Electrical engineering is a specialized professional field, which involves a core set of technical concepts, while meeting construction codes that change by country, state and city. New York City building codes can be especially demanding, and it is also important to get familiarized with the general characteristics of the NYC construction industry.
When working with electrical engineering projects in New York City, special attention must be given to the NYC Electrical Code and Energy Conservation Code. The first establishes technical requirements for all electrical installations in the city, and is strongly based on the National Electric Code (NEC) from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). The second places performance requirements on energy-consuming building systems, which include both electrical and combustion appliances.
Regarding the NYC building market, it is important to note that the city plenty of historic buildings, which require special considerations when working with their electrical installations. Also consider that NYC electricity rates are among the highest in the country, which means that energy efficiency measures and renewable generation can provide great value for clients.
Meeting the NYC Electrical Code and Energy Conservation Code
The main difference between these two codes is their purpose: while the NYC Electrical Code makes buildings safe for occupancy, the NYC Energy Conservation Code makes them energy efficient. They also differ in terms of the buildings they cover, since the Electrical Code is always mandatory, but smaller projects are exempt from some Energy Conservation Code requirements. The best recommendation to ensure code compliance is working with a qualified NYC engineering firm.
The NYC Electrical Code is reviewed periodically, and the latest edition was published in 2011. It used the 2008 edition of the NEC (NFPA 70) as the core of its content, with several NYC amendments introduced by Local Law 39. The code will be reviewed in 2018 by six technical committees under the oversight of a managing committee. The six key areas into which the code is divided will be reviewed and updated:
- Wiring methods and materials
- Wiring protection, switchboards and panels
- Equipment for general use
- Special occupancies and equipment
- Fire pumps and alarms, and special conditions
- Remote control, signaling and power
The NYC Energy Conservation Code was first published in 2009 and reviewed in 2011, 2014 and 2016. It establishes many performance requirements for the building envelope, mechanical systems and electrical installations, all with the goal of ensuring energy efficiency. The main requirements to consider in electrical installations are the following:
|Residential||1) At least 75% of the lamps in permanent fixtures must be high-efficacy lamps, and at least 75% of fixtures must contain only high-efficacy lamps. Low-voltage lighting is exempt from this requirement.|
2) In buildings with individual dwelling units, each must be metered separately to determine how electricity consumption is broken down.
3) Automatic controls are required for heating, cooling, ventilation and domestic hot water systems.
4) There is a minimum efficacy table for fans (in cfm/watt).
5) Heating and cooling equipment must meet or exceed the minimum value required by federal law for the project’s location.
|Commercial||1) Heating and cooling equipment must meet the efficacy levels established in Section C403.2.3 of the code.|
2) Automatic controls are required for heating, cooling, ventilation and domestic hot water systems.
3) Energy use limits (kWh/day) are established for refrigeration equipment. Additional control and efficiency requirements apply for walk-in refrigeration systems, cold storage areas and refrigerated display cases.
4) Lighting systems are subject to various automatic control requirements, and maximum lighting power densities are introduced for both indoor and outdoor lighting.
5) Tenant spaces that meet certain requirements (Section 28-311.2 of the NYC Administrative Code) must be sub-metered. Any residential dwelling located inside a commercial building must be sub-metered as well.
6) Electrical transformers and motors are subject to minimum efficiency tables where they are classified by capacity (kVA for transformers, horsepower for motors).
The table above is a very condensed summary of the points covered by the NYC Energy Conservation Code. These requirements cover all new constructions, but only apply for existing buildings undergoing additions or major renovations.
The NYC Energy Conservation Code was created through Local Law 85, which is part of a broader program called the Greener, Greater Buildings Plan. The program includes three other laws that place additional requirements for buildings above certain size thresholds:
- Local Law 84: Buildings covered by LL84 must benchmark their energy and water
consumption each year.
- Local Law 87: Energy audits and retro-commissioning are required at 10-year intervals.
- Local Law 88: Lighting must be upgraded to meet the NYC Energy Conservation Code by January 1, 2025, and submetering is mandatory for larger commercial spaces as described in LL88.
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