Planning Commission Unveils Proposed Green Amendments to New York City Zoning Resolution

“Zone Green,” as the revisions are being called, would, among other things, permit solar panels, green roofs, storm water detention systems, skylights and other green features on New York City buildings, despite height restrictions within the 1961 code.

NYC Zoning Map

Back in November, City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden announced that her office would be proposing amendments to the New York City Zoning Resolution, which dates from 1961. Yesterday, the Commission released the text of the proposed revisions, which it is calling the most comprehensive effort of any U.S. city to “remove zoning obstacles to the construction and retrofitting of green buildings.” Drafted in cooperation with Mayor Bloomberg’s Green Codes Task Force, officials are projecting that the initiative could unlock over $800 million annually in local energy savings.

“Zone Green,” as the revisions are being called, would permit solar panels, green roofs, storm water systems, skylights and other green features on New York City buildings, despite existing restrictions within the 1961 code. They would also permit 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.)

Specifically, Zone Green would also:

  • Exempt external building insulation from floor area requirements, allowing existing buildings to add insulation within their property lines;
  • Eliminate penalties for high-performance envelopes in the way floor area is measured, by exempting a portion of thicker, better insulated walls from floor area calculations when buildings substantially exceed the New York City Energy Conservation Code;
  • Allow solar panels to be installed on any building roof, by allowing them as a “permitted obstruction” above the corresponding height limit;
  • Allow sun control devices (i.e. shades or screens) to project from building facades over required open areas;
  • Accommodate a broad range of rooftop green features, including green roofs, wastewater management equipment, boilers or cogeneration facilities, and recreational decks; and
  • Encourage local food production by allowing a waiver of floor area and height limits for greenhouses on top of non-residential buildings.

The full text of the proposed amendments – which are available for your review here – will now begin its march through the public review process (i.e., referral to all 59 Community Boards, the five Borough Presidents and Borough Boards, and review by the City Council and full City Planning Commission), which should take six months. They join the Greener Greater Buildings Plan (four New York City-specific pieces of green building legislation, which we’ve noted previously) and the work of the Green Codes Task Force (111 recommendations to green New York City’s building code, 38 of which the City Council has enacted to date).

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2 Responses to Planning Commission Unveils Proposed Green Amendments to New York City Zoning Resolution

  1. Eli Green Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 11:53 am #

    I sincerely hope this legislation makes it through the review process. This is innovation on a fantastic scale and will help New York maintain and advance it’s position as the ‘greenest city in America’. Reducing and eliminating roadblocks to this sort of progress is essential to thawing the freeze on opportunities to make great change happen.

    Thanks Stephen!

    • Stephen Del Percio Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 3:32 pm #

      Thanks for the comment, Eli. We’ll be keeping an eye on Zone Green as the public review process gets underway.