New York City mayor Bill de Blasio plans to ban construction of glass and steel skyscrapers, in a major bid to tackle the climate-change crisis.
“We’re going to introduce legislation to ban the glass and steel skyscrapers that have contributed so much to global warming,” said the mayor in a press conference on 22 April. “They have no place in our city or on our earth anymore.”
Blasio revealed the plan as part of his New York City Green New Deal, launched at a press conference at Long Island City’s Hunter’s Point South Park on 22 April.
Buildings “number one” cause of greenhouse gases
The $14 billion (£10.8 billion) initiative, which forms part of the city’s OneNYC 2050 strategy, aligns with the goals of the Paris Agreement – the international climate-change treaty that president Donald Trump withdrew the US from in 2017.
High-rises, which require a large amount of energy to run, underpin its ambition to reduce emissions in New York by 30 per cent by the year 2030.
“The number one cause [of greenhouse gases] in this city is the buildings,” said Blasio. “It’s not the cars, it’s the buildings.”
Along with forbidding glazed towers, Blasio also revealed a mandate for landlords to apply energy efficiency standards to the city’s existing towers, which account for nearly a third of all greenhouse gas emissions. He believes retrofitting these could reduce their emissions 40 per cent by 2030 and 80 per cent by 2050.
Landlords will have to implement changes by 2024 or face fines of up to $1 million per year.
New York first city to mandate energy efficiency
“One of the highlights is for the first time on this earth, the first city to mandate that our buildings must stop emitting so many dangerous pollutants,” the mayor said. “Our buildings must be part of the solution and not part of the problem.”
“It’s now law that our buildings must do the right thing for the people of the city,” he added.
New glazed structures could also be built, but would have to align with the same energy efficiency targets.
“If a company wants to build a big skyscraper they can use a lot of glass, if they do all the other things needed to reduce our emissions,” he added. “But putting up monuments to themselves that harmed our earth and threatened our future, that will no longer be allowed in New York City.”
Crackdown on use of fossil fuels
Blasio’s announcement, on Earth Day, comes hot on the heels of the passing of the city’s wider Climate Mobilization Act on 18 April. The act comprises a series of bills to reduce carbon emissions and mitigate global warming.
Other aspects of the Green New Deal strategy involve a crackdown on the use of fossil fuels, in favour of renewable energy sources. Blasio plans to source zero-emission, hydro-power from Quebec, Canada.
“Our city doesn’t need to get its electricity from those fossil fuels, those fossil fuels can be left in the ground where they belong,” he said.
He also revealed the city will be suing five large petroleum companies to “get back in damages the money to fix what they did to the city”.
Wider effort to tackle climate change
The news comes shortly after the mayor revealed a proposal to redesign the “vulnerable” shoreline of Lower Manhattan, in order to make it more resilient to rising sea levels caused by climate change.
Blasio intends New York’s “audacious” Green New Deal to pave the way for other US cities to address climate crisis, following a series of devastating and unpredictable weather events that have take place in the country over the past few years.
His position is in direct opposition to the stance of Donald Trump, who is a climate-change skeptic.
The architecture industry has already made moves to address the issue of global warming – a number of firms building high-rises in New York City have ditched “default” glass facades in favour of solid materials with better eco-credentials.
Practices including Snøhetta, Brooks + Scarpa and Deborah Berke Partners signed an open letter asking Trump to reconsider his stance prior to his election.
In 2018, the AIA launched a petition to protest Trump’s his policies on climate change and urged architects to address global warming in projects.