“Historically, super-tall buildings have focused on structural challenges . . .
The rules have changed,
and energy has become the defining problem for our generation.” —Scott Duncan of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
The challenges, solutions, and opportunity exist for Boston to pivot now from its fossil-fueled past and lead the transition to clean energy; this means moving our building designs into the 21st century through a relentless focus on efficiency and cost-effective switches from gas and other fossil fuels to clean, electricity-based heating/cooling. The Boston Clean Energy Coalition (BCEC) brings together member organizations and allies in the shared commitment to accelerate this shift away from natural-gas–driven energy in Boston’s buildings and toward construction fueled by renewables. Meeting this goal requires collaboration among all of Boston’s sectors: developers, elected officials, labor, investors, utilities, neighborhoods, faith-based groups, academia, environmentalists, and others. By providing an organizing space that fosters this process and promotes this collaboration, BCEC looks to spur innovative and transformational public policy that unwaveringly focuses on a green and clean future.
Whenever we talk to neighborhood associations or developers or others about building proposals and advocate for all-electric net-zero-carbon construction, everyone’s first question is always, “How much extra will it cost?” This important and highly anticipated report just released from the Massachusetts chapter of the US Green Building Council (USGBC) finds that zero energy buildings are a great investment and are less expensive than stakeholders have previously assumed.
Much of what you hear in this report will not surprise you. But more people need to know. Please share this video widely; the producer and reporter have stated that whether NBC greenlights future stories on the subject—which they want to do—depends upon on how well this story does online. We need as many views of the story as possible to get future stories focusing on this topic.
On March 21, 2019, Councilors O’Malley and Wu held a City Council hearing as a first step to determining if they have support to require that all new municipal buildings henceforward will be net-zero carbon (NZC). This makes sense as the only course of action in light of the findings of the Carbon Free Boston Summary Report, released earlier this year. (See post below for more details about that report.) The report indicates that to meet the goal of being carbon neutral by 2050 promised by Mayor Walsh, all 87,000 buildings in Boston need to be NZC; any new construction henceforward should be NZC at the outset or it will just need to be retrofitted at great expense at a later date.
In January 2019, BU’s Institute for Sustainable Energy delivered the much-anticipated Carbon Free Boston Summary Report. The report evaluates key strategies across the building. transportation, waste, and energy sectors to inform the City’s Climate Action Plan update and is meant to provide a pathway based on real-world data by which Boston can reach carbon neutrality by 2050.
This is an excerpt from Bill McKibben’s piece in the April 4 issue of The New York Review of Books:
“Over the last decade, there has been a staggering fall in the price of solar and wind power, and of the lithium-ion batteries used to store energy. This has led to rapid expansion of these technologies, even though they are still used much less than fossil fuels: in 2017, for instance, sun and wind produced just 6 percent of the world’s electric supply, but they made up 45 percent of the growth in supply, and the cost of sun and wind power continues to fall by about 20 percent with each doubling of capacity. . . . Analysis suggests that in the next few years, they will represent all the growth. We will then reach peak use of fossil fuels, not because we’re running out of them but because renewables will have become so cheap that anyone needing a new energy supply will likely turn to solar or wind power.”
Councilor O’Malley’s first order of NZC business in the new year was to refile (per City Council requirements when a new calendar year begins) hearing orders. Toward this end, on January 16, he refiled a slightly reworded order to amend the definition of the floor area ratio (FAR) when developers are constructing a net-zero-carbon building as well as an order requiring all new municipal buildings be net-zero carbon.