Green Buildings, Not Greenhouse Gases

Deep Energy Retrofits for Boston’s Largest Buildings

Boston’s buildings are a significant source of the greenhouse gases (GHG) that cause climate change. In fact, over half of total emissions from Boston are produced by just 3% of its buildings. In some properties, like hospitals, high emissions come from energy-intensive activities, but in others they come from energy inefficiency caused by air leaks, inadequate insulation, or older equipment.

The Walsh administration has set a goal of citywide carbon neutrality by 2050, with a 50% reduction of GHG below 2005 levels by 2030. (The interim target aligns with scientific consensus calling for significant worldwide reduction by 2030 to avoid the worst effects of climate change). Retrofitting our most wasteful buildings would go a long way toward meeting these goals.

Boston Climate Action Network’s current campaign focuses on ways that City policy can be changed to expedite retrofits of the city’s largest, most inefficient buildings. Specifically, we advocate the strengthening of the Building Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO). Under the present law, the energy use of buildings over 35,000 square feet in size must be reported annually to the City, but the corrective action required by owners of high-GHG buildings is very limited. The stated consequences for non-compliance are limited, too, and the City does not have the resources to pursue violators. The City of Boston Climate Action Plan 2019 Update, published in October 2019, calls for replacing BERDO’s limited requirements with a new “building emissions performance standard.”

Over half of total emissions from Boston are produced by just 3% of its buildings.

BostonCAN insists that, to achieve the City’s carbon reduction goals:

  • the building emission performance standard must be set high,
  • enforcement must be strict, and
  • the City must allocate enough resources.

For more details on these points, please read our November 2020 letter to Chief Cook. To learn more, follow our blog, subscribe to our newsletter, attend a meeting, or call (617) 971-8568.