Developments in Architecture | Transcript from M. David Lee
September 16, 2020

M. DAVID LEE, PResident, Stull & LEE | A Better City COnversation 

"No man is an island, entire of itself every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less..  Any man's death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."

English poet, John Donne

Architects are by nature optimist, futurists, social, and in my opinion, the best of us are compassionate people persons.

How one thinks about practice today and the foreseeable future has to start with full recognition of the GLOBAL context in which we are living and working now.

While particularly at the firm's leadership level, we are concerned about the workplace and the work environment, at large, we have to care first about the people we work with and the clients we serve. We, as principals, have to care about our employee's immediate life circumstances and the unprecedented and inescapable pressures that all of us are dealing with right now.

From a business standpoint, many of the things we are worried about before the pandemic are still there!

  • Producing good work
  • Assembling the best staff and consultants
  • Working efficiently
  • Billing and getting paid promptly
  • Good service to our clients
  • Bringing in new work

These things are still vital but now we have to care more than ever about the health and wellbeing of those we work within and out of the office, far beyond previous norms.

Every individual's circumstance is unique and while a controlled office environment offers a certain amount of order and continuity, remote learning is another proposition. At both ends, it started with trying to find, as a principal, the right balance between reasonable work expectations and recognition of the major social and emotional . . .

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Berdo Energy Assessment Compliance Findings - September 2020
September 10, 2020

WRITTEN BY YVE TORRIE, DIRECTOR OF CLIMATE, ENERGY & RESILIENCE & MARIA MASOOD, Intern

Based on the City of Boston’s 2019 Climate Action Plan update, in 2020 the City of Boston committed to a Building Emission Performance Standard aimed at putting existing buildings on a trajectory to zero net carbon by 2050. The City of Boston is interested in integrating this standard with its current Building Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO) program.

BERDO was enacted in 2013, requiring large buildings to report their annual energy and water use to the City. The goal of BERDO is to reduce energy use or greenhouse gas emissions over time within Boston’s large and medium-sized buildings. It consists of reporting and disclosing annual energy and water use for buildings over 35,000 square feet, and an energy assessment or major energy savings action every five years. To comply with the five-year requirement, buildings must demonstrate that they are highly efficient, have achieved significant reductions in carbon emissions, or have performed an energy audit:

  • Highly Efficient Buildings can demonstrate their high efficiency in several ways:
    • EPA Energy Star Certification buildings must have earned this certification for 3 or more of the previous 5 years;
    • LEED Silver Certification buildings must have 15 points in Energy and Atmosphere; and
    • Zero-net Energy, Zero-net Carbon, and E+ buildings must generate or purchase an amount of renewable energy equal to or greater than its consumption in the course of a year.
  • Energy Action Buildings must have a minimum reduction of at least 15 percent over the last five years of a building’s:
    • Total site energy consumption;
    • Site energy use intensity;
    • Total greenhouse gas emissions, excluding changes to the electricity grid;
    • Greenhouse gas intensity, excluding changes to the . . .

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Build Back Better or Bust: Why 2020 Must be a Year of Bold Climate Action
September 10, 2020

Written by Isabella Gambill, Senior Policy Advisory on climate, energy, & resilience 

Currently, the Greater Boston region is faced with one of the more complex economic, health, political, and social justice moments of our lifetime. With anticipated state budgetary shortfalls of between $6B-8B in addition to overburdened and underfunded municipal governments, the legislative focus has shifted from bold climate, transportation, and healthcare policies, to relief strategies to ensure that residents survive the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite our state’s leadership in education and the provision of social services, at the moment Massachusetts is faced with some of the highest food insecurity numbers for children in the country, and the highest unemployment number of any state: over 17% as of June 20201. Desperate times require even bolder solutions if all our communities are to not only survive but also thrive in the future. Now is our chance to re-imagine what we want to prioritize as we rebuild in order to safeguard Boston’s economic vitality, sustainability, competitiveness, resilience, and equitable growth.

 

The Greater Boston business community has a unique role to play in this recovery process. Currently, the business community lacks diversity, equity, and inclusion; by empowering marginalized voices that traditionally have been excluded from the business world and centering them in our work, the better we will all be at representing the communities that we serve. New opportunities for partnership with diverse stakeholders can also help to unveil emerging markets in climate finance, clean energy deployment, and to identify talent that could spur further innovation and growth. Beyond broader representation in the business world, we also have an opportunity for structural change in how we do business, by 1) ensuring funding structures incorporate equity; 2) ensuring workforce development can . . .

