|Transportation & Infrastructure||Land Use & Development||Environment & Energy|
As the climate changes, our infrastructure must evolve as well. Boston must make its infrastructure resilient to climate change hazards like extreme temperature, extreme precipitation, rising seas and coastal storms.
A Better City is working with multiple stakeholders to monitor climate change projections, educate constituents, and provide adaptation tools and resources for decisions and planning around development.
Climate Ready Boston is a long-term climate preparedness planning process for the Greater Boston region led by the City of Boston in collaboration with the Green Ribbon Commission.
As a coastal city, Boston is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change: sea level rise, more frequent severe weather events, more severe flooding, and increased urban heat. The commercial real estate (CRE) sector must make use of available tools, technologies and strategies to prepare for the effects of climate change that are already ‘locked in,’ in order to ensure the economic security of Boston’s future.
A Better City is driving action on climate resilience through three avenues:
The Building Resiliency Toolkit provides information on potential structural interventions that can make commercial building more resilient to climate change.
Commercial building owners are not always aware of the resources and technologies available to help improve resiliency.
A Better City developed the Toolkit along with the report, Enhancing Resilience in Boston, to provide commercial building owners with information about available technologies and to help perform a preliminary assessment of potential regulatory touch points within the city and state.
Cities and businesses can help combat the threat of climate change by taking steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
A Better City is helping Boston’s commercial real estate and business sectors reduce carbon emissions through both demand-side and supply-side innovations. The goals: to reduce Boston’s carbon emissions to 25% below 1990 levels by 2020, and to be carbon neutral by 2050.
With approximately 50% of Boston’s GHG emissions coming from large buildings and institutions, including numerous commercial buildings, it is clear that the commercial real estate (CRE) sector must be a driving force in meeting these goals. Because of the scale of the commercial building sector, innovations in the way buildings consume and produce energy have an outsized effect on the region’s carbon emissions.
A Better City is driving action on emissions reduction through two avenues:
1. The Sustainable Buildings Initiative: The Sustainable Buildings Initiative engages a core group of representatives from member companies to drive action on topics related to sustainability and climate resilience in commercial real estate. The group convenes quarterly to hear from experts about innovative developments in energy efficiency, renewable energy, waste, water and mobile source emissions. A Better City also keeps participants up to date on current incentives and programmatic updates from the utilities, State, City and other partners. In addition, the Initiative provides resources like the Emissions Reduction Toolkit to help educate property managers and owners about the tools available to reduce Scope 1 and 2 emissions from their buildings. For more information, see https://sustainablebuildingsinitiative.org.
2. The Green Ribbon Commission’s Commercial Real Este Working Group (CREWG): A Better City facilitates the Boston Green Ribbon Commission’s Commercial Real Estate Working Group to support the City’s climate goals by focusing on high-level policy, advocacy, communication and participation, supported by pertinent research, pilot projects, and demonstration models. Carbon reduction examples include engaging with the Energy Efficiency Advisory Council and program administrators to expand efficiency program savings, and engaging the commercial sector on energy efficiency and renewable energy topics. Specific research in 2017 included: Sustainable Tenant Fit-Out and Improvement Guide; and The Commercial Net Zero Energy Building Market in Boston Two events were co-hosted with the Sustainable Buildings Initiative to launch these publications: a Landlord-Tenant Forum to increase communication between landlords and tenants; and a panel discussion, A Path to Zero? The Role of Net Zero Energy Buildings in Boston focused on achieving net zero energy in Boston's commercial
On Thursday, January 21, A Better City hosted the team supporting the Boston Planning and Development Agency’s (BPDA) Zero Net Carbon (ZNC) Zoning Standard development process. Kate Dineen, Executive Vice President, and Yve Torrie, Director of Climate, Energy, and Resilience, at A Better City, welcomed John Dalzell, Senior Architect for Sustainability at the BPDA, and members of the ZNC consulting team, including Alejandra Menchaca and Colin Schless of Thornton Tomasetti, Jacob Knowles of the BR+A, Debra Perry of Cadmus (representing SolSmart), and Vincent Martinez of Architecture 2030. The purpose of the meeting was to provide members of the real estate community with an update on the ZNC Zoning Standard development process and how it fits with other climate priorities of the City and Commonwealth. Dalzell, Menchaca, Perry, and Martinez each presented on an aspect of the standard.
A Better City convened with longtime partners CustomerFirst Renewables to discuss the importance of current market realities and shared proactive strategies for management of energy spending for organizations to reduce costs and limit budget uncertainty. We were thrilled to have Bob Griffin, Vice President Business Development, David Rissmiller, Vice President Wholesale & Retail Energy Services, and Win Sheffield, Senior Engagement Manager, Client Service & Innovation join us for the program.
