Key Changes Associated with the Adoption of 2020 NYCECC

May 12, 2020 marks the adoption of a new edition of the New York City Energy Conservation Code. This new edition of the code will play an important role in meeting the goals of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s One City Built to Last Plan, which calls for the City to develop and implement world class green building and energy codes and shall be a key initiative in the City’s target for carbon neutrality by the year 2050. The 2020 NYCECC will maintain New York City’s position as a leader in sustainable construction policies and practices.

By law, New York City is authorized to develop their own energy code, provided the code is more stringent than New York State’s energy code, to meet the needs and goals for regulating energy consumption within New York City. The New York City Energy Conservation Code (NYCECC) is comprised of the Energy Conservation Construction Code of New York State (ECCCNYS) with amendments as enacted into law by the city. The code applies to commercial and residential buildings in New York City, including the building’s associated systems and equipment. The intent of NYCECC is to regulate the design and construction of buildings for the use and conservation of energy over their life. Per Local Law 85 of 2009 as Chapter 10 of Title 28 of the New York City Administrative Code, NYCECC must be updated following any revision to the New York State Energy Conservation Construction Code which established more stringent requirements than NYCECC, and no later than the end of the third year after the effective date of the latest edition of NYCECC. The 2020 NYCECC has been developed to meet the requirements of the 2020 ECCCNYS and NYSERDA’s NYStretch Energy Code-2020 within the unique and dense construction environment of New York City.

The new 2020 NYCECC became effective on May 12, 2020, enacted as Local Law 048 of 2020. The City’s Energy Code must have the same effective date as the State’s Energy Code. Under this new edition of the New York City Energy Conservation Code, the following changes have been included.

More stringent insulation and fenestration requirements for building’s thermal envelope

A building’s thermal envelope includes the materials that comprise the foundation, outer walls, roofing, glazing and doors. The purpose of the thermal envelope is to prevent heat transfer from the building interior to the exterior during winter, as well as the opposite in Summer. The effectiveness of a building’s thermal envelope, the envelope’s efficiency, is determined by considering the heat transfer characteristics of the materials composing the building’s envelope. The effectiveness of an insulator is indicated by the materials overall heat transfer coefficient (U-factor) or inverse thermal resistance (R-factor).

Under the new 2020 NYCECC, more stringent fenestration requirements have been implemented resulting in a reduction in required U-factor values for most assembly types. Additionally, under the new code, U-factors have become material dependent, resulting in more stringent requirements for non-metal fenestration/framing. The new code recognizes that windows at higher elevation require more framing. As such, each window with a vertical elevation greater than 95 feet may comply with new less-stringent fenestration requirements. The 2020 NYCECC also includes default U-factors for spandrel panel assemblies.

More stringent insulation and fenestration requirements for building’s thermal envelope

Lighting power density (LPD) represents the load for lighting equipment in an area and is therefore measured in watts per square foot of lighting equipment. This represents the amount of energy consumed per unit of area. It is associated with the maximum allowable lighting density permitted by code. Lighting power density may be calculated using the “Space-by-Space” method, which considers lighting energy consumption and floor area for each space within a building individually. LPD may also be calculated using the “Building-Area” method, which utilizations the summation of total lighting energy consumption for a building and the building’s total floor area.

Under the new 2020 NYCECC, allowable lighting power density values have been reduced. For interior spaces, when using the space-by-space method, the allowable lighting power density for each space has been reduced by approximately 25%. When using the building-area method, the reduction shall be 34%. Additionally, the allowable lighting power density for exterior lighting has been reduced by approximately 30%. Lastly, the new edition of the code reduces the allowable lighting power density for decorative and retail display lighting by approximately 25%.

Additional Lighting Controls

Per the 2020 NYCECC, occupancy sensors must be included for corridors, cafeterias, and fast-food restaurants (which previously were permitted to be controlled by either motion sensor or timeclock controls). The new code provides for a new conformance path for utilization of “Luminaire Level Lighting Controls (LLLC)”, provides for much stricter requirements for zoning of open plan office spaces, reduces the allowable time delay for motion sensors when spaces are no longer occupied, reduces the wattage threshold for when daylighting would not be required, and clarifies that “specific application controls” require motion sensor or time switch control.

The new code also provides some much needed clarity for control of lighting fixtures utilized as means of egress illumination in exit access components such as corridors as many code users were of the incorrect opinion that corridors did not require control.

Efficiency measures for traction elevators and commercial kitchen equipment

To meet the new requirements of NYSERDA’s NYStretch Energy Code-2020, the 2020 NYCECC includes new power and efficiency requirements for elevators and commercial kitchen equipment. Per the new code, new traction elevators with a rise of 75 feet (23 m) or more in new buildings shall have a power conversion system such that potential energy released during motion shall be recovered with a regenerative drive that supplies electrical energy to the building electrical system. The 2020 NYCECC also specifies that commercial kitchen equipment shall now comply with minimum efficiency requirements for heavy-load cooking and idle energy usage.

More Stringent Residential Requirements

Under the 2020 NYCECC, new and more stringent energy requirements must be met for residential projects. Among these, mandatory supply ventilation provided with energy or heat recovery devices on homes and multifamily buildings 3-stories and less must be provided. Additionally, efficient design of service water heating distribution systems shall be included in one- and two-family homes and multifamily buildings 3 stories and less. The new code also stipulates that infrastructure for the future installation of electric vehicle chargers in one- and two-family homes be provided. Lastly, to meet the mechanical requirements of NYSERDA’s NYStretch Energy Code-2020, under the new code, verification testing is required for residential ventilation systems and all ducts in residential buildings must be located within conditioned spaces.

Updated whole building energy monitoring requirements

Whole building energy modeling is utilized in commercial projects to measure, report, and compare whole-building energy consumption. Monitoring in this manner allows for the completion of efficiency analyses to reduce building energy use, which may also reduce associated building energy costs. For compliance with the new 2020 NYCECC, measurement devices must be installed in new buildings to individually monitor energy use of natural gas, fuel oil, propane, steam, chilled water, and hot water. Per the code, commercial buildings less than 25,000 square feet and Group R buildings with less than 10,000 square feet of common area are exempt from the requirement.

More Stringent Commissioning requirements

Building commissioning generally results in better energy efficiency and lower operating costs. Commissioning ensures that buildings are delivered per the owner’s project requirements and basis of design. In the new 2020 NYCECC, more alteration projects must perform commissioning. New heating, cooling and duct systems components that are part of an alteration and the controls that serve them shall comply with Section C408 commissioning requirements from which they were previously exempt.

Additional changes

In addition to the changes described above, the code specifies the following key changes.

  • Continuous insulation for balconies and parapets
  • Requiring more new construction projects to perform air leakage testing
  • Documentation of certain linear and point thermal bridges for all new construction
  • Allowing source energy as a metric, instead of energy cost, for buildings choosing to comply with energy modeling

Author: Kyle C. MacKenzie, P.E. LEED AP BD+C
Date: June 8, 2020

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