In the absence of federal climate action during the Trump administration, cities and states across the US are pushing ahead on mitigation and adaptation. Last spring, the New York City Council passed an ambitious climate legislation package focused on buildings, which are responsible for almost three quarters of all local emissions. The cornerstone of the Climate Mobilization Act, Local Law 97, focuses on improving energy efficiency and decarbonizing the energy supply in the city’s largest buildings. But the act also ventures into less familiar territory: the city’s rooftops. Local Laws 92 and 94, which went into effect on November 15, 2019, require all new buildings and major roof alterations to be capped with a green roof, solar panels, or some combination of the two.
If successful, the new policies could transform New York’s skyline. According to the Green Roof Researchers Alliance (GRRA), as of 2016 there were only 736 green roofs in the city, representing less than 0.1% of its buildings. But GRRA is working to change this. The 60-plus scientists, policy experts, and educators who make up the coalition have collectively spent years studying green roofs and advocating for their growth across the five boroughs. Here, GRRA members Dustin R. Partridge and Danielle Spiegel-Feld explain what New York’s new laws can mean for city residents, building owners, and birds. – SW