City-Level Net-Zero Building Plans 

Cambridge: Getting to Net Zero Plan
The Net Zero Task Force endeavored to respond to the need to reduce the carbon footprint of the built environment and map out an aggressive course to mitigate the effects of climate change. The result of this process is the development of a vetted 25-year action strategy that sets the foundation for ongoing governance and collaboration leading us to our climate goals. The significance of this plan is that it is comprehensive; it addresses both new and existing buildings and sets target dates for net zero new construction across all sectors. Furthermore, the recommendations are achievable, and at the same time bold in their vision.

Washington DC: Clean Energy DC
The 2018 Clean Energy DC plan includes buildings, energy supply, and transportation. New construction building codes will require new buildings to produce enough energy to be sustainable off the grid through renewable onsite generation.  New single family or multifamily buildings must be at net-zero energy consumption starting in 2020.  All commercial or large multifamily buildings must be at net-zero energy consumption by 2026.

New York City: One City—Built to Last
What does it mean for a city to be built to last? In a city that is built to last, our homes and workplaces will require less energy for heating, cooling, and power. The energy those buildings will need comes from renewable sources that do not pollute our air and water or dangerously increase global temperatures. Residents of a city built to last are protected from rising sea levels and extreme weather

Toronto: Zero Emissions Buildings Framework
As the City of Toronto adds an estimated 24,400 more people per year, the demand for both residential and non-residential developments is growing. In fact, between 2011 and 2015, the City added an additional 85,166 residential units and 2.69 million square meters of non-residential floor area, making Toronto one of the fastest growing cities in North America. This report presents the results of a two-part study designed to identify an effective means of updating the TGS greenhouse gas and energy efficiency measures that is both feasible for the construction industry and that addresses the city’s climate, energy and resilience goals.

Vancouver: Zero Emissions Building Plan
This Plan lays out four action strategies to require the majority of new buildings in Vancouver use 100% renewable energy and have no operational greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 and that all new buildings achieve these outcomes by 2030.

Carbon Neutral Boston

To lead with climate action, architects can start by reducing emissions
Zero net carbon buildings are possible now. Architecture 2030’s ZERO Code is a national and international building energy standard for new building construction that integrates cost-effective energy efficiency standards with on-site and/or off-site renewable energy and results in zero net carbon buildings. It includes prescriptive and performance paths for compliance based on current standards that are widely used by municipalities and building professionals worldwide.

The Case for Switching From Natural Gas Hookups to Heat Pumps
Switching from natural gas to a renewable alternative — namely, geothermal heat pumps — would prove less expensive for homeowners, in addition to helping us reduce carbon emissions. For new-home construction where all-new natural gas pipelines would have to be constructed, the Natural Resources Defense Council reports that installing heat pumps instead of natural-gas lines would save homeowners $1,500 upfront, and hundreds of more dollars each year after that in operating costs.

Moving Beyond “Net Zero”: Let’s Decarbonize Our Buildings.
As building designers and green building advocates we should really have four goals we are working towards, instead of simply trying to have our buildings achieve net zero. These four goals are: 1) Reduce building energy consumption; 2) Decarbonize buildings by eliminating the use of on-site fossil fuel; 3) Encourage renewable energy generation; and 4) Work to decarbonize the electric grid. The end result would be a world of low energy all-electric buildings with distributed renewable energy sources connected through a green grid.

The Commercial Net Zero Energy Building Market in Boston
City, State, and commercial real estate sector leaders can pave a pathway toward net zero emissions by improving building energy efficiency options and transitioning the grid to a low-carbon and renewable energy supply. It is crucial to aspire towards net zero emissions across the city, and establish interim, achievable targets to overcome barriers and move the industry forward. A Better City is committed to encouraging its members to incorporate net zero emissions strategies into their facilities, aligned with the City’s goal to eliminate carbon emissions by 2050. By necessity, the building stock must include a mix of high-performance, net zero and energy positive facilities. Advancing these actions over the next five to seven years provides the foundation for the City of Boston to set appropriate net zero emissions targets as part of the their interim 2030 climate goals.

4 Ways Cities Can Become Climate Heroes
A description on the four actions cities should focus on to have the maximum effect on reducing greenhouse gases. The article warns against doing a little of everything. The four main areas cities should focus on are: decarbonize the grid; make buildings work better; change how people get around; and use less and waste less.

