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 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 and an increased focus on thermal decarbonization. The robust discussion that followed highlighted the technological and political advancements that are necessary for Boston’s buildings to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
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, 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!