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Press Release

NYCEDC Advances Two Key Commitments in NYC’s Green Economy Action Plan to Decarbonize Buildings, Construction

Mar 07 2024
Aerial view of a large construction site.

NYCEDC Releases Circular Design & Construction Guidelines, an Operational Guide to Reduce Embodied Carbon in NYC’s Built Environment

Seven Project and Development Teams Selected to Participate in New York City’s First-Ever Mass Timber Studio Program

NEW YORK, NY—New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) today announced the advancement of two key commitments featured in New York City’s Green Economy Action Plan that seek to revolutionize a green path forward for cleaner construction and low carbon buildings with the launch of the Clean and Circular: Design and Construction Guidelines and the selection of the first design and development teams of the NYC Mass Timber Studio.

Key to New York City’s decarbonization efforts, the Clean and Circular: Design and Construction Guidelines, offer an operational guide to reduce waste and embodied carbon in New York City’s built environment. Additionally, NYCEDC awarded seven design and development teams to participate in the NYC Mass Timber Studio, a first-of-its-kind program in New York City, announced in September 2023. The technical assistance program is designed to support active mass timber development projects in the early phases of project planning and design. Mass timber is a natural, renewable and sustainable material with a lower carbon footprint than traditional building materials like concrete and steel.

Last week, Mayor Adams, NYCEDC, and the Mayor’s Office of Talent and Workforce Development (NYCTalent) announced the release of the Green Economy Action Plan. The Action Plan lays out a series of commitments and strategies that will bolster economic growth, create thousands of jobs, encourage public-private partnerships, and train and position New Yorkers, particularly those from environmentally disadvantaged communities, to benefit from the nearly 400,000 projected green collar jobs in New York City by 2040.

"Today's exciting announcement is another example of the Adams administration advancing the Green Economy and showcasing the power of new business models that create green collar jobs and propel the city's climate agenda. Additionally, both the NYC Mass Timber Studio and Circular Design & Construction Guidelines focus on reducing carbon emissions in construction and the city's building stock, areas of progress that are fundamental to creating a more resilient New York,” said Deputy Mayor for Housing, Economic Development, and Workforce Maria Torres-Springer.

“If we want to decarbonize our built environment and lower our carbon emissions, it is critical we prioritize the scaling of the clean construction industry," said NYCEDC President & CEO Andrew Kimball. “That is why NYCEDC is taking bold action with the advancement of two key commitments in the Green Economy Action Plan with the launch of Circular Design & Construction Guidelines and the NYC Mass Timber Studio – both critical in advancing a built environment that will result in a much lower carbon footprint for one of highest polluting sectors in New York City.”

“These groundbreaking initiatives will not only revolutionize construction practices but signify a pivotal step in New York City’s path to decarbonization," said Council Member James F. Gennaro, Chair of the New York City Council's Committee on Environmental Protection, Resiliency & Waterfronts. "The Circular Design & Construction Guidelines provide an essential roadmap for reducing our waste and decreasing our carbon footprint. I applaud EDC for spearheading this transformative initiative and for setting an important example for cities across the globe.”

“The NYC Mass Timber Studio and the Circular Design & Construction Guidelines result from goals in PlaNYC: Getting Sustainability Done and demonstrate the Adams administration’s commitment to constructing sustainable buildings in disadvantaged communities. Both the Mass Timber Studio and the Circular Design & Construction Guidelines will spur innovation and help New York City continue to lead by example with our own projects and buildings. We're excited to learn more about mass timber as a sustainable material and see how the Guidelines will help to reduce New York City’s embodied carbon footprint,” said Mayor’s Office of Climate & Environmental Justice Executive Director Elijah Hutchinson.

"As we embark on a journey toward a more sustainable future for our city, the advancement of the NYC Mass Timber Studio marks a significant milestone in our commitment to sustainable construction practices. NYCEDC is not only helping reduce our carbon footprint but also paving the way for a more resilient and vibrant built environment,” said Department of Buildings Commissioner Jimmy Oddo. “Our Department is eagerly looking forward to engaging with the seven design teams and helping guide them through new mass timber code provisions in the NYC Building Code as they commence with their sustainability projects.”

