ITHACA, N.Y. –– The City of Ithaca Common Council unanimously adopted the Ithaca Energy Code Supplement (IECS), also known as the “Green Building Policy,” Wednesday night as part its Green New Deal which aims to bolster local sustainability and meet the goal of being carbon-neutral by 2030. The IECS will enforce code requirements for new buildings and major renovations that reduce greenhouse gas emissions while “emphasizing affordability.”
Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick called Wednesday’s unanimous vote “history-making,” adding also that the new code is an, “enormous and impressive accomplishment.”
The IECS will require that all new buildings are constructed in such a way to produce 40 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than New York State code requires and will require that new construction be net-zero by 2030. The IECS is an overlay to the state energy code, which includes its own efficiency requirements including lighting, ventilation and other requirements, all of which must still be met.
The Building Division will oversee the implementation and enforcement of the IECS, as they do with state energy and building codes.
“This is a significant advancement. I am so proud knowing that this endeavor was part of the Planning Department’s efforts to build a greener more sustainable city for our residents,” JoAnn Cornish, Director of the Department of Planning and Development, which includes the Building Division, said.
The IECS offers two options for builders to comply –– the prescriptive Easy Path, which is a customized point-based system, or using the performance-based Whole Building Path. Using the Easy Path, points are awarded efficient electrification, affordability improvements, renewable energy and other aspects like walkability and adaptive reuse (repurposing of old buildings.) New buildings — both residential and commercial — will need to achieve six of these points to be approved.
The Whole Building Path, allows for “tradeoffs” (i.e a building owner might install an excess of an efficient aspect than the code requires to “make up” for putting in less of another requirement) but also requires expensive software to predict energy usage for the project to be compared against an acceptable baseline.
More information on the ins and outs of project approval regulations can be found in Brian Crandall’s March PEDC recap here.
The rules, which will go into effect on August 4, 2021, are also not intended to be stagnant –– the IECS will increase its requirements in 2023, requiring an 80 percent reduction in emissions. Starting in 2026, net-zero buildings that do not use fossil fuels will be required (with exceptions for cooking and process energy). In its Wednesday meeting, Common Council voted to accelerate the implementation timeline from the originally proposed step-up dates of 2025 and 2030.
The new law also marks the end of a, “long process guided by an extraordinary level of community input,” according to the City of Ithaca. The initial imagining of the new code began four years ago with City staff working with a consultant team and internal and external stakeholder groups to create the regulations. The project has been a joint venture with the Town of Ithaca, which plans to discuss adoption of the IECS in early June.
Nick Goldsmith, IECS project manager and Sustainability Coordinator for both the City and the Town, said, “Collaboration was an integral part of this project. The regulations will cover both the City and the Town, practically doubling the impact, and providing consistency for builders who work across municipal boundaries. We hope to inspire other communities to take strong legislative action to reduce GHG emissions.”
The passage of the Ithaca Energy Code Supplement marks a major move forward for the City’s Green New Deal (GND), which again, aims to “achieve an equitable transition to carbon-neutrality” community-wide by 2030. With the IECS now written into law, the City will soon be discussing other GND components, including shifting the entire community building stock, including all existing buildings, to become net-zero.
Luis Aguirre Torres, the City’s new Director of Sustainability said, “we will continue to lead by example, demonstrating our commitment to a just transition, through a series of follow-up actions and policies centered on accelerating the transition to a carbon-free economy by 2030.”
More information about the Ithaca Energy Code Supplement is available at www.ithacagreenbuilding.com. Additional information will be posted on the City’s website.