MIT Study: Energy-Efficient Construction the Key to Lowering Urban Carbon Emissions
The study analyzes how extensively local planning policies could either complement the Clean Power Plan (CPP) of 2015 or compensate for its absence. The CPP is intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. The take-home message is that cities can do a lot at the local level with housing stock.

Energy: Sustainable Communities
Instead of “greening” individual houses, entire blocks of homes are retrofit into a single efficient unit. To bring in renewable power, solar panels are installed on buildings throughout the area and send the energy to a smart microgrid. Excess solar energy will be stored via flywheels housed in a communal building.The residents will also share electric cars which will have access to more than two dozen local charging stations. These measures should reduce annual electricity consumption by more than half and bring carbon emissions to zero.

A Zero Net Energy Building Pilot Study: Low Energy Strategies for Weygand Residence Hall at Bridgewater State University
Residence Halls provide a unique educational opportunity for students, since they can learn about and experience a lifestyle that embodies sustainable practices and engages them as active participants in reducing energy use for the building. The Massachusetts State College Building Authority (MSCBA) and Bridgewater State University (BSU) took advantage of a Zero Net Energy Building (ZNEB) pilot study to research design strategies and building systems that will advance the planning and design of future residence halls. This study positioned BSU to implement several strategies that reduced energy consumption at Weygand Hall and provided lessons learned for future residential hall designs.

Getting to Zero: Final Report of the Massachusetts Zero Net Energy Buildings Task Force (2009)
The imperative is clear: we must find new ways to create clean and local energy, reduce our energy consumption, and remake our society to support a low carbon infrastructure. With buildings contributing close to 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions and consuming 40 percent of energy in the U.S., energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies must become central to the way we design and build.

Businesses Want Stronger Clean Energy Mandates
As many companies across Massachusetts are embracing renewable energy as a business decision, it is essential that the state keep pace by strengthening policies that enhance access to clean energy.  The Massachusetts Renewable Portfolio Standard lays the foundation for clean energy investments by requiring utility companies to provide a minimum percentage of their electricity sales from renewable sources—ensuring the commonwealth invests in cost-effective, competitive, and local energy.

The Carbon-Free City Handbooks by Rocky Mountain Institute
The handbook reveals 22 actions—and associated resources—for cities globally to move toward climate-neutrality and see results within a year. It’s a resource for city leaders to take meaningful action toward their commitments with ready-to-implement, no regrets solutions that have proven success.

Deep Carbon Reduction Planning Framework by Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance
This planning framework provides a template for cities to use in developing their own plans, and identifies specific strategic challenges that cities continue to face in making further progress on carbon reduction. Based on the carbon neutrality plans developed by CNCA cities, the Planning Framework focuses exclusively on long-term and deep reductions, which require transformative rather than incremental approaches.

Deadline 2020 – How Cities Will Meet the Paris Agreement by C40 Cities
This is a roadmap for achieving the Paris Agreement, outlining the pace, scale and prioritization of action needed by C40 member cities over the next 5 years and beyond.

Environmental Justice

Why “Green Buildings” Are A Civil Rights Issue

“Communities of color and low-income communities bear the brunt of the impacts of unhealthy, energy-inefficient, and disaster-vulnerable buildings.” To address this problem, the NAACP recently launched the Centering Equity in the Sustainable Building Sector (CESBS) Initiative. The NAACP will advocate for an equitable green building sector and develop a replicable model for centering equity in all aspects of sustainable, healthy, safe, and regenerative buildings. What would an equitable green building sector look like? It would advance community-wide transition, not just a few green buildings in isolation. Sustainability would be seen as a basic necessity for all communities, not just affluent ones.

Energy Markets

Study Proves Clean Energy Can Power New England’s Future
The regional grid operator ISO-New England‘s long-awaited Operational Fuel-Security Analysis shows that more renewables, not more gas, will keep New England’s electric power system reliable – especially during winter cold-snaps. That supports what Conservation Law Foundation, and the markets, have been saying now for several years – New England doesn’t need more gas-fired power plants or expensive pipelines to keep the lights on and our homes warm on the coldest winter nights.

The Simple Reason Most Power Utilities Suck
There is one key fact about utilities that average people need to know in order to understand utilities’ dysfunction. US power utilities almost universally operate under what is called cost-of-service regulation (COSR). In a nutshell, they make money by building stuff.

