New York City will become the largest city in the nation and the first large cold-weather city to phase out fossil fuel combustion in new construction.
The move stems from a new local law signed by former Mayor Bill de Blasio in December that mandates phasing out gas hookups in new buildings. It’s an unprecedented step away from fossil fuels that proponents say will accelerate next-generation electric buildings, improve air quality and public health, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The new mandate will also have a major impact on developers and the construction industry, though phase-out dates have been negotiated to step down the use of gas appliances in larger buildings in the coming years.
Here are some key facts about the new law:
- The new law will prohibit the combustion of substances with certain emissions profiles in commercial and residential buildings by phasing in strict emissions limits beginning in 2023.
- The ban takes effect in December 2023 for buildings under seven stories; by 2027 buildings of all sizes must be constructed fully electric.
- The law will also cover gut renovations that require new building permits from the Commissioner of Buildings.
- Limited exemptions will be provided for certain uses, including commercial kitchens, emergency or standby power, laundromats, and residential buildings where at least half the units are classified as affordable.
- The new law requires the Mayor’s Office of Climate and Sustainability to study heat pump technology and electrical grid readiness to ensure the City is able to meet new electrical needs.
The Benefits of Banning Gas
The gas ban has major benefits for a city where 40% of carbon emissions come from buildings.
By effectively requiring new construction to be fitted with electric hookups for common household appliances such as stoves and furnaces, the law will rapidly accelerate the City’s green transition and prevent 2.1 million tons of carbon emissions by 2040. That’s equal to taking 450,000 cars off the road for a year, according to the Rocky Mountain Institute. Research also indicates that the law sets NYC up to achieve its goal of carbon neutrality by 2050, which is consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
There are also public health benefits to transitioning way from gas, according to experts. That includes improvements to in-home air quality, as growing research indicates gas stoves expose Americans to unsafe levels of indoor air pollution, and reduced risks of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Impact on Construction
In addition to putting NYC on a path to carbon neutrality, the City’s gas ban will also change the construction industry – namely a more pronounced shift toward all-electric construction.
This could mean a need for more electrical contractors and electricians to construct, service, and collaborate on all-electric buildings, greater innovation in green and sustainable construction technologies, and reduced risks associated with gas lines and catastrophic events like fires or explosions. But while the move to all-electric is certainly promising, the industry will still need to confront common hazards that plague all construction sites, and likely some new ones to boot.
Read more about the new NYC gas ban law from The New York Times.
As a firm that’s fought for victims of construction accidents since 1983, our team at The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C. has seen many trends and changes in the local construction industry. We welcome the City’s commitment to battling climate change and pledge to closely follow the new law’s impact to provide our clients with knowledgeable, up-to-date representation as the industry adapts.