LEED: Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (and why you should care)
Many people know the term LEED and associate it w/ words like “green” and ”sustainability.” Given yesterday’s post on the Siemen’s Sustainable Cities Index, which utilized the LEED certification (Silver, Gold or Platinum) per 100,000 people as a contributing statistic to the index, I thought it appropriate to expand a little bit on LEED and talk about why it matters.
First things first. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and it refers to an internationally recognized rating system developed by the US Green Building Council (USGBC) in 2000 to provide building owners and operators with a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions. There are four different tiers of LEED Certification: Ceritified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Given the unique characteristics inherent in different building types and uses, the USGBC developed tailored rating systems for the following building/design categories:
The different rating systems continue to evolve, but concentrate around the same core concepts:
- Sustainable Sites - this refers to things like focusing development on areas in which there is existing transportation and community infrastructure, as well as access to alternative means of transportation, so as to further enable mass transit over auto transit and reduce development of greenfield areas (not an issue here in NYC).
- Water Efficiency - this refers to things like water use reductions, efficient landscaping, innovative wastewater technologies, etc.
- Energy & Atmosphere - this refers to efficient HVAC systems, onsite renewable energy systems, refrigerant management, and so on.
- Materials & Resources - this category looks specifically at building materials, how much energy is expended to bring them to the site (i.e., were any materials reused or locally sourced? this would lower the CO2 footprint of any building), are the materials rapidly renewable, etc.
- Indoor Environmental Quality - this category deals w/ the chemical nature of the materials and surfaces in the building, controllability and thermal comfort for building residents (it can be highly inefficient to have a number of different people turning the heat up and down; these inefficiencies can be reduced if individual users have more control over their local lighting and thermal systems), and so on.
- Innovation in Design & Regional Priority - because the LEED credit system is ever-evolving, USGBC leaves room for innovative strategies that go over and above the the requirements in particular categories and/or that uniquely achieve significant and measureable environmental benefits.
According to the Index, NYC had 1.1 LEED Certified (Silver, Gold, or Platinum) Buildings per 100,000 people, which was well below the 6.4 average for the Index.
NYC Living: Green by Default
If you’re like me, you’ve often wondered if you were doing enough recycling, composting, installing of compact flourescent light bulbs, and turning the lights out when you left the room. You’ve probably also tried to influence your friends and neighbors at times, gently nudging them to do things like hold onto their soda can from lunch so that they can recycle it later, instead of opting for the ease of throwing it in the immediately adjacent trash recepticle. You’ve probably also wondered if your actions are actually accomplishing anything, compared to the grand scheme. Well, fortunately, you and I are not the only people thinking about these issues.
Siemens, the German engineering giant, recently published a US & Canada Green City Index, which attempts to compare the environmental performance of 27 major US and Canadian cities across the following 9 categories:
- Carbon Emissions
- Land Use
- Environmental Governance
NYC came in third overall, and found itself at the top of the chart in the Land Use, Transportation, and Environmental Governance categories. It had the highest population density and percentage of workers commuting by public transport, bicycle, or foot, which - along w/ the City’s low use of coal and high use of nuclear power - contributed to its notable CO2 performance.
NYC found itself close to the bottom of the heap in terms of energy (22nd out of 27 cities). It turns out that being the financial capital of the world requires considerable Gigajoules of energy.
Find the f ull report (8.5 MB) here .
421a Tax Abatement - Ephemeral benefit for owners.
Great piece in the NYT about the 421a tax abatement program which promotes multi-family residential development on underused or unused land through a declining property tax exemption for unit owners. In many cases - for units in Manhattan - the exemption last 10 years, giving the owners an almost complete exemption from real estate taxes for two years, and then phasing in the real estate taxes at 20% every two years; see the phase out schedule for the 10, 15, 20, and 25 year exemptions on p. 2 of this PDF, and click here to access the list of the 421a-eligible properties.
NYC Property Taxes - Where do those numbers come from?
WARNING: The underneath post is not for the easily bored or distracted. You will probably want to drink at least two cups of coffee prior to reading it. Ok - you have been warned…..
Every January the NYC Dept. of Finance (DOF) mails NYC property owners a Notice of Property Value (NOPV), which shows the Taxable Assessed Value (TAV) for the upcoming tax year. TAV is a major factor in determining Property Tax for that year. The notice also shows the estimated market value, exemptions, and other factors that determine the TAV.
You can find recent Notice of Property Values here, so long as you have the specific address you are interested in: http://webapps.nyc.gov:8084/CICS/fin1/find001I
Also, here is a list of potential exemptions:
Condo’s and Co-ops are valued as if they were residential rental apartments and income information from similar rental properties is applied to determine value. Here’s a link to DOF’s comparables for condo’s and co-op’s: http://www.nyc.gov/html/dof/html/property/property_condo_coop_comp_rental.shtml
In short, your RE taxes will be the Taxable Value as stated in your NOPV multiplied by the tax rate for your Tax Class w/ adjustments for exemptions. For more information, please review p. 2 of this notice provided by the DOF: http://www.nyc.gov/html/dof/html/pdf/10pdf/valuation_faq.pdf
In terms of Tax Class, there are four groupings (Classes 1, 2, 3, and 4), to which every property in the City is assigned, based on the use and size of the property (see: http://www.nyc.gov/html/dof/html/property/property_val_glossary.shtml#T):
- Class 1: Includes most residential property of up to three units (family homes and small stores or offices with one or two apartments attached), vacant land zoned for residential use in boroughs other than Manhattan, and most condominiums that are not more than three stories.
- Class 2: Includes all other property that is primarily residential, such as cooperatives and condominiums.
- Class 3: Includes property with equipment owned by a gas, telephone or electric company.
- Class 4: Includes all commercial and industrial property, such as office, factory buildings and vacant land other than in Tax Class 1.
You can find the recent and historical rates for the different tax classes at: http://www.nyc.gov/html/dof/html/property/property_rates_rates.shtml
**DISCLAIMER: I am not a tax professional. The above is purely for discussion purposes, only. You should seek direct advice from a tax professional for any tax matters.
New York Times: Study Clarifies the Energy Savings in Retrofitted Buildings
NY Times story cites soon-to-be-released Stephen Winter Associates Study of ~19,000 NYC affordable housing units that had undergone energy efficiency retrofits. The Study’s results:
- 19% savings on fuel bills (i.e., $240 saved each year per apartment).
- 10% percent savings on electricity across the portfolio (i.e., $70 saved each year per apartment).
The Study’s findings may be particularly interesting to lending institutions as they consider the projected cost-savings from retrofits as a risk management tool against future fuel and electricity costs.