New York City’s Zone Green text amendment was approved in 2012 in order to remove zoning impediments that made new construction and retrofitting of green buildings and the installation of solar panels difficult throughout the five boroughs. (Zone Green text amendment, 2012). It gives building owners and developers more options when it comes to investments they can make, with the goal to save money, energy, and improve a building’s environmental performance. The amendment, as well as NYC’s local laws 92 and 94, has been an integral part of the city’s jump in solar capacity, from 1 megawatt in 2006 to 200 megawatts as of 2019. (New York Times, 2019; Solar Planning and Implementation Guide, 2013)
The amendment adds floor area ratio (FAR) incentives and exemptions to buildings that are renovated or constructed with one or all of the following: energy-efficient building walls, sun-control devices, and solar panels:
Energy efficient building walls: New buildings with energy efficient walls (as per the NYC Energy Conservation Code) are exempted from any additional floor area ratio requirements up to eight inches of thickness.
Sun-control devices: These are vertical or horizontal projections that help reduce air-conditioning bills by allowing for glare-free natural light in a building. Before the amendment, they were not allowed to project over required open areas. With the amendment, they can project up to 6 inches from the wall of the building.
Solar Panels: The amendment also allows for solar panels to be partially exempted from height limits to buildings, which has encouraged their installation across the city. In R1-R5 low-to-medium density residential districts, as well as commercial overlays, solar panels can be built up to six feet above the building height limit. In R6-R10 medium-to-high districts, they can be built up 15 feet above the maximum building height. (Solar Planning and Implementation Guide, 2013)