In a major step towards the decarbonization of the building sector in the City and Town of Ithaca, the two municipalities recently adopted the Energy Code Supplement (ECS), implementing code requirements for new buildings and major renovations aimed at substantially reducing greenhouse gas emissions while emphasizing affordability.
The City of Ithaca Common Council approved the ECS on May 5 and the Ithaca Town Board did so at its June 14 meeting.
Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick called the Common Council vote “history-making,” adding also that the new code is an “enormous and impressive accomplishment.”
Town of Ithaca Supervisor Rod Howe praised the landmark achievement, noting that “the Town has demonstrated its commitment to be a leader in sustainability through a number of actions and initiatives."
Nick Goldsmith, sustainability coordinator for the City and Town of Ithaca, shepherded the four-year long process to its successful conclusion.
The rules will go into effect on August 4 in the City on September 13 in the Town. They will require that all new buildings be constructed to produce 40% fewer greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than those built to the NYS Energy Conservation Construction Code. The ECS will become more stringent in 2023, requiring an 80% reduction in emissions.
Starting in 2026, net-zero buildings that do not use fossil fuels will be required (with exceptions for cooking and process energy). Recognizing the urgency of the current climate crisis, both the City Common Council and Town Board voted to accelerate the implementation timeline from the originally proposed step-up dates of 2025 and 2030.
The ECS offers two options for builders to comply, the prescriptive Easy Path, which is a customized point-based system, or the performance-based Whole Building Path. Using the Easy Path, points are awarded for electrification of space and water heating, affordability improvements, renewable energy and other aspects like walkability and adaptive reuse. Both residential and commercial buildings will need to achieve six of these points to be approved.
The Whole Building Path allows more flexibility in building design but requires that buildings comply with one of the main third-party green building standards such as LEED, HERS, and the National Green Building Standard, or that they use software modeling to show compliance.
Initial discussions about the new code began four years ago with City and Town staff working with a consultant team and internal and external stakeholder groups to create the regulations.
“Collaboration was an integral part of this project," said Nick Goldsmith, ECS project manager and Sustainability Coordinator for the City and Town. "The regulations will cover both the City and the Town, practically doubling the impact, and providing consistency for builders who work across municipal boundaries. We hope to inspire other communities to take strong legislative action to reduce GHG emissions.”