Under the rule of health-minded Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York City’s public outdoor spaces have flourished at an incredible rate. From the High Line to Brooklyn Bridge Park to a growing abundance of pedestrian-only zones in highly trafficked areas of Manhattan including Times Square, these open spaces have helped to make the Big Apple a much more beautiful, livable, and sustainable place to call home (just don’t get me started on the skyrocketing costs).

Many of Bloomberg’s beautification efforts have been the direct result of PlaNYC, the mayor’s ambitious agenda to reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by the year 2030. While all of the new bike lanes and cool parks around NYC have gotten a fair amount of attention, PlaNYC isn’t just focused on greening the outdoors. Buildings — which New York just happens to have a few of — are also subject to the mayor’s eco-friendly master plan.

There are numerous housing-specific initiatives under PlaNYC the newest of which is NYC Green House, a comprehensive online resource geared to help the owners of apartment buildings make their properties more earth-friendly (ATTN: Matt Hickman’s landlord) through five key areas: energy, water, materials and community.

Launched last month, NYC Green House was made possible by HSBC Bank, is sponsored by the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HDP) and the Community Preservation Corporation (CPC), and features a slew of program partners including big utility companies (Con Edison, National Grid), city agencies (the NYC Department of Health, the New York City Housing Authority), and outside organizations (the American Lung Association, Enterprise Community Partners). Phew, that’s some pretty impressive backing. So is the aim of NYC Green House just as impressive? I’d like to think so.

Explains HDP Commissioner Rafael E. Cestero in a press release:

Our data proves that rising utility costs contribute heavily to the rise in the cost of living and renting in New York City. This new educational program will help building owners identify the measures they can take to ensure their buildings operate more efficiently, keeping costs down, reducing their overhead and keeping their buildings more affordable for the people that live in them. And by going greener and following the simple advice we have put up on the website and in the collateral educational material, owners will also be helping the environment.
I took a quick look around the NYC Green House website, and it’s indeed robust and easy to use, filled with plenty of helpful resources to help apartment building owners go green. Most of the resource links redirect users to other city–maintained websites or info published by the EPA or EnergyStar. Much of the information is basic and heavy on the “how-to’s” but provides an excellent place for building owners to start in. Sometime down the line, there will by NYC Green House training workshops for building owners.

Says Michael Lappin, president and CEO of the CPC: “By taking a green approach to housing development and management, owners can dramatically improve the physical and financial health of their buildings.  Overall, the city will benefit from a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. I encourage every owner to visit the website today.”

NYC Green House is indeed a fantastic, well-executed idea — I support anything that keeps housing affordable — but I have to wonder if Lappin’s encouragement is enough. Will apartment building owners actually take the time to peruse an online "toolkit"? Do they need to be nudged in a more aggressive manner? 

My initial reaction? I think it will take some time to catch on — I'm certainly not going to hold my breath waiting for the owner of the building that I live in to take action — but when building owners do eventually come around, they have an excellent resource at their disposal. 

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

NYC lends a helping green hand to apartment building owners
New York City launches NYC Green House, an online 'toolkit' to help apartment building owners make eco-friendly maintenance and renovation decisions.