Friday, April 3, 2015

PACE & Resiliency

PACE Recap:

Property Assessed Clean Energy Financing & Resiliency

As the senate prepares to review the newly minted bill on PACE financing this spring, we would like to encourage our fellow green building advocates to review some objectives of the bill, and to help share this information in your communities.

Massachusetts Senate Docket 1271 (Previously S.2255), An Act fueling job creation through energy efficiency, was filed by Senator Brian Joyce, and is designed to allow property owners to finance energy efficiency and resiliency improvements.

PACE financing provides property owners access to low-cost, off-balance sheet capital, by way of a betterment lien placed on the property and payable like a property tax bill. Across the nation, successful PACE programs have provided a new and innovative way for property owners to finance energy efficiency upgrades, renewable energy projects, and water conservation measures. The Massachusetts legislation also will allow property owners to consider upgrades that include resiliency improvements to be PACE-funded. The availability of this new tool for project finance will result in new projects which will mean more work for people in the renewable energy & allied industries of Massachusetts.

SD 1271 will make necessary improvements to the Commonwealth’s current PACE program, creating a streamlined, centrally administered PACE program that is capable of achieving economies of scale and will be easily adopted by municipalities. The new program will require lender consent and will focus on the pent up demand for energy efficiency and disaster-resilience financing in the commercial and industrial sector. Commercial PACE programs in 25 other states have accounted for $100 million in project activity. When passed, the Massachusetts commercial and industrial PACE program will help:
  • Create Jobs
  • Increase Property Values
  • Encourage Private Investment in Energy Efficiency, Renewables & Resiliency
  • Reinforce the Role of Massachusetts as a Leader in Green Building

To learn more about how PACE programs work in other states see the PACEnow annual report. To learn more about existing resiliency efforts in Boston please see the Boston Redevelopment Authority’s guidelines for climate change preparedness and resiliency. Also available online is a 2013 publication titled Building Resilience in Boston, which helps outline best practices for climate change adaptation and resilience for existing buildings.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Access to Quality Transit credit? Prove it!

By Adrian Charest, PE, LEED AP BD+C

RSMeans from The Gordian Group

Access to Quality Transit credit?  Prove it!

The intent behind USGBC’s Access to Quality Transit is to encourage development in areas that are connected by public transportation systems to reduce car usage…but do people want to live in areas that are highly connected to public transportation?  In other words, could the effect that multiple modes of transportation have on where people live be displayed?  Using a geographic information system and publicly available data, this article explores these questions and gets to, “Yes”.

The public transportation network in Boston is expansive and goes far beyond the city limits.  The system is comprised of four modes of transportation; subways, commuter rails, buses, and ferries, each with entry points consisting of stations, stops, or docks.  The systems operate independently from one another, but are complementary in that together they provide greater access to larger areas of the City.

The area around the entry points needs to be determined in order to develop answers to the posed questions.  Working with each system separately, a 1-mile buffer zone was created and merged together around each of the entry points for each respective system creating images as displayed in Figure 1 below.

Figure 1
                    Subway                                                                                                                  Commuter Rail  

Bus                                                                                                                             Ferry

Overlaying these buffers with the Year 2000 U.S. Census Data provides an understanding of each system’s influence on attracting people.  Using the buffers’ areas and the population captured by them enabled calculation of the population density around the entry points.  These results can be seen in Table 1 below which is ranked from greatest population density to least.

Table 1
Sq. Miles
Pop / mi2
Commuter Rail

However, what about the effects of multiple modes of transportation?  Overlaying the individual mode-buffers described above creates areas where there are 1-, 2-, 3-, and 4-modes of transportation available.  For instance, areas where there is only a subway or commuter rail station, a bus stop, or a ferry dock is ranked as 1-mode, not distinguishing between the mode types.  Areas where all four mode buffers overlapped are ranked as 4-mode, and any combination of 2 and 3 different mode types are ranked as 2- and 3-mode areas.  A graphic displaying the results of these combinations can be seen if Figure 2 below.