“NYC Talent is excited to work with EDC and industry pioneers who are greening the construction industry to tap the talent they need for success and to grow,” said The Mayor’s Office of Talent and Workforce Development Executive Director Abby Jo Sigal. “Talent is our City’s most important asset and positioning New Yorkers for green collared jobs as outlined in our recently released Green Economy Action Plan will fortify NYC and its economy for the future.”

“The NYS Office of General Services (OGS) is thrilled to see our government partners promoting clean construction through their new guidelines for capital projects,” said OGS Commissioner Jeanette Moy. “NYCEDC’s strategies will drive the use of low-embodied carbon materials and contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in construction. Combined with Governor Hochul’s embodied carbon and Buy Clean Concrete guidance for state agencies, New York City’s guidelines demonstrate New York State’s commitment to greening our building sector.”

“We’re thrilled that NYCEDC has taken a major step in promoting sustainable circularity and reducing the embodied carbon of the city’s buildings and infrastructure,” said Josh DeFlorio, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s Chief of Resilience and Sustainability.  “Since introducing our Clean Construction program in 2020, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has helped lead the way toward a more sustainable built environment, for example by adopting one of the nation’s lowest carbon limits on concrete in the construction of Port Authority facilities. Our organizations share a steadfast commitment to tackling the climate crisis and we look forward to continuing our productive partnership toward a cleaner, greener future for the region.”

The newly launched Circular Design & Construction Guidelines will guide project teams through a series of strategies across a project’s life cycle, preconstruction through deconstruction, and deliver on goals aimed at reducing waste and embodied carbon.

NYCEDC is implementing the Circular Design & Construction Guidelines in upcoming requests for proposals (RFP) and work to achieve the following goals:

  • Divert 75 percent of construction and demolition (C&D) materials from landfill;
  • Reuse and recycle 95 percent of concrete and soil material; and
  • Ensure that 25 percent of all building materials are low carbon.

The guidelines address carbon reduction in the built environment through facilitating materials reuse and scaling use of alternative low carbon construction materials such as mass timber. As part of the Green Economy Action Plan, NYCEDC announced that SPARC Kips Bay, a nearly 2-million square foot, first-of-its-kind innovation, jobs, and education center in one of the nation’s premiere life sciences clusters, will be the first large project to implement the Circular Design & Construction Guidelines. By using innovative circular construction methods on public sites within the campus, SPARC Kips Bay will reduce 26,400 metric tons of carbon emissions – equivalent to removing nearly 5,800 cars from the road. This project will serve as an exemplar for other large public and private projects.

“Lendlease has been collaborating with supplier and recycler partners in the region to execute the logistics for routing viable debris into effective building material resources via our projects,” said Amanda Kaminsky, Director of Sustainable Construction for Lendlease’s America portfolio. “We have seen scaled implementation of regional circular resource loops have a big impact on GHG reduction, waste reduction, and reduced resource extraction. We are thrilled EDC has developed Circular Design & Construction Guidelines to help nurture this scaled circularity in the built environment, and fantastic they are modeling the guidelines in their own project work.”

“Arup is thrilled to see a fellow Ellen McArthur Foundation partner, NYCEDC, take the bold step of committing all capital projects to implementation of circular economy principles,” said Frances Yang, Circular Materials Practice Leader at Arup. “Only by taking a wider life-cycle view to construction and prioritizing the reuse of existing assets can we hope to eliminate waste and decarbonize our built environment by 2050. As we look to the future, we are excited for SPARC Kips Bay and other upcoming projects to provide essential demonstrations of operationalizing circular design and construction that are critically needed for our transition to a green economy."

"The construction industry's overdue shift toward a circular economy requires a fundamental rethinking of how it manages and makes use of available materials. NYCEDC’s Circular Design & Construction Guidelines stand to raise standards for waste diversion and material reuse in the city and state of New York and shift the industry in ways that positively affect both people and places," said Felix Heisel, Director of the Circular Construction Lab (CCL) at Cornell University. "The CCL supports the scaling of circularity in both design and construction practices by developing prototypes and software tools, as well as by advocating for policy change. We are all very much looking forward to seeing the impact of NYCEDC’s Guidelines on the built environment in New York and well beyond."

