CARBON FREE BOSTON: FINDINGS & NEXT STEPS
On February 12, A Better City hosted a meeting about the findings from the recently released Carbon Free Boston report, and the next steps the City is planning to build on these findings. The Boston Green Ribbon Commission was asked by Mayor Marty Walsh to undertake this report. They selected the Institute for Sustainable Energy at Boston University to conduct the deep research, modeling and analysis of the buildings, electric power, transportation, and waste sectors to understand their greenhouse gas emission contributions and potential pathways to reach the City’s carbon neutrality goal by 2050.
Amy Longworth, Director of the Boston Green Ribbon Commission briefly framed the Carbon Free Boston report before introducing Michael Walsh, technical lead of the Carbon Free Boston project from the Institute of Sustainable Energy at Boston University. To reach the city’s carbon neutrality goals, Michael said the findings identified three mutually reinforcing strategies that must be pursued together: reducing energy demand and maximizing energy efficiency; electrifying all energy services to the extent practicable and purchasing 100% clean energy. He also presented the sector-specific strategies and policy options for reaching carbon neutrality by 2050 identified in the report. Alison Brizius, Director of Climate and Environmental Planning at the City of Boston then spoke about how these findings will be built upon in the City’s Climate Action Plan update. As part of this update, roadmaps for four key projects are being undertaken on an accelerated timeline: deep energy retrofits for existing buildings; the shift to net zero carbon development; the transition to electric vehicles; and expanding and improving mobility options. There will be many opportunities for stakeholder engagement throughout this process.
During the discussion that followed, the speakers were asked about municipal aggregation, the split incentive challenge for owners/tenants conducting a major retrofit, the cost of electrifying large systems which are not yet cost-effective without utility / city / state incentives, and the report’s omission of the carbon emissions associated with lifestyle choices made at the individual and household levels. There followed a discussion on the effectiveness of a carbon tax and other economic incentives to promote less fossil-fuel intensive consumption and a discussion on the importance of government and utility coordination.
Preparing Your Buildings for Climate Challenges
Thursday, January 31st, 9-10 AM
A Better City, 33 Broad Street, 3rd Floor, Boston
On January 31, 2019, A Better City hosted an informational event on a Climate Resilience Template for Buildings. The template, developed by Cadmus and A Better City, with support from Boston’s Green Ribbon Commission, serves as a guide for commercial real estate property owners and managers to help prepare their individual facilities for climate change. It details a step-by-step planning process that includes: creating an internal team; identifying climate risks; establishing a property baseline; conducting a vulnerability analysis; researching solutions; prioritizing strategies; identifying financing and incentives; creating an implementation plan; and implementing, evaluating and communicating. Meeting attendees, including construction and real estate representatives, were encouraged to share their initial reactions and ask questions about the template, as well as the accompanying worksheet and vendor list developed to assist users throughout the planning process.
During the meeting, members articulated that creating an internal team can be challenging, given that employees asked to participate often already have full workloads. The group discussed how to best share responsibility in hopes of generating buy-in and mainstreaming resiliency in ongoing property management. Members shared that they often use the climate assessment tools developed by the City of Boston to evaluate properties, in advance of doing more detailed analysis. Additional discussion centered around balancing near and long-term impacts, particularly for organizations that may not intend to own and operate assets out to 2050 or 2070. This included considerations for nearer-term disaster preparedness needs, such as aligning building evacuations with flood barrier deployment. Members articulated that being able to use the worksheet across their portfolios – including outside of Boston – would be beneficial, and that data visualization or synthesis would make it particularly useful for their decision making.
Attendees agreed that building resiliency is garnering increasing attention and that the template and associated resources can assist property owners and managers as they identify their vulnerabilities and develop a plan to address them. This meeting served as a preliminary introduction and all questions and comments will be integrated into the final draft of the template.
Presentation slides can be found here. Members are encouraged to reach out to ABC to discuss the template and opportunities to pilot this work in 2019.
Tuesday, December 4, 2018 | 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
Sustainable Buildings Initiative members met on December 4th to discuss the state’s new recycling program called RecycleSmartMA; how it came about, what can and can’t be recycled, and who it applies to. Gretchen Carey, Recycling & Organics Coordinator for Republic Services, and President of MassRecycle, educates commercial and municipal customers about efficient recycling and walked us through the new program.
Presentation slides can be accessed here.
On October 11th, 2018, Sustainable Buildings Initiative members gathered to discuss opportunities available for workforce trainings in building energy efficiency with a specific focus on building operations and controls. In the light of the recent release of the 2017 BERDO data and WGBH’s article that highlighted one out of every five new buildings in Boston is energy inefficient, the meeting was very timely. All in attendance acknowledged that new buildings and existing buildings alike are often not running at peak efficiency and agreed that workforce training would be useful in their buildings.