Figure 2

Overlaying these new buffers with the census data shows the impact that multiple modes of transportation have on where people want to live.  These outputs can be seen in Table 2 below where the influence can be clearly seen.; as the number of available modes increase, so does the number of people living in those areas.

Table 2
Sq. Miles
Pop / mi2
1 Mode
2 Mode
3 Mode
4 Mode

So what does this all mean?  That the Access to Quality Transit credit is in the right direction, people want to live in areas that are highly connected to public transportation systems.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Zero Net Energy Buildings Re-Cap

So what are they again?

Zero Net Energy Buildings (or ZNEBs) are most commonly defined as buildings that produce as much energy as they consume on an annual basis (this energy must be renewable).

However, there are actually a few different ways for buildings to achieve Zero-Net Energy status: the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) offers four definitions of ZNEBs in their report titled Getting to Net Zero. The first builds on the common definition (above), but is specifically tied to the project site: a building that produces at least as much renewable energy as it uses in a year, when accounted for at the site. The second version looks at the source of the energy, so a building that produces, and/or purchases as much renewable energy as it uses in a year. The third definition focuses on energy costs, which means the amount of money the utility pays the building owner for exporting renewable energy to the grid is at least equal to the amount the owner pays the utility for the energy services it uses over the year. The fourth way of defining ZNEBs concentrates on emissions; so the building must produce and/or purchase enough emissions-free renewable energy to offset emissions from all energy used in the building annually.

While these definitions may seem convoluted, they are in direct response to the complex environment of regulations, market forces, and financial incentives that affect different building owners and building types in a variety of ways. The variation between the definitions is an attempt to accommodate the diversity of our built environment so that all parties may participate in the ZNEB market.

These definitions also come into play when you consider recent planning initiatives for Eco-Districts and Zero Net Energy Neighborhoods. Again, there’s more than one way to get to Net-Zero and it won’t play out the same way in every building or every community. While ZNEBs are technically ‘just buildings’ they are actually part of a broader toolkit for transforming the built environment. It’s up to us to assess the potential ways that ZNEBs might be integrated into broader planning initiatives in order to achieve the maximum impact for our communities and the environment.

Investing in ZNEBs not only ensures positive environmental impact, but also offers potential for significant cost savings through more efficient and holistic design strategies, as well as insulation from swings in non-renewable energy costs.

How do we get more of them?

ZNEBs are becoming more ubiquitous, and Massachusetts has already made significant headway in supporting innovation in the market. The Department of Energy and Resources (DOER) announced 25 projects selected for the Pathways to Zero Net Energy Program, which is a $3.5 million initiative designed to facilitate the transition to the next generation of high-performance buildings. 

The next step is to pass Senate Bill 1578: An Act Promoting Zero Net Energy Buildings in the Commonwealth, which is based on recommendations from Governor Patrick’s Zero Net Energy Buildings Task Force, and was sponsored in the 2013-2014 session by Senator Jamie Eldridge. The bill was discharged to the committee on Senate Ethics and Rules in March of 2014, but no further action was taken. This year Senator Eldridge is sponsoring the bill again, under petition of Representatives Chris Walsh, Denise Provost, Marjorie Decker and David Rogers.

The bill seeks to change line “o” of the Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 143, Section 94, and add a line “s” after line “r” in the same section. You can read the specifics available through the advocacy resources section of the USGBC MA website, but there are several key changes to take note of.

In line “o” the bill seeks to establish a Zero Net Energy Building standard for new residential and commercial construction by 2020 and 2030 respectively. Also, the bill would implement regulations as part of the state building code, along with more stringent energy efficiency provisions requiring incremental improvements, starting with a 30% increase in efficiency over the International Energy Conservation Code.

In line “s” the bill calls for public input and consultation with the DOER to establish separate definitions for Zero Net Energy Buildings in both residential and commercial sectors by 2017 and 2018 respectively. The bill calls for the definitions to take into account zero net energy building definitions established in other places, as well as the current and anticipated climate of Massachusetts.