“Guidelines for greener construction are keystones in the roadmap for a decarbonized built environment, so we are delighted that NYCEDC is releasing their Circular Design & Construction Guidelines,” said Susan Jayne, Partner at 3XN/GXN. “Through this kind of leadership in policies and regulation, NYCEDC supports and challenges our industry to rethink how we use and reuse resources in the building industry. At 3XN / GXN, we pioneer circularity in practice, as we believe that fostering a circular economy is the most effective and direct path toward a low-carbon future, and initiatives like this one from NYCEDC are imperative for reaching our shared carbon neutrality targets.”

“Rheaply is an enthusiastic supporter of NYCEDC’s new Clean and Circular: Design & Construction Guidelines,” said Daniel Kietzer, Director of Sustainability at Rheaply. “Circular construction, and the prioritization of reuse of building products and materials, can have an incredibly positive influence on the embodied carbon impact of our buildings and spaces, and we’re excited about the positive ripple effects this will have across the city’s thriving circular economy. Rheaply's virtual reuse marketplace, which launched in the NYC Tri-state area this past year with Google, connects supply and demand partners for reclaimed and surplus materials in the built environment.”

“As a company that recognizes the critical role the construction industry plays in reducing carbon emissions and our responsibility to take action, we commend NYCEDC's proactive approach in spearheading a visionary strategy that charts a course towards more eco-friendly construction and sustainable buildings” said Sean Szatkowski, EVP/General Manager Skanska USA Building. “We also understand, the success of meeting sustainability goals hinges on significant collaboration among diverse stakeholders, and Skanska is eager to fully support the City’s commitment to rethinking how tomorrow’s places and infrastructure can contribute positively to our community.”

“With NYCEDC's new Circular Design & Construction Guidelines, New York City takes an important step towards resource stewardship and material sufficiency,” said Anders Bang Kiertzner, Director of Lendager Advising. “It has been an honour to partake in reimagining a future NYC where less will make a bigger impact.”

“The construction industry need to have a stronger focus on both embodied and operational carbon as well as a responsible use of resources to stay within planetary boundaries,” said Thomas Fabian Delman, CEO and Co-Founder of Circue. “As a company engaged in supporting the circular construction value chain, Circue is excited to see NYCEDC as a major player in a global city push for circular goals in their projects.”

The NYC Mass Timber Studio is a climate innovation program operated by NYCEDC and the Mayor’s Office of Climate and Environmental Justice in collaboration with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service and the Softwood Lumber Board, with technical assistance provided by Wood Products Council (WoodWorks), and advisory feedback from the New York City Department of Buildings (NYC DOB), and the American Institute of Architects New York (AIANY). In addition to grants of $29,000, the Studio will provide technical assistance from WoodWorks and advisory feedback from NYC DOB.

The full list of NYC Mass Timber Studio awardees include:

  • Brooklyn Public Library New Lots Branch – East New York, Brooklyn: Public project to replace the existing New Lots branch with a new library intending to use mass timber construction. The facility will include an educational and communal program to host classes, gatherings, and events. The project team includes Brooklyn Public Library, MASS Design Group, Marble Fairbanks Architects, Envoie Projects, and TYLin | Silman Structural Solutions.
  • Hillside Avenue – Jamaica, Queens: A proposed 100 percent mixed-income affordable housing project with approximately 136 apartment unit and ground floor retail, studying the use mass timber and its integration with the development, design, and construction of high-quality affordable housing. The project team includes Curtis + Ginsberg Architects, MURAL Real Estate Partners, Buro Happold, and Rodney D. Gibble Consulting Engineers.
  • Hoek Place – Red Hook, Brooklyn: A five-story multi-family, mixed-used building with intended community programming on the ground level that is located in a flood zone that will assess mass timber project delivery conducive to floodproofing requirements. The project team includes Urban Terrains Lab, BLDGWorks, TYLin | Silman Structural Solutions, Element5, and Veneklasen Associates.
  • Mass Timber in Harlem – Harlem, Manhattan: Project evaluating the viability of converting an existing design of a six/seven-story residential building from a concrete superstructure to a lower carbon mass timber superstructure. The project team includes atelierjones, Magna & York, Sage and Coombe, Swinerton, Timberlab, and DCI Engineers.
  • 1160 Flushing Avenue – Bushwick, Brooklyn: Mixed-use industrial development which will function as a space for companies, entrepreneurs, and artisans to ideate, make, and showcase and to preserve the manufacturing fabric of the local community. The project team includes Totem, BEB Capital, dencityworks | architecture, Evergreen Exchange, and A+I.
  • The Grafted Home – Crown Heights, Brooklyn: Redevelopment of a three-story multi-family residential building evaluating adaptive reuse versus ground up development with mass timber. The project team includes Algoma and Neighbor.
  • Walter Gladwin Recreation Center - Tremont, Bronx: Public project to construct a new mass timber facility with inclusive and universally accessible fitness amenities and programming for all ages to the Tremont community. The project team includes Marvel, TYLin | Silman Structural Solutions, NYC Department of Design and Construction (NYC DDC), and the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation (NYC Parks).

Additionally, the NYC Mass Timber Studio will extend technical assistance and advisory support to the Stapleton Waterfront site located at Canal and Front streets on Staten Island’s North Shore. This site is part of the Staten Island North Shore Action Plan that was released by the Adams Administration in late 2023, delivering on a vibrant, mixed-use community for Staten Island.

The projects cover all five boroughs and include diverse building typologies and scales – from community centers to multi–family residential and industrial adaptive reuse developments. Six of the seven awarded project sites are located within environmental justice communities. The project teams will explore five overarching mass timber focus areas: navigating regulatory frameworks within New York City’s Construction Codes, driving innovative project delivery, assessing technical feasibility, designing for community and equity, and lastly, advancing sustainability and resiliency.

Studio activities have already begun and will run for nine months, during which time design teams will regularly meet for technical assistance and advisory support.

"WoodWorks is thrilled to collaborate with NYCEDC's NYC Mass Timber Studio to support the project teams pursuing mass timber construction on impactful projects across the city,” said Momo Sun, P.E., NY Regional Director at Woodworks. “As the mass timber market advances, access to the latest education on topics like technical design decisions, code paths, and carbon accounting is essential to realizing the benefits of wood on successful projects. We look forward to being a resource to the cohort by providing project-specific assistance and education on mass timber design and construction."

“Our design process works to craft developments that reflect the provenance and promise of their neighborhoods, and the exploration of mass timber design is a fitting effort for 1160 Flushing Avenue, in keeping with the industrial character of the surrounding area, while looking ahead to innovations that can make the building greener and more efficient,” said Principal of Totem Vivian Liao. “We are proud to add our participation in the NYC Mass Timber Studio as another demonstration of our striving toward best-in-class design and community development principles.”

“We remain committed to high-quality design within the built environment,” said Justin Den Herder, Principal at TYLin | Silman Structural Solutions. “It is vital that our city’s architecture evolve as the needs of our city and our planet evolve. This evolution must include the integration of renewable resources and low carbon building materials such as mass timber. We are pleased to lend our mass timber expertise to the NYCEDC Mass Timber Studio on three projects: Brooklyn Public Library New Lots Branch, Walter Gladwin Recreation Center as well as a new multi-family residential project in Red Hook, Brooklyn. We’re thrilled & committed to the prospect of helping New York City meet key aspects of its Green Economy Action Plan by contributing to this special group.”

“As an architect, I am very excited to explore the possibility of designing with mass timber in NYC,” said Yehre Suh, Principal at Urban Terrains Lab and Visiting Associate Professor at the Pratt Institute. “With the recent NYC building code changes that expands the use of mass timber, EDC’s Mass Timber Studio is an amazing opportunity for the project to get early design assistance that can help us find the right solution to New York City’s unique challenges.”

