Boston Zoning Change to Require Net-Zero Emissions from New Buildings

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Robison Wells
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Following the Carbon Free Boston report in 2019, city officials are making carbon-neutral plans by 2050. Emissions from buildings account for more than 70% of the city’s emissions, Boston feels it’s time to clear the air.

The initiative is one of the most aggressive in the country. John Dalzell, the Boston Planning and Development Agency’s senior architect for sustainable development, told Energy News that “There are going to be folks that find this incredibly challenging — there are a lot of industry norms that are being questioned and challenged. But I’m pleased to see some of these old norms starting to fall away.”

Other parts of the plan include an ordinance that requires buildings over 35,000 square feet to report their energy usage each year. The city plans to set target emissions goals for each of these buildings.

Boston partnered with Eversource, a utility that launched a set of resources to help the owners and operators of large buildings find ways to save energy.

The new requirement for buildings to be net-zero is still being developed, but it will apply to buildings larger than 50,000 square feet, which accounts for approximately two-thirds of new construction in Boston.

City officials strive for a 3-part goal: energy efficiency, on-site renewable energy generation and clean energy procurement.

“This isn’t exotic stuff,” Dolezal said. “Our biggest challenge is change — these practices are available to us, but they’re not necessarily familiar.”

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