]