With current and upcoming carbon footprint reduction mandates aimed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, building owners, developers, and architects need a cost-effective solution to ensure compliance and avoid costly fines and penalties.
In addition to ensuring local and federal law compliance, there are many additional benefits of reducing carbon emissions from buildings. These include lower heating and cooling bills, lower electricity bills, and even funding and rebates available to buildings that have made these modifications.
Cities including New York City, Boston, and Washington DC have led the charge on carbon footprint reduction by mandating buildings to reduce and report their energy usage. These cities will be imposing fines and penalties as early as 2022 for non-compliance. With such a fast-approaching deadline, finding a fast, efficient, and cost-effective solution – like window film – will allow building owners to remain compliant without making significant changes to their building or systems.
What is Carbon Footprint Reduction?
Carbon footprint reduction is the practice of consuming less energy. According to a study by the U.S. Department of Energy, commercial and residential buildings combined consume nearly 40 percent of the total energy usage in the United States, more than both the industry and transportation sectors.
Today, there are more than 4.7 million commercial buildings in the United States alone.
With the recent carbon footprint reduction mandate put into action by the Biden administration, taking carbon footprint reduction measures is more important than ever. Biden’s 2030 greenhouse gas reduction target aims to reduce greenhouse gases by 50-52 percent by 2050 from the levels measured in 2005.
Part of this plan includes supporting energy efficiency upgrades in previously constructed buildings and adopting modern energy codes for new buildings. Finding a cost-effective solution for how to reduce CO2 emissions in buildings now will let owners and developers get ahead of expected state laws and legislation designed to support the greenhouse gas reduction target goals.
Federal and Local Carbon Footprint Reduction Initiatives
There are both Federal and Local carbon footprint reduction initiatives and laws that building owners and developers need to be aware of. Non-compliance with these initiatives can carry serious fines and penalties, making compliance crucial.
Federal Climate Policy 106
Federal Climate Policy 106 focuses on reducing carbon emissions in the building sector, which consists of both residential and commercial buildings in the United States. Without factoring in the use of electricity, the building sector accounts for 12.5 percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. This includes using fossil fuels for heating, cooling, and cooking.
However, once electricity usage is factored back into the equation, this number jumps to almost 40 percent. In other words, electricity usage in the building sector accounts for roughly 25 – 27 percent of greenhouse gasses in the country.
Building energy codes require new and renovated buildings to adopt energy efficiency features in their construction and design, and can include requirements for the building envelope (insulation, windows, walls, and roof), ventilation, cooling and heating systems, and lighting.
Making improvements to all of these elements can be costly, so finding a multi-purpose solution to address several of these elements at once can save builders and developers quite a bit of money.
NYC Local Law 97 & Climate Mobilization Act
In New York City, buildings account for about two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions. In April 2019, the City Council passed the Climate Mobilization Act & Local Law 97. Both of these initiatives were part of Mayor de Blasio’s New York City Green New Deal, a systematic plan for the city to be carbon neutral by 2050.
Local Law 97 requires most buildings over 25,000 square feet to meet new greenhouse gas emissions and energy efficiency limits by 2024. Those limits will become stricter in 2030.
With only two years for NYC buildings to meet new energy standards, owners and developers need to quickly address these issues – or face fines and penalties if Local Law 97 compliance is not met.
Emissions Limits for Commercial Buildings in NYC
With emissions limits already being significantly reduced in New York City, understanding current and upcoming limits is an important part of implementing the right carbon footprint reduction methods that will make the most impact.
Local Law 97 Fines & Penalties
Starting as early as 2024, building owners will be subject to fines for non-compliance with Local Law 97. Penalties and fines will be imposed for the following violations:
- Failing to submit the annual compliance report: A fine of $0.50 per GSF per month that the report is not submitted.
- Falsifying annual compliance reports: This constitutes a misdemeanor and can result in a $500,000 fine and up to 30 days in jail for the building owner.
- Emissions over the allowed limit: A civil fine is calculated as the difference between the building’s annual carbon dioxide emissions limit and its actual emissions, multiplied by $268.
For example, for non-compliance with Local Law 97, penalties for a 50,000 square foot office building with total emissions of 425,000 KgCO2e in 2024 would be $536,000. That is because the building is 2,000 KgCO2e over its acceptable limit.
How did we get this number?
First, we looked at the table above to find the classification of the building. Since it is an office building, it falls under the “Business” classification. In 2024, the emissions limit per square foot for a building under this classification would be 8.46 KgCO2e.
Next, we multiplied the total square feet of the building by 8.46 KgCO2e to get the total allowable emissions for the building, which equals 423,000 KgCO2e. Since the building’s total emissions were 425,000, we subtract the allowable number from the total number to get 2,000. Since the fine in NYC in 2024 will be $268, we multiply $268 * 2,000 to get $536,000.
- Step 1: 50,000 * 8.46 = 423,000
- Step 2: 425,000 – 423,000 = 2,000
- Step 3: 2,000 * 268 = $536,000
Boston’s Climate Action Plan
Buildings account for over 70% of greenhouse gas emissions in Boston. As part of the city of Boston’s Climate Action Plan, they introduced the Building Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance. Also known as BERDO, the ordinance requires large- and medium-sized buildings to report both energy and water usage every year.
Additionally, buildings are also required to complete a major energy savings action or assessment every five years. BERDO Boston is public information and allows for easy benchmarking of commercial and residential buildings’ energy consumption and improvements.
Clean Energy Benchmarking in Washington DC
Clean Energy DC, signed into effect in 2017, is Washington DC’s climate and energy action plan that outlines the specific actions and steps that need to be taken to achieve tangible carbon reduction goals for the district.
