BPDA Achievements

E+ (energy positive) Green Buildings

Boston is building homes that are giving back...to the grid, the environment and the community

Mayor Thomas M. Menino's E+ Green Building program continues Boston’s leadership in the global movement towards achiveing more sustainable cities. Boston made its initial major commitment to environmental sustainability and climate change mitigation in 2007 when it became the first US city to incorporate US Green Building Council’s LEED Rating System into its zoning code. Article 37 requires that all large building projects be LEED Certifiable—meaning they must demonstrate the use of renewable materials and energy efficiency strategies, among other standards. Since then, the City has adopted additional sustainability-related initiatives, including the creation of a Climate Action Plan and the establishment of the Greenovate Boston program. Boston’s overall goal, as outlined by Mayor Thomas M. Menino, is to reduce Boston’s greenhouse emissions by 25% by 2020 and by 80% by 2050.

In 2009, the BRA’s Urban Design department and the City’s Department of Neighborhood Development challenged the design, development and construction community to design and build deep green, energy positive homes. A successful "energy positive" home would exceed LEED's highest Platinum rating and actually return clean energy to the grid. The BRA and the City of Boston worked with communities in Roxbury and Jamaica Plain to identify potential pilot project sites, gained local support, and issued the first E+ Green Building request for proposals (RFP) in 2011.

The RFP respondents were to describe building projects which would be “energy positive”, but would also meet several wider goals:

  • Feasibility: Demonstrate the performance, construction, and financial potential for locally built, energy positive, deep green, urban buildings with on-site renewable energy resources.
  • Future Prototype: Construct high performance, green buildings using “on-the-shelf” products and materials, and replicable strategies that can serve as models for future practice.
  • Housing Opportunities Provide new housing opportunities affordable to a range of income earners in sustainable neighborhoods that are connected to nearby transit, work, and community amenities.
  • Awareness: Raise public and professional awareness of the importance and potential for high performance, residential, green buildings and design and construction practices.
  • Urban Design: Reinvigorate Boston neighborhoods with new development that is both expressive of its high performance, green building features and is respectful of its context.

Response to the RFP was unprecedented. 14 teams submitted bold visions for new and traditional building types that exceeded requirements for energy positive and LEED Platinum.  One proposal would generate enough surplus energy to meet all the electrical needs for an additional typical home.  In 2011, three development teams were selected for the three pilot project sites: Urbanica, GFC Development, and Transformations/Sage Builders. The first project broke ground in 2012 and six housing units will be completed by the end of 2013. The homes are built in a range of architectural styles and produce and conserve energy through solar PV and thermal panels, super insulated walls, triple pane windows, heat recovery ventilation systems, and increased sunlight exposure.

Building on this success, E+ is now expanding its reach to larger communities, where the impact of the projects can affect not just individual buildings, but also neighborhood quality of life and equity issues. Following a community planning process in Mission Hill, the BRA released an RFP for E+ Green Community development in that neighborhood. Goals for these projects include:

  • redevelop parcels with new housing, mixed use housing/commercial or commercial and light industrial uses that enhance neighborhood sustainability while retaining community gardening and arts elements.
  • develop productive and interactive landscapes that engage people and seek to create relationships between the built and natural environment.
  • demonstrate the feasibility of Energy Positive Deep Green multi-unit housing,
  • and build energy positive deep green buildings.

E+ is an ongoing initiative at the BRA, and we invite you to check back in at the program’s website to learn about current projects, future RFPs, exhibits, lectures, and news.

Highlights and Achievements

  • 10 energy positive units to be completed by 2013 / 2014.
  • An up to $200 estimated annual payout from utility companies to homes selling excess energy back to the grid.
  • Partnerships with NStar, National Grid, the Massachusetts Chapter of the US Green Building Council, and the Boston Society of Architects.
  • -7 to -9 ratings from the Home Energy Rating System Index, where any project which has a rating under 70 achieves a 5/5 star rating, and a negative rating is necessary to be considered “energy positive”.
  • 5/5 stars from the Home Energy Rating System.
  • 15% to 20% of all E+ units are to be affordable.

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