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New Roof Requirements for New Buildings and Complete Roof Replacements In NYC

As the last decade drew to a close and 2020 approached, New York City was quick to start enforcing legislation designed to reduce Gotham’s carbon footprint. On November 15, 2019, Local Laws 92 and 94 went into effect. The laws mandate that all new buildings —and alterations of existing buildings where the entire existing roof deck or roof assembly is being replaced— must provide a sustainable roofing zone covering 100% of the roof. The roof needs to include a solar photovoltaic system generating at least 4kW, a green roof system, or a combination of the two. Vertical or horizontal roof extensions must also comply with these requirements.

According to Buildings Bulletin 2019-010 issued by the NYC DOB, the legislation amends the 2014 Administrative Code and Chapter 15 of the New York City Building Code. Projects approved after November 15, are exempt only if “the construction documents have attained BIS job status K (plan exam partial approval) prior to such date.” The Department alerted the industry to the requirement through several venues including publishing a special issue of Buildings News and posting a Service Notice.

Both laws along with LL95, LL96 and LL97 are components of the Climate Mobilization Act (CMA) passed by the NYC Council back in April of 2019. According to a press release issued by the Council, the CMA “is one of the most ambitious and innovative legislative initiatives any major city has ever considered to combat the existential threat of climate change.” The entire package is part of the Mayor’s OneNYC Plan 2050.

Buildings Commissioner Melanie La Rocca was quoted in Real Estate Weekly (“New solar roof law takes effect in NYC,” November 21, 2019) saying, “In New York City, we are not shirking from the challenge of climate change.” The overarching goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As the DOB notes, “Nearly 80 percent of our citywide emissions are attributed to buildings’ energy use.”

Council member Rafael Espinal, who sponsored the sustainable roof zone portion of the legislation, said that green roofs cool down cities by “mitigating Urban Heat Island Effect, [they] cut energy costs, absorb air pollution, reduce storm-water runoff, promote biodiversity, and make our cities more livable for all.”

Assuring Compliance

Buildings Bulletin 2019-010 provides a detailed graphic (see above) that demonstrates the path to compliance.

A form labelled Local Law 92/94 of 2019 Sustainable Roof Zone, must be submitted prior to construction or renovation.

Projects submitting construction documents must include roof plans with a code compliant sustainable roofing zone which will be subject to inspection prior to issuance of a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy, a Certificate of Occupancy or a Letter of Completion.

Historic Structures

Requirements and variances on roofing for historic structures are noted as being “subject to the jurisdiction of the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC).”

“LPC supports making historic buildings more energy-efficient, resilient and sustainable. While we can’t speculate on the number of landmarks that might be affected, we anticipate approving the vast majority of applications for work related to Local Laws 92 and 94 (i.e. solar and green roof installations). Most buildings we regulate have flat roofs fronted by cornices and parapets (e.g. row houses, tenements, store and loft buildings, etc.), therefore, low installations of this type are usually not visible or minimally visible and have no effect on the building. These are the most likely types of buildings to have work that would involve roof replacement or new roofs, since we frequently see flat roofs being altered for new additions, bulkheads and roof decks. We have not seen as many applications for roof replacement and solar installations at freestanding houses and other buildings with pitched roofs, but will work with owners to provide guidance. We can’t speak to the likelihood of roof repair vs. replacement on landmarked buildings as compared to other old buildings, but the Commission approves either if conditions warrant it.” Cory Scott Herrala, Director of Preservation, NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission

“These are complicated and nuanced laws and it’s hard to say there is one impact on landmark buildings that is different from non-landmarked buildings. The roof repairs we normally see would not be impacted because most people are not repairing or reworking the roof structure. Historic roofs come in a variety of styles. A gambrel roof, for instance, would not be a candidate for a green roof. [NB: gambrel roof - a roof with a lower steeper slope and an upper less steep one on each of its two sides.] I’m thinking of a project now that has gutted a landmark apartment building to ultimately connect floors in a new building being constructed adjacent to the landmark. In the future, a project like this would likely be required to put on a green roof. This is a project by project question.” Peg Breen, president, New York Landmarks Conservancy

New York State Property Tax Abatement (PTA)

Projects with a Sustainable Roof Zone may choose to pursue the NYS Property Tax Abatement (PTA) for solar and green roof installations. These projects need to also comply with the qualifying requirements as defined by the respective PTA programs.

Solar and green roof projects pursuing a solar or green roof PTA must be filed online through the HUB Full Service using Professional Certification of objections as a separate Alteration Type-2 application using the PTA4 form for solar installations or PTA3 form for green roof installations.

Key Exemptions from LL92 and LL94 & Qualifications

#1: The roof assembly has a slope greater than two units vertical in 12 units horizontal (17 percent) that would accommodate less than 4kW of solar photovoltaic electricity generating capacity.

Qualifications: Calculations and a shading report prepared by a qualified contractor or NYS registered design professional must be submitted. The contractor must be accredited by one of the following: NABCEP Certification - North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners; IBEW-NECA Electrical Journeyman & Apprentice Training - International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and National Electrical Contractors Association; UL Credential - Underwriters Laboratories.

#2: Site conditions are unfavorable to either a solar photovoltaic electricity generating system or a green roof system.

Qualifications: A statement substantiating limitations must be submitted by a NYS registered design professional.

#3: The NYC Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) has determined that the building is not currently required to comply with LL92/94.

Qualifications: HPD documentation must be submitted. The Buildings Bulletin 2019-010 notes that there is an Alternate Compliance Timeline for Affordable Housing which is to be determined by the HPD.

Information in greater detail on areas exempted from the Sustainable Roof Zone, affordable housing exemptions and the alternate compliance timeline for affordable housing, and tax abatements is available on the 2019-010 Buildings Bulletin.

View the entire text of the NYC Council press release here.


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