In support of the bill, and in anticipation of the public process that will unfold to produce appropriate definitions for ZNEBs in Massachusetts, the USGBC MA chapter will provide further blog posts on ZNEB practices, policies and projects in other states as well as right here in Massachusetts.

We also want to invite you to the next Green Breakfast, Thursday, March 19th at our Headquarters in downtown Boston. In addition to providing additional information on ZNEBs, we will also have presentations on Property Assessed Clean Energy financing (PACE) and Net-Metering.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Re-Post: The All-Glass Building - Is Energy Efficiency Possible

Re-Post: The All-Glass Building - Is Energy Efficiency Possible

By Andrea Love, Director of Building Science at Payette, Chapter Board Member

One of our wonderful volunteers wrote extensively about glass facade buildings and the challenge these present to proponents of energy efficiency. Take a look at "her recent blog entry at NESEA". Thanks for explaining this for us, Andrea!


Friday, February 20, 2015

EMD Serono’s Sagamore Building earns LEED Platinum

Jim Newman,Chair of USGBC Massachusetts presenting LEED Platinum to Paris Panayiotopoulos, President of EMD Serono

A few weeks ago Chapter President Jim Newman had the honor of presenting EMD Serono with their LEED Platinum plaque for the Sagamore Building project. The project, designed by Ellenzweig and BR+A, and built by JLL, earned 81 points in LEED ID+C: Commercial Interiors (v2009). The sustainability efforts were lead by Eric Ruoff of chapter sponsor The Green Engineer.

Sagamore Building office area
During his speech at the ceremony, Jim said “You always know when you are in a Platinum building. They are just so cool!” Several occupants have stated they really enjoy working in the space and rumor is that the building has become so popular employees working elsewhere on the campus “claimed” desks before they were officially available. Project Architect Mario Abanto says “Every LEED point was scrutinized and not taken for granted.  The outcome resulted from a tremendous collaborative process by all parties involved- owner, builder, architect, and engineer.”

Tony Meenaghan of EMD Serono and Greg Berndt of Ellenzweig show off the Sagamore Building to Jim Newman

The building was originally a protein production laboratory complete with clean rooms and heavy-duty mechanical equipment. The team was able to open up areas to create a double-height office space with a mezzanine. Features include ample daylight and views, extremely efficient lighting and controls, optimized the existing HVAC systems, and reuse of many building elements. EMD Serono has committed to keeping the building green by using only ENERGY STAR equipment, comprehensive recycling, purchasing renewable power, and ongoing monitoring of the building’s performance.

More information about the building can be found at and the scorecard is available on the USGBC website.

JLL, The Green Engineer, Ellenzweig, BR+A and EMD Serono project team members

Carolyn serves on the MA Chapter Board of Directors as Secretary and works at Ellenzweig as an architect.

Advocacy Update

Greetings Green Building Advocates!

Here is an update on our key advocacy issues for 2015, Property Assessed Clean Energy Financing (PACE), Net Zero Building Code, and Net Metering.

Our PACE stakeholder focus group—made up of around 12 organizations and trade groups, primarily with environmental, labor, and economic development interests—is gaining momentum and working towards strengthening support for this year’s legislation. We are working with Senator Joyce’s office to bring in other co-sponsors up until the bill is brought out of committee. We are also collaborating with the Climate Action Business Group (CABA) to have a public forum around PACE financing and its relationship to resiliency planning.

Net Zero

The current version of the Act promoting zero net-energy buildings in the Commonwealth by Senator Eldridge is gaining more co-sponsors, and is targeting a more stringent path to Net Zero Building Codes. The advocacy team is continuing to expand our network of support around this issue.