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Event Recap: A Better City Conversations: Adaptations and New Developments in Architecture
September 02, 2020

WRITTEN BY Turner Skenderian, Marketing, Membership, and Communications Manager

On Tuesday, August 18th, A Better City hosted a dialogue around Adaptations and New Developments in Architecture. The purpose of this program was to discuss the industry, how firms have adapted, and the future of cities. We welcomed presentations from M. David Lee, President of Stull & Lee, David Manfredi, CEO & Founding Principal of Elkus Manfredi, and Mark Walsh-Cooke of Principal, ARUP. While each firm brought different perspectives to how they’ve navigated the COVID-19 pandemic, there were strong themes of opportunity in diversifying projects, strengthening of their work through technology, and designing projects to meet lifestyles and functionalities responsibly.

Rick Dimino welcomed colleagues and presenters over the Zoom meeting shortly before introducing our guest speakers. M. David Lee began his powerful and insightful presentation with a quote from the English Poet, John Donne. When looking into the future of Architecture, Lee said “Architects are by nature, optimists, futurists, social, and in my opinion the best of us are compassionate people persons.” How one thinks about practice today and in the foreseeable future has to start with full recognition of a global context in which we are living and in working now.

Stull & Lee share their office space with three other firms and continued to go into the office before the virus accelerated. Since then, they have worked remotely and began reopening their office with the rest of the Commonwealth earlier this summer. They have a hybrid working model in place because while much remains the same in terms of business, they care more than ever about the well-being of their employees and clients. They have set reasonable work expectations in the balance of social and mental safety acknowledging flexibility is essential in this new reality. When looking at their national . . .

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Event Recap: A Better City Conversations: Back to the Office – If, When, and How?
August 19, 2020

Written By Scott Mullen, Transportation Demand Management Director 

What do you do in uncertain times? You circle the wagons and gather information. On August 13th at noon, A Better City convened a panel of business leaders to discuss their reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic and how their workforces have adjusted to date. We then explored their current plans to resume office work, how that might look from a transportation perspective, and when they expect to reopen.

In such a dynamic environment – and with such a diverse representation of business operation types – we placed special emphasis on the plans and policies that will help move us past COVID and tried to tease out which strategies might have ‘stickiness’ once the pandemic has subsided.

We started the meeting off with an update from A Better City TMA Operations Manager, Marissa Rivera providing an overview of our work since the pandemic took hold. In April, we launched the GoMassCommute platform in partnership with several other Massachusetts TMAs. GoMassCommute provides access to robust data on aggregated commute patterns, which has been deepening as we’ve seen increasing adoption of the platform over the months since launch. In an early teaser to commuter survey data coming in through a partnership with the Boston Transportation Department and the Bloomberg American Cities Climate Challenge, we dug into responses around planned commute changes, which are currently quite evenly split among commuters planning to continue driving alone, continue to use their habitual sustainable mode, switch to a new mode, or currently feeling unsure. This emerging pattern indicates that we are in a key moment for introducing innovations to drive behavior change; half of respondents are either planning to change their habitual commuting modes or are unsure of how they plan to go forward. This led to an appropriate launch into the meeting and . . .

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Event Recap: Resilient MA Action Team: Climate Resilient Design Standards & Evaluation Tool
August 12, 2020

Wednesday, August 5th, 2020 | ZOOM MEETING
Mia mansfield, director of climate adaptation and resilience, MA Executive Office of energy and environmental affairs

On Wednesday, August 5th, A Better City hosted an ABC Conversation with Mia Mansfield, the Director of Climate Adaptation and Resilience at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, to learn what the Resilient MA Action Team (RMAT) is doing to develop climate resilience design standards and a screening tool for state projects.

In her role at the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA), Mia Mansfield directs the implementation of Massachusetts’ 2018 State Hazard Mitigation and Climate Adaptation Plan (SHMCAP), focusing on two key bodies of work: the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness grant program (MVP program), and the RMAT, an inter-agency team tasked with implementing the 2018 SHMCAP across state agencies. Most recently, RMAT developed climate resilience design standards and a climate resilience evaluation tool for state agencies to use in state projects, with the intention that this tool could also be used by other stakeholders down the track. This meeting was requested with our members as they seek stakeholder input into the design standards and evaluation tool to date.

Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Program (MVP Program)

The MVP Program is a two-phase grant program that supports municipalities across Massachusetts in the funding of municipal vulnerability plans and priority actions. Thus far, 82% of municipalities across the commonwealth have participated in the MVP program. MVP focuses on three core areas: planning, nature-based solutions, and resilience through redesign and retrofits for critical facilities. By releasing a set of state-level climate design standards and a climate resilience evaluation tool, the RMAT will help to guide the implementation . . .

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MassDEP’s Draft 2020-2030 Solid Waste Master Plan: Re-Opening the Public Comment Period
August 05, 2020

WRITTEN BY yve torrie, director of climate, energy & resilience

Every 10 years, the Commonwealth prepares a new 10-year Solid Waste Master Plan that establishes the framework, goals, future directions, and strategies for solid waste management in Massachusetts. The Draft 2020-2030 Solid Waste Master Plan was released in the Fall of 2019 and five public hearings have been held to date, with additional hearings scheduled for the coming weeks.

