Zone Green NYC

by | May 4, 2019 | NYC Zoning, Sustainable Design

New York City is promoting energy efficiency and sustainability through new initiatives like Zone Green which provides zoning incentives for sustainable design features in buildings.

The New York City Department Of City Planning made amendments to the zoning code to make it easier for certain sustainable building elements to be built.


Zone Green Zoning Text Amendments

There are seven sustainable building elements that New York City is incentivizing through the zoning code.

  • Extra Insulation
  • Sun Shading Devices
  • Solar Panels
  • Green Roofs
  • Greenhouses
  • Wind Turbines
  • Skylights


Building Insulation / Extra insulation for Efficient Building Design

Buildings lose a lot of energy when heat escapes from the walls. Adding more insulation helps buildings become more energy efficient.

Wall Thickness Zoning Deduction for Existing Buildings

In New York, existing buildings can now add more insulation on the exterior of their walls without adding to the building’s floor area ratio. It will also not be subject to yard and open space regulations.  Up to eight inches more insulation will now be allowed without counting for FAR. This zoning deduction means you can add the wall thickness even if the building floor area is maxed out.

Wall Thickness Zoning Deduction for New Buildings

New buildings will also be incentivized to add more insulation than required to their walls. Eight inches of insulation more than the minimum required exterior wall thickness will also be exempt from New York’s floor area ratio, yard, and open space regulations. New Building Developments can take advantage of this by including more insulation than required by the Energy Code. This additional wall thickness will be deducted from the building floor area calculations.

Sun Shading Devices / Sun Control

During the summer, sun shading devices help keep buildings from becoming overheated. If the building’s windows are shaded with sun shades, it will reduce the energy needed to cool the building and in turn reduce the cost of air conditioning the building. In New York, sun shading devices above the first floor will now be allowed to overhang a maximum of 2 feet 6 inches over the required yard and open space areas.

Solar Panels / PV Panels / Solar Energy

If a building is located in a sunny place, photovoltaic panels could create a significant amount of renewable energy. New York is now allowing photo voltaic panels or PV panels on all flat roofs below the parapet. However, solar panels that stick out above the parapet would be subject to limits on roof coverage and height. Solar panels are now allowed on sloping roofs as well up to 18″ over the roof height limit.

Green Roofs

Green roofs have a number of benefits including reducing storm water runoff, increasing air quality, decreasing the urban heat island effect, increasing insulation to the roof, creating habitats for wildlife, and prolonging the longevity of the roof. New York is allowing green roofs to be built on any building, provided that their elements stay below the parapet and the building’s structure is stable enough to bear the weight. You may also want to look into Green Roof Tax Abatement in NYC and Roof Garden Options.


Greenhouses allow occupants to grow fruits and vegetables year round. Locally grown food is more sustainable because it does not need to be transported from distant farms. In addition, greenhouses do not need pesticides since they are grown in a closed environment.

New York is allowing greenhouses to be exempt from floor area and height limits on any building that is not a residence, apartment, or hotel. However, these greenhouses cannot exceed 25 feet in height. They also must be set back at least 6 feet from the edge of the roof. Furthermore, any greenhouse applications will be required to be presented to the Community Board when filed.

Wind Turbines

If a building is located in a windy place, wind turbines on the roof could create a lot of renewable energy for the building. New York is allowing wind turbines to stick out up to 55 feet above any roof over 100 feet in height from the ground level, as long as it is set back at least 10 feet from any property line. In addition, on waterfront blocks, wind turbines can be installed on any roof, no matter the height, however the maximum height of the wind turbine is lower depending on the building’s height. The calculation is either half the height of the building or 55 feet, whichever is less.


Skylights increase the amount of daylight in a building. More daylight allows there to be less energy spent on having artificial lights on. New York is making it easier to build skylights by putting them on the list of permitted obstructions on a rooftop within a court. They are now also allowed anywhere below the roof parapet of any building.


Zone Green NYC Zoning

As an architect I study Zoning and Building Codes closely, but these are complicated and quite involved. In this article we reviewed some of the basic concepts with regards to the NYC Zone Green initiative. This post does not assume to cover every possible issue or condition, but provide a general overview of the topic.


Thank you for reading our blog post on Zone Green NYC.

I hope this was helpful. Please leave questions and comments below. If you would like to speak with an architect you can contact us directly.


Contact Fontan Architecture


Jorge Fontan
Jorge Fontan

This post was written by Jorge Fontan AIA a Registered Architect and owner of New York City architecture firm Fontan Architecture. Jorge Fontan has earned 3 degrees in the study of architecture including two degrees from the City University of New York and a Masters Degree in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University. Jorge has a background in construction and has been practicing architecture for 15 years where he has designed renovations and new developments of various building types.