The Clean Energy DC Plan aims to reduce emissions by 56% in 2032 compared to the baseline taken in 2005, similar to the plan set forth by the Biden administration. Washington DC’s sustainability plan outlines 57 concrete actions that need to be taken to achieve this goal.
Washington DC energy benchmarking for buildings has been required since 2008. But with the introduction of Clean Energy DC, there came the Building Energy Performance Standards (BEPS) that were outlined in the Clean Energy DC Omnibus Amendment Act of 2018. According to BEPS, buildings must maintain a minimum energy performance no lower than the local median ENERGY STAR score by property type.
Carbon Footprint Reduction Tips & Measures
Installing or upgrading current lighting in existing buildings can help save energy and therefore reduce energy consumption. Upgrading all lightbulbs to LED bulbs is a good starting point. Another way to reduce your carbon footprint is to utilize solar power wherever possible. This can include outdoor lighting that uses solar boxes instead of traditional power sources.
There are certain 3M™ window film products, like 3M™ Daylight Redirecting film, that can help reduce the need for electric lighting by increasing the depth of daylight brought in from windows by up to 40 feet. This specialized window film also redirects up to 80% of sunlight onto the ceiling, providing more natural light within the interior space.
Improving the performance of your HVAC system can be expensive if you focus primarily on upgrading the system itself. However, by installing window film on all of the windows and doors of your building, you can improve the overall insulation of the building. In turn, this reduces the need for your HVAC system to run as frequently, which in turn reduces energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
Insulating Glass Windows
Similar to HVAC systems, replacing or reinforcing all of the windows in a building is an expensive, disruptive and unsightly process that can take a long time to complete. Window film is a much more affordable, less disruptive option that won’t change the aesthetic of your building – unless you want it to! Installing window film adds an additional layer of protection and insulation to windows, and turns a single pane of glass into a double pane, and a double pane into a triple pane.
Renovations & Adaptive Reuse
Builders and developers can make a greater impact by making renovations to an existing building or practicing adaptive reuse. Instead of building a new small freestanding retail store, renovating an existing abandoned corner unit in an otherwise busy building will reduce the carbon footprint by eliminating the need for new construction and materials.
Similarly, adaptive reuse repurposes entire existing buildings, which in turn takes away the initial carbon emissions created during the construction process, allowing the development to participate in a circular economy.
Because of these laws and regulations, many new buildings are being constructed to be net-zero. Different from carbon-neutral buildings, which is when buildings significantly reduce their carbon emissions and then offset the rest, net-zero buildings produce on-site or utilize renewable, carbon-free energy to sustain building operations.
Reduce Emissions with Commercial Building Envelope Improvements
Improving the building envelope in an existing building is fairly easy when you take the right steps. The building envelope consists of the roof, windows, exterior doors and cladding, and is often overlooked when it comes to carbon footprint reduction. But improving the building envelope is a great way to reduce building emissions.
Implementing low-cost, high reward strategies, like using window film to improve the building envelope, will allow commercial buildings to monitor energy consumption and reduction over time without making a huge investment upfront.
Since window film is applied to glass windows and doors, it addresses two out of four of the elements of the building envelope.
Ways to Reduce Energy Consumption in Commercial Buildings Using Window Film
Making significant, complex improvements to large commercial buildings can be disruptive to tenants, take months – even years – to complete, and depending on the upgrade, can be quite costly.
In contrast, window film is an aesthetically pleasing, comparatively inexpensive solution for commercial buildings to reduce energy consumption.
Reduce HVAC Energy Costs
As we discussed earlier, 3M™ window film products can help reduce HVAC energy costs in commercial buildings. This is achieved in several ways.
Heat control films allow buildings to regulate moderate temperatures more effectively by rejecting UV rays and electromagnetic energy, eliminating the need for a drastically fluctuating thermostat.
Low E and insulating films provide both heat blocking technology and window insulation, retaining cool air during the summer and warm air during the winter. This reduces the reliance on an HVAC system to run more frequently during extreme temperatures.
3M™ Thinsulate Climate Control Series for Commercial Buildings is an excellent choice for energy savings, heat control, low energy, and insulation.
Improve Window Insulation
Installing window film helps provide insulation, which is yet another way to improve your building envelope efficiency.
Window film turns single pane windows into double pane windows and double pane windows into triple-pane windows without the expense of adding actual glass to the window itself.
This added layer of protection and insulation helps reduce HVAC costs by helping keep heat in during cooler months and cool air during warmer months.
Not only is window film for commercial buildings a cost-effective way to improve your building envelope, but they also have additional benefits that other upgrades and improvements don’t.
Additional Benefits of Window Film
- Sun control and heat reduction benefits of window film don’t just improve building envelope efficiency, but also increase the comfort of tenants.
- UV blocking technology provides additional safety to tenants, equipment, and furnishings.
- Window film provides added window security and shatter protection to exterior glass
- Dark and reflective films allow buildings to update the look of their doors and windows
- Clear films like 3M™ Thinsulate and 3M™ Prestige provide sun control, climate control, and energy savings benefits without changing the appearance of glass for building owners who don’t wish to alter building appearances.
- Window film has no visual impact, allowing for easy approval from historical societies
- With 3M™ window film installation, labor and materials are warrantied by 3M™ Company for up to 15 years
- Certain states offer funding, rebates, and programs including LEED points and ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager score increases
For more information about how you can use 3M Window Film products to improve your building envelope and reduce your building’s carbon footprint, please fill out the contact form below or call 1-866-933-3456.