“We are in a formative and exciting moment for mass timber construction in New York City,” said Martha Bush, Director at Marvel . “Marvel and TYLin | Silman Structural Solutions are thrilled to participate in the NYC Mass Timber Studio and, with NYCDDC and NYC Parks, help pave the path for implementing this sustainable and beautiful material in public works across the city.”

“We are extremely excited at Algoma to be part of the NYC Mass Timber Studio, where we aim to explore and develop repeatable mass timber solutions to address New York City's housing challenges,” said Seyfihan Usarer, Co-founder and COO at Algoma. “As a startup aiming to bring automation to the construction industry, our focus is on leveraging innovative and sustainable approaches, integrating technology with mass timber development, to help shape the city's urban landscape.”

“Our participation in this exciting program is focused on how the entire ecosystem around cross-laminated timber (CLT) can help solve the housing crisis in NYC and beyond. It’s not just about designing a building; it's about redesigning the next wave of architecture and solving the pressing needs of our generation,” said Brian Vargo, Founding Principal at Neighbor.

“The Mass Timber Studio reinforces New York’s continued leadership in creating a sustainable low-carbon built environment,” said Matt Melody, Partner at Curtis+Ginsberg Architects. “Our team is honored to be a part of the Studio and commends EDC and all involved for initiating this effort.”

“Pratt Institute’s Decarbonization Group strongly supports EDC’s efforts to incentivize sustainably sourced Mass Timber construction, which has the potential to deliver new, scalable affordable housing solutions, while simultaneously supporting the City’s climate action goals,” said Meta Brunzema, the lead of Pratt Institute’s Decarbonization Group.

“We are excited to see the tremendous interest by the NYC building community in mass timber,” said John Crockett, Deputy Chief of State, Private & Tribal Forestry at the U.S. Forest Service. “The use of mass timber results in buildings with reduced greenhouse gas emissions, promotes sustainable forest management that reduces wildfire risk, and creates economic opportunity for rural communities.”

"The SLB applauds NYCEDC as well as the local architecture and design community for correctly identifying mass timber as an accelerated path towards reducing embodied carbon in our buildings,” said Simon Hyoun, Vice President of Marketing and Communications at the Softwood Lumber Board. “Simply put, cities built from bio-based materials like timber can help turn cities from carbon emitters into carbon sinks. The SLB is pleased to assist the work of the Studio awardees in proving that premise again."

"As a proud supporter of the NYC Mass Timber Studio, AIANY is excited to partner with NYCEDC to promote mass timber construction and explore the use of low-carbon building materials," said Jesse Lazar, Executive Director, American Institute of Architects New York. "We look forward to seeing the creative solutions the Studio participants develop using this climate-friendly material to help NYC lead the way in developing innovative solutions to help our city create a greener future."

Expanding the use of low carbon materials like mass timber is also a critical component to achieving the City’s carbon reduction targets, including reducing embodied carbon emissions for new buildings, infrastructure, and major retrofits by 50 percent, as mentioned in Mayor Adams’ "PlaNYC: Getting Sustainability Done," New York City's Strategic Climate Plan.

Mayor Adams, along with the Trust for Governors Island and Stony Brook University, unveiled the “New York Climate Exchange,” in April 2023, a transformative vision for a first-in-the-nation climate research, education, and jobs hub on Governors Island that will create thousands of permanent jobs and $1 billion in economic impact for the city. The campus will serve as a living laboratory, showcasing innovative approaches to sustainable and resilient design, including New York City’s first commercial buildings utilizing mass timber.

Under Mayor Adams’ leadership, New York City has already become a national leader in sustainability and green infrastructure, with the city committed to 100-percent clean electricity by 2040 and carbon neutrality by 2050.

New York City Economic Development Corporation is a mission-driven, nonprofit organization that works for a vibrant, inclusive, and globally competitive economy for all New Yorkers. We take a comprehensive approach, through four main strategies: strengthen confidence in NYC as a great place to do business; grow innovative sectors with a focus on equity, build neighborhoods as places to live, learn, work, and play; and deliver sustainable infrastructure for communities and the city's future economy. To learn more about what we do, visit us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.