Boston Eyes Legislation for Net-Zero Buildings


A city councilor in Boston is preparing to introduce a proposal this fall that would incentivize developers to incorporate more net-zero designs in the city’s building boom.

“We have an opportunity and responsibility to put forward environmentally friendly development,” Councilor Matt O’Malley said. “It’s about incentives. I want this to be about carrots, not sticks.”

The Plan

While details are still being worked out, The Boston Herald reports that the incentives would work through the city’s zoning code and that a group of councilors, city officials, climate advocates and industry representatives are drafting several proposals that will be brought before council in the coming months.

“You think of the opportunity already that we’ve lost with all of the construction that’s underway now, Boston is LEED standard, but LEED doesn’t give you as much as needed to accomplish what we need on energy efficiency,” said Joan Fitzgerald, a professor at Northeastern University and one of the members of the group working on the proposals. “This is not future technology, we could and should be doing this.”

Mayor Martin J. Walsh has set a goal for Boston to be carbon neutral by 2050 but has said that the challenge to getting there lies within the implementation of such incentives. He has not commented directly on O’Malley’s future proposition.

Some developers, though, are criticizing the effort.

“It sounds like a great idea, but it’s not feasible right now, because if it were, developers would be doing it,” said David Begelfer, chief executive of the National Association for Industrial and Office Parks Massachusetts. “To make it net-zero, they’d love to do it, but the technology’s not there yet.”

Following Suit

Boston’s not the only city looking to implement such code changes. Last August, officials in Ontario announced that its building code is set to get a revamp to take effect Jan. 1, 2019, to tie in with Canada’s Climate Action Plan.

With focus on adjusting buildings for solar energy, options for the code changes included adding a loading requirement to roofing designs to accommodate the possibility of future solar technology, and the addition of a conduit to all new houses, as well as large buildings, that would allow for the future installation of a photovoltaic system or a solar domestic hot water system.

Apartments and condominiums will be required to have a heat recovery unit as part of the ventilation system. Greywater reuse systems have also been suggested in the updated building code.


Tagged categories: Building codes; Good Technical Practice; Government; Net Zero Energy ; North America; Regulations

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