Accelerating sustainability in New York City & Brussels

New York City and Brussels, while on different continents and of different sizes, share a common vision. They want to advance their community towards a sustainable and renewable future through ambitious energy saving goals and programs. Both cities are leading by example with effective initiatives that increase the adoption of high-performance building standards and with key policies to support its momentum. Recognizing the two cities’ expertise, New York City and Brussels aim to further enhance their exchange of knowledge and provide support to each other. Together, these two cities, as well as with cities from around the world, will continue to be leaders in taking climate action and paving the way for a more sustainable future for our children and environment.

Ground-breaking initiatives and milestones

New York City

New York City is committed to reducing citywide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 80 percent by 2050, from 2005 levels and in June of 2016, became the first US city to commit to the principles of the Paris Climate Agreement. In support of these ambitious commitments, New York City is delivering ground-breaking initiatives that improve the energy efficiency of the city’s 1 million buildings, including developing world class building and energy codes, and launching programs that create a thriving market for energy efficiency and renewable energy.

  • Leading by Example: New York City’s Department of Design and Construction now requires all new City-owned buildings to be designed to use 50 percent less energy and is moving to a Passive House level energy performance standard for these buildings by 2030. The City has also committed to retrofit every City-owned property with significant energy use —proving to the market that high performance buildings are cost-effective and achievable.
  •  Creating a Thriving Market for Energy Efficiency: New York City is moving toward requiring all large privately-owned buildings meet an energy performance target by 2035. The City is working with the private sector to pave the way through in the NYC Carbon Challenge, a voluntary program for more than 100 real estate leaders who committed to reduce GHG emissions by 30-50 percent. New York City also launched the NYC Retrofit Accelerator to provide building owners with free, personalized advisory services that streamline the process of making energy efficiency improvements.


In Brussels, the Passive House standard was adopted as the building code in 2015, making it the first region in the world to require such a stringent standard.

By offering incentives to build 243 very low-energy projects, the BatEx or “Exemplary Buildings” program catalyzed the market and showed the standard could be achieved with minimal cost premium.

Given BatEx’s success, the program can be used as a model to develop programs in other cities that support and award best practices in building construction, including New York City’s voluntary High Performance Retrofit Track, part of the NYC Retrofit Accelerator program.

  • Providing the Foundation for Success:  Brussels’ Exemplary Buildings Program proved the financial viability of very-low energy buildings by subsidizing and studying hundreds Passive House building projects. By providing robust technical support and workforce development to the building sector, they addressed the concerns of industry and sparked the development of a domestic manufacturing industry – creating hundreds of new jobs in the process.
  • Tackling the Energy Challenge in Homes: In 2005, Brussels began introducing schemes to support and educate the people of Brussels regarding energy efficiency in buildings. One of these programs, the Energy Challenge, offers households a fun and socially responsible way of playing a serious part in the battle against climate change. It encourages them to make major reductions to their energy consumption simply by changing certain daily habits, and hence without the need for any financial investment.

Why now?

The Ice Box Challenge is being brought from Brussels to New York City to celebrate sustainable building and environmental leadership in both cities and to commemorate Brussels Days – an annual series of events and activities which take place in order to promote the Brussels-Capital Region. New York City has been chosen to host the 13th edition of the Brussels Days.

As part of Brussels Days, a Brussels delegation will be led by the Minister-President, Mr. Rudi Vervoort; the Secretary of State in charge of Foreign Trade, Mrs. Cécile Jodogne; and the Minister of Promotion of Brussels of the Federation Wallonia-Brussels, Mr. Rachid Madrane. They will be visiting New York City to foster the economic, commercial, political and cultural ties between these two cities.

Visit Brusselsdays for more info.