Adam Jacobs, the City of Boston’s Energy Manager, provided context to MA energy efficiency regulations and incentive programs. He then spoke about a PILOT utility-sponsored Building Operator Certification (BOC) Training recently completed by twenty-eight municipal building managers. This 74 hour Level 1 course delivered over 8 days covers HVAC, lighting, controls, electrical, indoor air quality, benchmarking, etc., as well as assignments. Brian Forde, the HVAC Manager for the City’s Property Management Department, who also completed the training, spoke to the course providing ways to save energy through continuous commissioning and fault detection, and to providing better building environments for employees/tenants.
We then discussed the opportunity for additional trainings. National Grid offers 50% tuition reimbursement to customers over 50,000sf, and to 1 person for every 50,000sf. Eversource has recently agreed to do the same. This means all tuition would be reimbursed by the utilities for any buildings using National Grid and Eversource.
There was a lot of interest from those present – the hospitality sector, commercial real estate, pharmaceutical industry and large residential, and we have heard previously that higher education and health care are equally interested. There are opportunities for both “open” trainings where the 30 person training would be a combination of sectors, or “closed” trainings for a particular sector or for large organizations that have 30 trainees themselves. Most in the group expressed an interested in open trainings.
A suggestion has been made to host a training in Boston in Q1 of 2019. Please let us know at your earliest convenience by emailing Yve Torrie if your organization would be interested in attending and if so how many would attend.
Presentation slides can be found here.
A Better City hosted a focus group of draft guidance documents and reporting forms on BERDO's energy action and assessment requirements due in May 2019 for the first cohort of BERDO buildings that began reporting in 2014. BERDO requires buildings to be highly efficient, perform either major energy saving actions, complete an energy assessment, or receive exemption for being an already high-performing building. Energy savings actions can include any combination of measures that results in a 15% or greater reduction in greenhouse gas emissions or energy usage over the prior 5 years. During this meeting, SBI members provided input into the Boston Environment Department's draft guidance documents and reporting forms that are designed to cover all the details on pathways to compliance for the Energy Action and Assessment requirement. They also sought clarity from the City of Boston on the goal of the ordinance and how to measure previous, current, and future building performance for facilities with differing levels of institutional capacity for energy efficiency. Conversations will be ongoing through the fall as the City of Boston prepares for the first round of Energy Action and Assessment reporting in May of 2019.
Detailed notes of the conversation can be found here.
On July 12, 2018, A Better City’s Sustainable Buildings Initiative gathered to discuss initial findings from the Carbon Free Boston project, a partnership of the Green Ribbon Commission, the Boston University Institute on Sustainable Energy, and the City of Boston to review the benefits and costs of technologies and policies that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the City to achieve Boston’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. Although findings from this project are not expected until the fall, initial findings were available for this meeting, and SBI members provided their input on how the building sector can provide leadership in achieving Boston’s carbon neutrality goal.
Alison Brizius, Director of Climate and Environmental Planning for the City of Boston, provided an introduction to the Carbon Free Boston Project, explaining its purpose to investigate and demonstrate how the City can achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 in the building, transportation, electricity and waste sectors while maintaining and promoting economic growth. The Carbon Free Boston research team will produce a robust assessment of strategies that will inform the upcoming Climate Action Plan to include equity and community health. Michael Walsh, Senior Research Scientist at the Boston University Institute for Sustainable Energy, explained the project’s findings that relate to the building sector. There are significant challenges and opportunities for buildings to achieve carbon neutrality, specifically through large retrofits and conversions of aging buildings (85% of the buildings in 2050 currently exist today) and an increased focus on thermal decarbonization. The team is reviewing the most effective strategies and policy design for 15 building classes and 4 age categories. The robust discussion that followed highlighted the technological and political advancements that are necessary for Boston’s buildings to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
Presentation slides can be found here.
On May 29th, 2018, A Better City’s Sustainable Buildings Initiative’s (SBI’s) Zero Waste Subcommittee gathered to discuss the goals, opportunities and challenges they are facing within their own facilities to drive and measure reductions in waste-to-landfill. In addition, the City provided an update to their Zero Waste planning.