Net Metering

Our advocacy team is following the progress of the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) Task Force on Net Metering. Among the issues the task force is examining are the potential impacts of a minimum bill for Massachusetts ratepayers and its impact on reaching the statewide goal of 1,600MW of solar. The task force has outlined 5 primary tasks to accomplish which you can see in detail here:consulting team status update and task presentation; the task force also provides a Table of policy options and a draft of the task 1 report

Mark those calendars now, the next Green Breakfast will be held on Thursday March 19th and we will have presentations to describe each issue, and how you can help build momentum to pass this years legislation!

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Green Engineer Spotlight

Cambridge Center Expansion
Biogen Idec

When Biogen Idec decided to locate their 204,000 sf expansion in Kendall Square, they also decided to work with an all-star cast of design, construction and real estate professionals. The project was developed by Boston Properties, designed by Elkus Manfredi, and built by Lee Kennedy Co. The Green Engineer helped to ensure the building attained LEED Gold certification for Core + Shell. The new office and lab space is linked to the existing Biogen building by a two-level connector structure, and is also powered by an existing steam plant.

The project earned 63 points, reducing indoor water use by 30%, potable water use in irrigation by 50%, achieving a 16% improvement in baseline building performance, using recycled building materials, and specifying FSC-certified wood products. For more details on the energy-saving features of the project check out the LEED scorecard here.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Boston Properties Spotlight

Boston Properties:
LEED Gold, Class A Office Spaces 

Boston Properties certified two Class A, LEED Gold office buildings in 2014: 230 CityPoint and Reservoir Place, both along the 128 Corridor in Waltham. 230 CityPoint is part of a larger development which already includes another LEED Gold Certified building, 77 CityPoint. The two 6-story buildings provide over 500,000 sf of multi-tenant Class A office space, including a cafe, fitness center and conference center. 230 CityPoint earned 61 points to achieve its Gold certification, reducing indoor water consumption by 25%, using recycled materials and achieving an 87 Energy Star Performance Rating. The 25-acre CityPoint site features several additional parcels currently under development, 10 CityPoint and 99 Third Avenue Retail. See the LEED Scorecard here.

230 CityPoint

77 CityPoint

10 CityPoint (Under Development)

99 Third Avenue Retail (Under Development)

The second LEED Gold building certified by Boston Properties in 2014 is Reservoir Place, a 527,000 sf Class A office building on the northern edge of the Cambridge Reservoir. In addition to being the largest multi-tenant office building on Route 128, Reservoir Place features a cafe, fitness center, several shops and even tennis courts. Reservoir Place was constructed in 1955 and renovated in 1983, and not acquired by Boston Properties until 1998. The decision by Boston Properties to bring the project up to LEED Gold standards for Building Operations + Maintenance, represents their commitment to investing in energy-efficiency for both new and existing construction. See how Boston Properties was able to transform an existing building into a LEED Gold project by checking out the Scorecard here.

Reservoir Place

Reservoir Place

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Sustainable Landscape Networking Night on Cape Cod

by Adam Prince, ZeroEnergy Design

USGBC MA Cape & Islands Interest Group just enjoyed an evening with two sustainable landscape design presentations and a quick tour of a newly renovated commercial building.

Michael Talbot, co-owner of Talbot Ecological Land Care and principal at Environmental Landscape Consultants, LLC, and Seth Wilkinson, President of Wilkinson Ecological Design, each presented a program on ecological and sustainable land development.  Michael provided an overview of sustainable landscape design and management principles, and Seth followed by reviewing case studies of how to incorporate sustainable design by including these principles in the planning and permitting phase of the building process.  Each took questions afterward, as the 20-ish attendees enjoyed a fabulous food spread with refreshments sponored by Cape Associates.

The evening ended with a quick tour led by Adam Prince of ZeroEnergy Design together with Seth Wilkinson, as the group investigated the well insulated office building for Wilkinson Ecological Design which recently underwent a full gut renovation. With green architecture and mechanical design by ZeroEnergy Design, and construction by CapeWide Enterprises, the tour highlighted the many green features of the building.

Michael Talbot, co-owner of Talbot Ecological Land Care

Seth Wilkinson, President of Wilkinson Ecological Design

Cape Associates