Is New York City Actually Banning Glass Buildings?

REBNY is committed to doing our part to help address the serious threat posed by climate change. Our members are proud to be at the forefront of utilizing new approaches and technology to reduce carbon emissions at large buildings across the city.

In fact, our Sustainability Committee spent the past year and a half leading an intensive effort to engage and educate our city’s law-and policy-makers as they developed new building emissions legislation with the goal of reducing emissions 40 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050.

While it is unfortunate that the legislation recently approved by the City Council and de Blasio administration – known as the Climate Mobilization Act – will not effectively achieve its stated 40×30 goal, we know that our significant research and collaborative work on this issue will prove valuable in future policy discussions.

More recently, REBNY was one of many citywide stakeholders that followed with interest the comments made by Mayor de Blasio in an interview on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, during which he said that his administration would soon “introduce legislation to ban the glass and steel skyscrapers that have contributed so much to global warming.”

While we have not yet seen a proposal drafted by the City on this particular issue, recent comments by the administration’s sustainability director, Mark Chambers, suggest that there will in fact be no “ban” proposed; as he said, buildings “can use a lot of glass if they do all the other things needed to reduce emissions.” Whatever the case may be, REBNY is always willing to review new or potential pieces of legislation regarding climate change and building emissions.

When future building emission policy is drafted, it is critical that it be developed based on data and feedback from experts. Of course, we feel that this also applies to the issue of carbon emissions, which is why we have invested so much time working with diverse stakeholders – from the Natural Resources Defense Council to 32BJ SEIU – to develop strategies for maximizing building efficiency.

And we must not forget that a building’s rate of energy use and efficiency is not dictated by the material found in its façade – far from it. Energy reductions and efficiency are generally driven by a combination of the buildings’ design, infrastructure and maintenance.

For example, depending on its systems, older concrete buildings could be just as efficient the steel and glass buildings at Hudson Yards, which have been specifically designed to reduce carbon emissions and reuse storm water.

The bottom line is that, no, there does not appear to be a “glass building ban” coming to New York City. But as long as discussions around building emissions continue, we will continue advocating for sensible policies that utilize data-driven logic.