Susan Cascino from the City of Boston provided an update on the newly developed initiatives proposed to advance Boston’s Zero Waste goals that lists short- and long-term Initiatives under the categories of New Services, New Rules, and Outreach and Education. The SBI Subcommittee was interested in: standardization across the board e.g. fewer options for recycling BUT better recycling, standard systems of collection by haulers, and standard reporting; reduction in generation of waste; and the creation of a market for reusable items e.g. charging for a plate, cup or bag. Pertaining to the City’s initiatives, they were interested in waste reduction initiatives such as proposed mandatory waste reduction or zero waste venues and events ordinances, environmentally preferable purchasing, and building certifications and awards for zero waste.
SBI subcommittee members then provided insight into the waste protocols and practices in their own facilities, and discussed how the Zero Waste Initiatives can be best applied and tailored. Examples of practices within facilities included centralized recycling and kitchen composting on each floor, a company goal of 100% compostable catering within a year, and developing best practices in waste data collection for implementation across a company’s facilities.
Additionally, we reviewed and heard feedback on two draft resource documents: one that reviews the services Boston-area waste haulers are offering; and one that reviews the current state of janitorial environmental certifications. Once finalized, these documents will be available on the Sustainable Buildings Initiative website.
On April 17, 2018, A Better City and the Boston Green Ribbon Commission hosted an event exploring the economics, incentives, and use cases for energy storage in Greater Boston's commercial buildings. Energy storage has the potential to drive down utility costs, enhance resiliency, and allow owners to fully realize the benefits of renewable energy.
The first panel explored current Massachusetts policies, incentives, and the economics for energy storage systems in Boston. Speakers included:
The second panel highlighted examples of cutting-edge projects recently implemented in the Boston area that utilize financing models ranging from direct ownership to shared savings agreements. Speakers included:
Slides from the event are available here.
The event also served as A Better City's report release: Harnessing the Power of Energy Storage in Boston's Commercial Buildings.
On March 27, 2018, A Better City and members of the Sustainable Buildings Initiative gathered to learn about the work of the City's Zero Waste Advisory Committee (ZWAC). The Committee will consider a variety of actions and strategies for Boston to become a Zero Waste city by 2050. As a member of the Industrial, Commercial & Institutional subcommittee, A Better City endeavors to keep SBI members informed about the City's work, and to give them the chance to provide input into the process from the very beginning.
City representatives and specialists at the luncheon included:
We heard from the City about plans already in place, such as the plastic bag ordinance (taking effect in December 2018) and use of the ZW International Alliance's definition of "zero waste". We learned about some challenges in the recycling market, both at a local level (such as the recent closure of the Ardagh glass facility) and an international level (with China's new restrictions on recycling imports). Finally, we discussed some of Boston's options for reducing waste-to-landfill in the commercial sector. Participants emphasized the need for mandatory ordinances; raised the need for a complete list of Boston-area waste haulers and what they accept; suggested an environmental grade or certification system for custodial services; and discussed moving beyond environmental messaging.
On February 21, 2018 we heard from three experts about developing and designing for climate resilience in East Boston, one of the city’s fastest-growing but most vulnerable neighborhoods. Nick Iselin from Lendlease provided a case study of Clippership Wharf, and Nasser Brahim from Kleinfelder and Amy Whitesides from Stoss discussed the zoning and regulatory implications of designing for resilience, using specific examples of resilience measures that the City has selected for East Boston.
On January 18, we kicked off the 2018 Sustainable Buildings Initiative with a breakfast meeting at the Boston Harbor Hotel. During this meeting, we:
In December 2017, our Sustainable Buildings Initiative meeting focused on climate resilience in Boston.
Dr. Paul Kirshen, Professor of Climate Adaptation at the University of Massachusetts Boston, presented on the harbor-wide coastal protection study he is leading at UMass Boston. He discussed possible configurations, storm surge versus tidal flooding, potential conflicts with other harbor uses, relationship with inner harbor resilience plans, environmental impacts, and a preliminary economic analysis.
Mia Mansfield, Climate Ready Boston Program Manager for the City of Boston, presented on the City's Climate Ready South Boston research and planning as well as their recently-approved Climate Change Preparedness and Resiliency Checklist.
Additionally, A Better City provided a brief update on available resilience resources, including Trust for Public Land's vulnerability assessment tool; Union of Concerned Scientists' interactive mapping tool; and A Better City's recently-published Voluntary Resilience Standards report.
In September 2017, the Sustainable Buildings Initiative held a roundtable for participants to share
key projects they have worked on in 2017, discuss the challenges they’ve encountered and the
successes they’ve seen, and learn about what other participants are working on.
In July 2017, Sustainable Buildings Initiative participants had the opportunity to dive into the topic of energy storage. The morning included a presentation from Brett Simon of GTM Research, highlighting new developments in the energy storage market and how it’s shaping the future of commercial energy use.
