Home » New York City's New Energy Code and Data Centers
New York City recently adopted its own version of the New York State Energy Conservation Construction Code by enacting Local Laws 84, 85, 87, and 88. These local laws significantly expand the number of buildings required to meet its energy efficiency standards (NYC Code). A primary factor in this expansion was the elimination of a standard that permitted the continuation of non-compliant building systems. The NYC Code forms part of PlaNYC, which intends to reduce carbon emissions 30 percent by 2030. These laws, with some exemptions, apply to private sector buildings larger than 50,000 gross square feet. The NYC Code became effective for private sector buildings as of July 1, 2010.
The benchmarking portion of the NYC Code defines a data center as a room or rooms used primarily to house high-density computing equipment, such as server racks, used for data storage and processing (NYC Code §28-309.2). Virtually every building likely to house a data center will be covered by this Code.
Covered buildings must benchmark total annual energy use by gathering and uploading energy information to an internet-based database developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or any complementary interface designated by the NYC Office of Long Term Sustainability (Sustainability Office). A building owner must also obtain energy usage information from its separately metered tenants.
The Sustainability Office will share the information, including an energy utilization index (energy use per square foot), a comparison of energy use by reporting building to similar buildings, and a comparison to prior years for which benchmarking data are available, with the public.
An exemption to the information to be made publicly available by the Sustainability Office recognizes that a determination of the energy usage and efficiency of a building may be skewed by a data center.
“Ratings generated by the benchmarking tool for a covered building that contains a data center, television studio, and/or trading floor that together exceed ten percent of the gross square footage of any such building,” which are not to be disclosed “until the Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability determines that the benchmarking tool can make adequate adjustments for such facilities.” (NYC Code §28-309.8).
A similar concern regarding the impact of data centers may be found the NYC Code’s description of the topics to be covered in reports by the Sustainability Office, which includes a report on:
“[t]he effectiveness of the benchmarking tool in accounting for New York City conditions, including, but not limited to…specific high-energy uses such as data centers, television studios, and trading floors.” (NYC Code §28-309.9).
If an owner fails to benchmark in compliance with the benchmarking law, the owner will be issued a violation.
The fact that the benchmarking requirements may not apply to data centers does not mean that data centers will be exempt from the direct or indirect impact of other requirements of the NYC Code. For example, a building’s HVAC equipment required to serve data centers would be covered by the NYC Code.