Mapping Greenhouse Gas Emissions in NYC

Sunday, January 17, 2016

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Mayor Bill de Blasio's PlaNYC has set out to lower citywide greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2030. To meet this ambitious goal, energy expenditure must be tracked. A suite of laws was put in place under the Greener, Greater Buildings Plan. One of these, Local Law 84, requires benchmarking of energy and water consumption for tax lots with single properties that have over 50,000 square feet of floor space, and tax lots with multiple properties where there's over 100,000 square feet of floor area. These buildings account for nearly half of NYC's energy use.

I thought it would be interesting to look at the data spatially. To do so, I merged the energy disclosure data with geo-referenced PLUTO tax lot data, joining the two datasets by a column they shared: Borough, Block, and Lot number (BBL). I color coded the buildings by the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions they produce. This greenhouse gas emission number includes "carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide generated from on-site energy consumption within a property1". Hovering over the properties allows users to see how that number breaks down by direct and indirect emissions. Also included in the tooltip on hover is the owner of the property and the date it was built, which come from the PLUTO data file.

Emissions in Midtown Manhattan

Looking at the map, it's obvious that high emissions are being generated by a cluster of buildings in Midtown Manhattan, which is not surprising, given the size and type of buildings in that neighborhood. The main call to action in PlaNYC is to improve the energy efficiency of NYC's buildings2, and one initiative that facilitates that action is The New York City Carbon Challenge. The challenge loops in private sector partners who have volunteered to agressively cut their emissions. These partners include office buildings, Broadway theaters, and hotels — including many in Midtown.

Another group of buildings giving off high emissions are those owned by the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). However, there are also NYCHA-owned properties with very low emissions. A quick search revealed that there is also a plan to cut emissions for NYCHA housing3. The first priority under that plan is to get rid of the dirtiest types of heating oil, known as No. 6 and No. 4.

While helpful to see the distribution of the highest emitting buildings, I also created a view where the color scale reflects emissions per square foot. Accounting for area allows for a better comparison. In this view, I've added the total building area and the GHG emissions per square foot to the tooltip.

Viewing greenhouse gas emissions per square foot

As the many initiatives under PlaNYC are carried out, it will be important to track the benchmarking data and see what properties remain problematic.