A Better City hosted an event with staff from the City of Boston and members of the real estate community interested in engaging in net zero building policy. Yve Torrie, Director of Climate, Energy, and Resilience at A Better City welcomed Alison Brizius, Director of Climate and Environmental Planning for the City of Boston’s Environment Department, and Richard McGuiness, Deputy Director for Climate Change and Environmental Planning at the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA). To kick off the meeting, Yve highlighted the building codes work A Better City and Boston’s Green Ribbon Commission’s Commercial Real Estate Working Group have engaged in over the past two years. This work includes the ongoing convening of members that have developed and are advocating for a set of net zero buildings policy principles. These principles were released in June by ABC and can be accessed here. They include recommendations to jurisdictions, including the City of Boston, on technical considerations, implementation actions, and process steps for effectively developing net zero policies to achieve ambitious climate targets.
The June 29th panel event launched a new Boston Green Ribbon Commission and A Better City report, Thermal Electrification of Large Buildings in the Commonwealth that analyses the current feasibility of thermal electrification in large buildings in the Commonwealth. With 51.6% of greenhouse gas emissions in the City of Boston in 2017 from commercial, industrial, and large residential buildings, thermal electrification is considered a key pathway for reaching carbon neutrality goals by 2050.
Senator Barrett, Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy, and Vice Chair of the Senate Oversight Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change, was welcomed by Yve Torrie, Director of Climate, Energy & Resilience at A Better City. As co-author of the Senate’s climate policy package released in January 2020: An Act Setting Next Generation Climate Policy; An Act to Accelerate the Transition of Cars, Trucks, and Buses to Carbon-Free Power; and An Act Relative to Energy Savings Efficiency, Senator Barrett presented key details that included data that helped determine the sectoral focus of this policy package: transportation and buildings.
In partnership with the Environmental League of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Business Roundtable, Ceres, and the Alliance for Business Leadership, A Better City co-sponsored an event looking at the business community’s perspectives around offshore wind in Massachusetts. The event highlighted the potential that offshore wind could have on the Massachusetts economy, on how offshore wind continues to grow (and in some cases, get stalled) in the region, and how business organizations can participate in the offshore wind industry.
A Better City was proud to have strong membership representation at the business forum on offshore wind, with Jim Goudreau (Novartis), Dustin Sarnoski (State Street), and Dennis Villanueva (Partners Healthcare) sharing their perspectives on what offshore wind could mean for their organizations’ business. The panel discussed each organization’s climate commitments, as well as the various challenges like tackling scope 3 emissions (particularly in financial lending institutions), committing to science-based targets, and what policies might be necessary to scale up offshore wind activity in Massachusetts. In addition to member participation on the second panel of the MA Business Forum on Offshore Wind, ABC was also proud to have our Executive Vice President Kate Dineen close out the event with her perspective on business participation in Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) and how ABC’s PPA efforts have helped to catalyze our business.
As a part of ongoing efforts to catalyze and scale up offshore wind activity in the New England region, the Environmental League of Massachusetts has announced the launch of the New England for Offshore Wind Coalition.
ABC is actively engaged in both city and state-level policy when it comes to climate and energy policy. In state house hearings, coalition meetings, and meetings with city officials, many stakeholders are calling for more involvement of business stakeholders in climate and energy policy. Particularly when it comes to meeting our emissions reductions commitments and scaling up investment in clean energy infrastructure, engaging the private sector will be vital in helping Massachusetts to continue to be seen as a climate leader. ABC is advocating on behalf of the Greater Boston business community for climate and energy policy that is equitable across all sectors, can be applied regionally, and that works across both mitigation and adaptation.
Whether discussing building energy performance or how to make our critical infrastructure resilient to climate change, our members have shown true leadership and commitment to climate and energy policies in Massachusetts. In the last year, ABC has participated in multiple state house hearings to provide testimony on climate and energy bills, we have updated our policy agenda to officially support a transition to net zero emissions economy-wide by 2050, and we have engaged both city and state government in discussions around how to pragmatically achieve our emissions reductions targets. ABC looks forward to continuing to engage in climate policy, on topics like interim emissions reductions targets, sector-specific targets, best practices for carbon offsets, climate finance, and more.
ABC is a member of various policy coalitions. In house, ABC hosts the buildings policy coalition, in which representatives from large buildings across sectors in the Boston area discuss advocacy principles and engagement strategies around policy relevant to large buildings. In addition, ABC participates in multiple climate and clean energy policy coalitions in an effort to introduce more business perspectives into climate policy discussions. These coalitions include:
*denotes a policy group that is hosted in house by A Better City’s Energy and Environment Unit
Through our participation in policy coalitions that span across sectors and include a diversity of voices from the advocates to the business and private sector space, ABC is able to influence broader coalition narratives and principles. We look forward to working with our colleagues and partners across sectors and ideologies in order to move comprehensive, regional climate policy forward in Massachusetts.
In addition to policy work and working with our members on energy efficiency and resiliency measures in large buildings, the Energy and Environment unit also performs research relevant to climate, energy, and resilience concerns for the buildings sector in particular. Please find below some of our research published in the last five years, which may also be found on our website’s publications page:
A Better City strives to provide technical assistance and resources to its membership, through the publication of technical guidance around the sustainable use of large buildings, a climate resilience toolkit for buildings, and more. Many of the resources created thus far have been done in partnership with the Sustainable Buildings Initiative (SBI). Please see below some of the offerings that ABC has to share when it comes to technical assistance: