A Bronx Cheer

There’s been a lot talk these past two weeks about the press conference New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio held on April 22. In a 40-minute Earth Day manifesto, Hizzoner touted a “Green New Deal” of his creation that would amend the NYC charter and administrative code to achieve certain reductions in greenhouse gases (GHG) by 2050.

The glass industry knows that a move toward its more energy-efficient products generally is welcomed; it helps save energy and provides a value-added product at value-added prices. Requiring such enhanced products means that architects and other design professionals will need to be more aware of all the performance characteristics of glass—energy and otherwise. Doesn’t sound so bad, right?

And it wouldn’t be, except that Mr. Big Apple chose to identify and focus on one building material as the overriding cause of energy-inefficiency and global warming. Yup, he took off after glass. Consider these comments from his press conference:

“Why are we so focused on the building? Because … they are the number one cause of GHG emissions, the number one cause is buildings in this city. It’s not the cars, it’s the buildings.”

“… Part of the problem here is that buildings got built that never should have been built to begin with… And so, we are going to introduce legislation to ban glass and steel skyscrapers that have contributed so much to global warming. They have no place in our city or on our Earth anymore.”

“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 emissions. But putting up monuments to themselves that harmed our Earth and threatened our future will no longer be allowed in New York City.”

“…We are going to make it very clear that the kind of the glass and steel building of the past, and some bluntly were being built very recently, are just not going to be allowed anymore.”

“You can imagine why. There’s glass everywhere. You know, everything that they do to keep them [buildings] hot or cold just goes right out through the glass, so they have to pump more and more energy to keep them at a certain level. So it’s an idea that doesn’t make sense anymore.”

“We’re talking about getting rid of glass and steel skyscrapers that were made—bluntly—in a very backward way that really harmed the environment.”

“That’s why I say it’s a ban. You literally will not be physically allowed to build the kind of buildings that have gone up even recently in this town.”

There are numerous other comments in the press. Oh, and as an example of the “wrong way to do things”, de Blasio cited the new Hudson Yards, a project which our own Ellen Rogers has reminded me includes a LEED-certified Platinum building (Tower 10).

The Mayor did not take his wrath out on HVAC systems, lighting, brick nor concrete jungles that capture heat nor on any other building material. Nor did he address other possible causes such as spec developments nor rent-controlled buildings. No, his speech was a rousing insult –a Bronx cheer if you will—to glass.

I have now also had a chance to read the proposed legislation. It is rather amorphous. (I’ll be following up over the next few days with more info.) And those who wish to deny any prejudice against our beloved material are quick to point out the legislation does not specifically address, or even name, glass.

To my mind that’s worse. While the reality of the legislation is energy-efficiency as a solution, the perception of the press conference is glass as the problem. Fixing the legislation doesn’t fix the perception.

Excerpts of the conference were covered in almost every major market in the country. In one New York minute, Bill D has made it not only okay, but “politically-correct” to come after the most majestic of all materials. The opening bell has sounded. We’ve got a lot of work to do.

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