BY ALBERT AMATEAU | Despite reservations by preservation advocates, real estate officials hailed new land-use guidelines intended to encourage the building and retrofitting of energy-sustainable buildings.
The citywide Zone Green Text Amendment, passed by the City Council and signed by Mayor Bloomberg, which removed some zoning impediments to the construction and renovation of “green” buildings, went into effect May 1.
While one of the more striking features, allowing 55-foot-tall wind turbines on the tops of buildings 100 feet or taller, may not become a reality in the near future, other features are more likely to appear on new and reconstructed buildings.
Constantine Kontokosta, director of the Center for the Sustainable Built Environment of New York University’s Schack Institute of Real Estate, said of the text amendment, “It’s a great step forward for a zoning text that hasn’t seen a major revision since 1961.”
Angela Pinsky, Real Estate Board of New York senior vice president for management affairs, said the Department of City Planning has done a good job in helping to move the city toward greater energy sustainability.
A city task force is currently working on recommendations to bring both the city Building Code and Zoning Code up to date as part of PlaNYC.
“Some of the features are more aspirational than practical, but others are likely to encourage green building and retrofitting,” Pinsky said of the new guidelines. “There is a demand out there for solar panels,” she added.
While the previous zoning did not allow solar installations above a building’s maximum permitted height, the Zone Green Amendment allows solar panels on flat roofs anywhere below the parapet, regardless of building height.
Portions of taller solar installations higher than 4 feet will be subject to limits on roof coverage and height. On sloping roofs, panels will be allowed to be flat-mounted, less than 18 inches high.
“Almost any building could be fitted with solar panels,” Kontokosta suggested. He also said the rule allowing external insulation up to 8 inches on existing buildings was a welcome feature of the Zone Green Amendment.
However, at a February hearing at Community Board 2 on the amendment, the Historic Districts Council said that encouraging retrofitting of existing buildings with external insulation could threaten massive alteration of building exteriors.
Another feature of the amendment — allowing rooftop greenhouses no taller than 25 feet and set back at least 6 feet from the roof edge of nonresidential buildings — was part of the reason Community Board 2 in February voted against the amendment.
Although any addition permitted by the Zone Green Amendment would be subject to existing Landmarks Preservation Commission and Department of Buildings rules and review, C.B. 2 was concerned that those agencies do not have sufficient resources and funds to review alterations or enforce rules.
The community board also wanted the text amendment to drop the wind turbines.
However, the amendment permits wind turbine assemblies to rise 55 feet above the rooftops of buildings 100 feet and taller if they are set back 10 feet from any property line. On waterfront blocks in medium- or higher-density residential, commercial or manufacturing districts, all buildings could install rooftop turbines up to half the height of the building, or 55 feet, whichever is less. Free-standing turbines are allowed in commercial and manufacturing areas on waterfront blocks.