ITHACA, N.Y. — For the past two years, the City and Town of Ithaca have been working on new local code requirements that will impact all future building construction to lower local greenhouse gas emissions. This month, local officials are looking for public feedback on the draft of the Ithaca Energy Code Supplement.

The Green Building Policy report, now called the Ithaca Energy Code Supplement, was adopted by Ithaca Common Council and the Ithaca Town Board in 2018. The code will require that all new buildings are constructed in such a way to produce 40% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than New York State code requires and will require that new construction be net-zero by 2030.

The policy will put a point system in place for new construction projects in Ithaca, which will receive points for efficient electrification, affordability improvements, renewable energy and other things like walkability and adaptive reuse. New buildings — both residential and commercial — will need to achieve six points to be approved. For example under “efficient electrification,” a building can get five points for ground source heat pumps or one point for electric stoves and ventless heat pump clothes dryers with a prerequisite being no fossil fuels in the building.

The City of Ithaca recently passed the Green New Deal — which has a goal to make the city carbon neutral by 2030. Nick Goldsmith, sustainability coordinator for Ithaca, said the Green Building Policy is a key part of achieving that.

“In the city, buildings are responsible for about three-quarters of our carbon footprint, and in the town, about half of greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings,” Goldsmith said.

The Ithaca Energy Code Supplement will be a part of City Code section 146, building permits. There will be two paths for building owners, the “easy path,” which has the point system, and the “whole building path.” The code requirements will be building toward net-zero building designs in 2030, which are building designs that do not use fossil fuels for space heating, water heating or clothes drying.

• Related: Ithaca’s Green New Deal passes, now the hard work begins

The requirements will apply to the following construction:

  • All new construction, excluding additions and major renovations that are not specified below
  • all new additions 1,000 square feet or larger;
  • all new additions 500 square feet or larger to single-family homes or duplexes;
  • and all major renovations in which more than 75% of the space in a building is being renovated and in which two or more of the following major energy components are being substantially renovated: heating, lighting, and envelope.

Once the new energy code in place, Goldsmith said the city and town will look at policy options for existing buildings, looking to cities like Boulder and New York who have adopted regulations for building owners to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

“Buildings are just a really critical piece of greenhouse gas emission reduction, that’s why we started with this policy,” Goldsmith said.

With the Green Building Policy and Energy Code Supplement, Goldsmith said when designing it, they aimed to make compliance flexible and affordable. “It’s designed to not add additional burden,” Goldsmith said, adding that if someone building a new home is not planning to hire an architect, people should be able to meet the guidelines without additional cost or headache.

Moving forward, the working group is asking for public feedback through Sept. 30. People who want to weigh in can submit comments at upcoming public meetings or email Goldsmith at ngoldsmith@cityofithaca.org. Comments can also be mailed to the City of Ithaca Planning Department at 108 E. Green St., Ithaca. Anyone who is interested in making a comment in person can do so at two upcoming public meetings. Speakers are not required to be City or Town of Ithaca residents.

Public Meeting 1
Thursday, Sept. 12, 6 to 7:30 p.m.
Ithaca Town Hall, 215 North Tioga St.

Public Meeting 2
Monday, Sept. 16, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Ithaca Town Hall, 215 North Tioga St.

After collecting feedback this month, the working team which includes city and town officials, senior staff and consultants will work with city and town committees to more formally codify the supplement before bringing it back to the Planning and Economic Development Committee. If all goes smoothly, it could be approved by the first quarter of 2020 and there would be a six-month grace period after that.

Learn more about the Green Building Policy and download the supplement draft at ithacagreenbuildingpolicy.com.

Below is a look at a few sample case studies presented in August. Note: The requirements have changed slightly since this presentation and the case studies are only best guesses at how many points they would achieve.

Kelsey O'Connor

Kelsey O'Connor is the managing editor for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at koconnor@ithacavoice.com and follow her on Twitter @bykelseyoconnor.