GTM Research is the market analysis and advisory arm of Greentech Media—the producers of The Energy Gang podcast and industry events like the Grid Edge World Forum and the Solar Summit. GTM Research provides strategic, timely insight on the technologies, markets and business models shaping the future of the electricity sector.
Brett Simon is an energy storage analyst at GTM Research, focusing on U.S. behind-the-meter energy storage markets. Prior to joining GTM, Brett earned a Master of Science degree in sustainable systems at the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment. He first became interested in energy storage systems and their potential to revolutionize the energy sector through his coursework and master's project. Brett also holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and environmental studies from New York University.
On May 10, 2017, the Sustainable Buildings Initiative and the Commercial Real Estate Working Group—a working group of the Green Ribbon Commission, managed by A Better City— and the Sustainable Buildings Initiative hosted A Path to Zero: a panel discussion and building tour focused on achieving net zero energy in Boston's commercial real estate buildings. The event was hosted by Boston Medical Center.
Bob Biggio of Boston Medical Center (BMC) opened the event with an overview of BMC’s ongoing campus redesign, which aims to make BMC carbon neutral by 2050 — and has the potential to even go a step further, making the campus carbon positive. The audience then heard from each of the panelists about how they are helping drive Boston toward net zero energy through their work in policy and implementation. Panelists included:
Amy Longsworth of the Boston Green Ribbon Commission provided closing remarks.
Click here to view photos from the event!
On April 5, 2017, the Sustainable Buildings Initiative and the Commercial Real Estate Working Group hosted the Landlord-Tenant Forum. The goal of this workshop was to increase communication and planning opportunities between landlords, tenants, and other key stakeholders, with the goal of increasing the energy efficiency and sustainability of office spaces. Speakers included:
The speakers were followed by a series of breakout groups about Site Selection and Developing an RFP (led by Jim Tierney of JLL); lease negotiation (led by Deborah Howitt Easton, Sherin and Lodgen); build-outs (led by Blake Jackson, Stantec); Retrofits (led by Nate Strong, RISE Engineering); and After Move-in (led by Yve Torrie, A Better City). Attendees rotated through two breakout sessions, in which they had the opportunity to speak directly with experts in their chosen topics and learn more about how they can work with tenants, property managers, utilities and other stakeholders to achieve their sustainability and efficiency goals.
On February 7, 2017, A Better City kicked off the Sustainable Buildings Initiative with a launch event at the W Hotel, Boston. The event was highlighted by remarks from Colleen Calhoun, Director of Business Development & Partnerships at Current, powered by GE. Colleen discussed Current's goal of disrupting the future of commercial and industrial energy. Focusing on digital developments and partnerships, Colleen presented Current's model to optimize energy management utilizing a multi‐modal sensor network. This Energy Management System uses GE's Predix cloud to facilitate a digitally dynamic building that can precisely respond to changes in energy needs to maximize efficiency. Rick Dimino discussed the importance of moving beyond traditional energy management strategies in his opening remarks. Laura LoSciuto and Yve Torrie emphasized the goal of facilitating innovation and collaboration to move beyond these traditional strategies as a major focus of the Sustainable Buildings Initiative, the next evolution of A Better City's longstanding Challenge for Sustainability program. Laura and Yve provided an overview of the Initiative's plans for 2017 and beyond, including additional focus on resilience and transportation; a revised Action Planning process; and increased programming and resources for participants.
Click here to view photos from the event!
A hallmark event of the Challenge for Sustainability — the predecessor to the Sustainable Buildings Initiative — was the annual awards ceremony. Boston is committed to a 25% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, and top buildings and businesses from across the city are leading the way by working to improve energy efficiency and overall sustainability.
Each year, Challenge participants and other stakeholders came together to honor and celebrate their accomplishments at the Annual Challenge for Sustainability Awards. The Awards recognized businesses and property owners who made significant, meaningful and impactful strides toward greater sustainability and lowered greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, participants who achieved the City of Boston’s 25% emission reduction by 2020 were recognized on the “Target 2020 Leaders” plaque, organized by the date in which they achieved this target reduction.
The 2015 Awards ceremony was hosted in March 2016 at Equity Office’s100 Summer Street location. Austin Blackmon, Chief of Environment, Energy, and Open Space, City of Boston shared some brief remarks on the importance of programs like the Challenge in working towards the City’s GHG emissions reduction goals. The event also featured keynote speaker Kenneth Kimmell, President of the Union of Concerned Scientists, who reminded guests of the importance of staying engaged in the broader energy policy dialogue in addition to specific building sustainability measures.
Award winners for 2015 included:
Click here to view photos from the 2015 Challenge for Sustainability Awards!