As communicated in a recent presentation, the 2020-2030 Draft Plan lays out three key goals: to reduce waste disposal 30% by 2030; to reduce waste disposal 90% by 2050; and to reduce the toxicity of the solid waste stream. Highlighted strategies include reduction, reuse, recycling, and composting. Food waste and cardboard present the greatest opportunities for diversion.

 

The draft plan recommends the following strategies for commercial waste reduction:

  • Reduce the waste ban failed load rate from 26% to 10% by 2030. (Some materials have been banned from municipal, commercial and industrial waste e.g. recyclable paper and cardboard, glass/aluminum/metal/plastic containers, and leaf and yard waste[i]. If banned materials end up in a load of trash, “failed loads” may occur).
  • Target specific materials for diversion or reduction– food, cardboard, furniture, mattresses & other bulky materials
  • Reduce the . . .

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Member Spotlight: Hospitality and Entertainment Organizations During COVID-19
August 05, 2020

Written by Stephanie Eggers, fellow

A Better City members continue to step up during these difficult times to help frontline workers and committing unused resources in order to help those most impacted by the pandemic and explore ways to safely bring patrons back to entertainment spaces. These actions are helping adapt in-person operations to virtual events and support a united relief effort within the community at large. Our final member spotlight this week focuses on the work of hospitality and entertainment organizations in the A Better City Community that are actively engaged in work to reopen spaces to the public safety as well as provide public relief with their valuable resources.

PUTTING COMMUNITY FIRST

Our members recognize the unique opportunities they have to make a positive impact in their community during the fight against COVID-19 to ensure local frontline workers are properly protected and help those most vulnerable or impacted by the pandemic.

  • In March, as businesses shuttered and sports were suspended, the Red Sox donated $1 million to pay their ballpark and seasonal employees.i
  • Intercontinental Hotel & Residences (IHG) ii, Marriot Internationaliii, and Seaport Hoteliv dedicated their unused hotel rooms to provide healthcare workers with free accommodations close to hospitals. IHG partnered with #FirstRespondersFirst in this effort, Marriot International provided over $10 million worth of hotel stays for healthcare professionals in the most impacted areas or discounted rooms for those that wanted to be closer to their hospital. Seaport Hotel partnered . . .

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Member Spotlight: Educational Institutions During COVID-19
July 29, 2020

WRITTEN BY STEPHANIE EGGERS, FELLOW

A Better City members continue to step up during these difficult times to ensure that higher education can resume through the pandemic and develop comprehensive reopening plans and strategies to give students and faculty peace of mind in eventually resuming in-person classes. Their actions not only ensure the safety of their local university communities but also help protect their households and those in the surrounding neighborhoods and beyond.

Educational Institutions
Boston University
Harvard
MIT
Roxbury Community College
UMass Boston

This week’s spotlight focuses on the work of educational institutions in the A Better City Community. Our members are actively engaged in the community to limit the spread by reducing in-person operations as much as possible as well as leading the way with comprehensive reopening plans to pursue traditional education while keeping students and faculty safe.

Putting Community First

Our members recognize their role in their surrounding communities with the resources available on a university campus that can make a positive impact . . .

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BERDO ENERGY ASSESSMENT COMPLIANCE FINDINGS
July 29, 2020

WRITTEN BY: YVE TORRIE, DIRECTOR OF CLIMATE, ENERGY & RESILIENCE & MARIA MASOOD, INTERN

INTRODUCTION 

Based on the City of Boston’s 2019 Climate Action Plan update, in 2020 the City of Boston committed to a Building Emission Performance Standard aimed at putting existing buildings on a trajectory to zero net carbon by 2050. The City of Boston is interested in integrating this standard with its current Building Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO) program.

The goal of BERDO is to reduce energy use or greenhouse gas emissions over time within Boston’s large and medium-sized buildings. It consists of reporting and disclosing annual energy and water use for buildings over 35,000 square feet, and an energy assessment or major energy savings action every five years.  To comply with the energy assessment requirement of BERDO, one of the following improvements must be demonstrated:

  • A reduction by at least 15 percent or more over the last five years of a building’s:
    • energy usage;
    • energy use intensity;
    • annual greenhouse gas emissions, excluding changes to the electricity grid, or;
    • greenhouse gas intensity, excluding changes to the electricity grid.
  • An improvement of a building’s Energy Star rating by at least 15 points

To understand the effectiveness of BERDO’s energy assessment or major energy saving action every five years, the Boston Green Ribbon Commission’s (GRC’s) Commercial Real Estate Working Group and A Better City (ABC), are conducting an analysis of member buildings that have been required to comply with the energy assessment/energy savings action to date. The goal of this analysis is to understand what percentage of GRC/ABC member buildings have completed the assessment using which compliance pathways, and what percentage have not . . .

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