Do Boston’s Net Zero Initiatives Apply to Your Building?

Dec 09, 2022

Boston skyline during the day viewed from across the harbour.

Do Boston’s Net Zero Initiatives Apply to Your Building?

We Highlight the Latest Boston Initiatives and How They Apply to New Buildings and Renovations 

Boston has released a swathe of climate-orientated building legislations recently. Among them, new zoning updates have been proposed to align with the city’s goal of being carbon neutral by 2050. The new proposal includes a revised Article 37 Green Building zoning law, amendments to zoning law Article 80, and a Green / Zero Net Carbon Building Initiative. Overall, these updates apply to new buildings and major renovation work, setting Boston up to develop a wide range of net zero buildings as it moves towards its 2050 goal.

So, what do these proposals include and to which buildings do they apply? You can learn more about them below.

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Is Your Building or Construction Project Affected?

Firstly, the threshold for buildings that Article 37 applies to has been lowered from 50,000 square feet to 20,000 square feet. This amendment aligns with the Article 80 revisions and the standards established by Boston’s Building Emissions Reduction and Building Ordinance (BERDO) law. The expanded qualifying criteria make Boston’s building efficiency and emission requirements more streamlined for building operators.

Standards Established By the New Initiatives 

With these changes, the minimum LEED score for a construction over 20,000 square feet is increased to LEED Gold (60+ points) from LEED Certified (40+ points). The U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating system is a reputable energy efficiency ranking that assigns a building a score from 0 to 100 based on sustainability performance. The policy notes meeting LEED Gold is already standard practice in Boston. 

While buildings are required to be designed to LEED Gold standards, they are not required to do the third-party certification process. Accreditation is highly encouraged, and buildings that go through the design effort to achieve LEED Gold standards typically find the certification a worthwhile next step. 

The new Green / Zero Net Carbon Building Initiative requires planned buildings to minimise their emissions and aim for net zero building status through both daily operations and embodied carbon. Proposed buildings are required to model emissions for the baseline, proposed design, and alternative low-carbon designs. In addition, proposed projects will have to meet an annual predicted emission intensity target. 

How the New Standards Will Be Measured 

The details of how the Boston Planning and Development Agency will calculate these targets are still to be determined. However, the targets are intended to be use-case specific, anticipating some allowances for medical facilities in particular

Projects will have to offset emissions with on-site energy production, the purchase of RECs, or be subject to a fee. While more ambitious than BERDO’s current emission requirements for existing buildings, all Boston buildings will eventually have to meet zero net carbon requirements. Designing carbon-neutrality in new buildings prevents the need for future retrofits, reduces costs and builds utility. Measure and anticipate your energy use with the help of energy consultants like Environ. 

The Latest Energy Trend: Embodied Carbon 

Another new approach of the Zero Net Carbon Building Initiative is the inclusion of embodied carbon. Embodied carbon refers to the emissions associated with the construction process of a building, including demolition, manufacturing of materials, transportation, and installation. 

For the Zero Net Carbon Building Initiative, construction projects will have to submit a compliance report focusing on the best practices used during the construction operation process and material management. This is an emerging area in the construction industry, and it’s an exciting avenue for potential emission reductions while allowing institutions to demonstrate their commitment to sustainable practices.

If you want to learn more about Boston’s initiatives and how Environ helps you keep up with changing regulations, don’t hesitate to reach out. Let our team of experts design energy solutions tailored to your needs. Set up a consultation with our team by calling or filling out our contact form.