Electricity Prices Plummet as Gas, Wind Gain Traction and Demand Stalls
It is too late for coal. The rapid rise of wind and natural gas as sources of electricity is roiling U.S. power markets, forcing more companies to close older generating plants.

Fracked “Natural” Gas and Methane

Berkeley Says No to New Gas Connections
Berkeley, California city council voted earlier this summer to ban gas connections to new small and mid-sized residential buildings. Developers and architects will have to rely on electric appliances such as induction stovetops and heat pumps to serve those buildings, and in time they will have to do so for more projects. The ban will expand to cover additional building types as the state certifies that they can cost-effectively forego gas.

The False Promise of Natural Gas
A Perspective in New England Journal Of Medicine describes the health impacts of natural gas. The authors say, “As physicians deeply concerned about climate change and pollution and their consequences, we consider expansion of the natural gas infrastructure to be a grave hazard to human health.” They go onto say, “Natural gas has been portrayed as a bridge to the future. The data now show that it is only a tether to the past. We believe it’s time to reject the false promise of gas.”

Natural gas is not a clean fuel: Globe editorial amplified drumbeat of fossil fuel industry
Ann Berwick, the former chair of the state Department of Public Utilities, criticizes the Boston Globe’s editorials promoting natural gas. She concludes, “As the region struggles to abandon its use of fossil fuels, it should be moving from oil heat to new, efficient electric heating technologies, such as air-source heat pumps.  As the electric grid gets cleaner, thanks to state laws requiring that electricity increasingly be generated by renewable resources, switching from oil to gas for heating instead of switching from oil to electricity would be a step in the wrong direction.”

World May Hit 2 Degrees of Warming in 10-15 Years Thanks to Fracking, Says Cornell Scientist
The most recent climate data suggests that the world is on track to cross the two degrees of warming threshold set in the Paris accord in just 10 to 15 years. Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, U.S. natural gas production was flat or falling. If that trend had continued along the same track it was following from 2006-2008, then wind, solar, and other renewable energy sources might have had a chance to displace both natural gas and coal as major energy sources in America. Instead, the shale gas rush, propelled by hydraulic fracturing (fracking), swept across the U.S., with drillers snapping up land to drill for previously inaccessible fossil fuels locked in geologic formations of shale rock from coast to coast.

Compendium of Scientific, Medical, and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking (Unconventional Gas and Oil Extraction) (5th Edition)
Concerned Health Professionals of New York and the Nobel Peace Prize-winning group, Physicians for Social Responsibility released its report on the health risks and harms of unconventional gas and oil extraction. The report draws on news investigations, government assessments and more than 1,200 peer-reviewed research articles. It finds that fracking – shooting chemical-laden fluid into deep rock layers to release oil and gas – is poisoning the air, contaminating the water and imperiling the health of Americans across the country.

How Climate Activists Failed to Make Clear the Problem with Natural Gas
Bill McKibben explains how the climate movement’s biggest failure has been its inability to successfully make the case that natural gas is not a clean replacement for other fossil fuels. So as natural gas has boomed, U.S. emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, have increased dramatically.

Effect of Methane on Climate Change Could be 25% Greater Than We Thought
The research re-affirms the scientific basis for focusing on carbon dioxide emissions, but also highlights that methane must not be ignored if the world wants to consider all options to curb global warming.

Natural Gas Is No Bargain
According to Efficiency Vermont, “the efficiency and cost savings of switching to heat pumps can be significant.” Not to mention that heat pumps can be powered from renewable sources, whereas “natural gas” is fracked methane that travels all the way from Alberta, Canada, and “when methane emissions are included, the greenhouse gas footprint of shale gas is significantly larger than that of conventional gas, coal, and oil.”

Gastivists: Stopping a Fossil Fuel Lock-In
BCEC recommends watching this video by Gastivists. It provides as excellent explanation for why we should stop investing in fossil fuel infrastructure.

Climate Change Policy

Soil Carbon Restoration: Can Biology Do the Job?
This paper describes our current problems with weather extremes caused by atmospheric greenhouse gases and proposes a solution based on farming practices that can store and stabilize large amounts of carbon underground and will lead to healthier food, more resilient farms, and less extreme weather.


Yale School of Public Health discussion between Dean Sten Vermund and Dr. Nicole Deziel discussing why fracked gas is a public health concern.

Greed Pays:Pipelines and Profits debunks the myth that fracked gas is a bridge fuel.

What is FERC?  describes the role of this federal agency and its role in approving new pipelines.