News & Updates

BPDA Passes Smart Utilities Policy

Jun 14, 2018

The Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) Board of Directors voted to approve a Smart Utilities Policy that will ensure that new large developments are taking steps to create a more resilient city. The new policy, launched as a two-year pilot program, incorporates five Smart Utility Technologies into Article 80 Development Review, and BPDA Development Review Guidelines. The pilot calls for the adoption of technologies aimed at preparing Boston’s utility infrastructure for the impacts of climate change, including increased flood risks, heat waves and stronger storms, reducing costs for end users, and reducing traffic congestion and roadway construction.

We know in order to build a more resilient Boston, we must prepare our infrastructure today for a changing climate," said Mayor Martin J. Walsh. "The Smart Utilities Policy will move Boston closer to becoming a 'smart city' by working with the private sector to implement new technologies that will benefit our entire city."

"The Smart Utilities Policy, the first of its kind in the United States, aims to bring more coordinated, resilient infrastructure planning to the City of Boston," said Brian Golden, Director of the BPDA.  "We are proud to have crafted a policy that is reasonable and flexible while moving forward with the integration of new technologies that will prepare Boston for the future impacts of climate change." 

Two years ago, the BPDA and City of Boston launched the Smart Utilities Vision project, an interdepartmental initiative aimed toward developing strategies for more equitable, sustainable, affordable, resilient, and innovative utility services in the City of Boston. The Smart Utilities for Article 80 Development Review, which builds off of recently adopted citywide strategic plans Imagine Boston 2030 , Resilient Boston andClimate Ready Boston, is a result of this initiative.

The Smart Utilities Policy calls for the incorporation of five Smart Utility Technologies (SUTs) into new Article 80 developments based on each project’s ability to meet a variety of criteria. Each SUT is the result of an engineering and/or policy recommendation to:

  • Promote utilities that are easier to build, maintain and upgrade
  • Reduce energy/water/telecommunication costs for residents and businesses
  • Harden infrastructure against flooding and heat waves
  • Attract businesses through world-class utility services
  • Integrate cutting edge technologies for innovation

The five SUTs, or technologies, selected for the policy were chosen based on stakeholder engagement with technical experts, developers, and City staff, as well as for each technologies’ financial feasibility. Each technology is detailed below, along with information on the types of developments they will apply to moving forward:

  1. District Energy Microgrid - A centralized energy system buildings that has the ability to produce electricity on clustered development sites while using excess heat for energy to heat and cool buildings. The system normally operates via a connection to the main electric utility grid, but it can also be disconnected during power outages and continue providing electric, heating, and cooling needs. This technology will apply to Article 80 projects over 1.5 million square feet.
  2. Green Infrastructure - Infrastructure that allows rainwater to filter into the ground in order to prevent storm runoff and change the course of excessive stormwater to flow into the water and sewer system. This technology will apply to Article 80 projects over 100,000 square feet.
  3. Adaptive Signal Technology - Smart traffic signals and sensors that communicate with each other to make various types of travel (pedestrian, vehicle, bicycle) safer and more efficient. This technology will apply to all projects that require signal installation or upgrades.
  4. Smart Street Lights - Traditional light poles will be designed with additional electrical and fiber optics connections at the pole for future deployment of smart sensors, Wi-Fi, and/or cameras. This technology will apply to all projects requiring street light installation or upgrades.
  5. Telecom Utilidor - An underground tube used to consolidate the wiring installed for cable, internet, and other telecom services, with ample space to add more wiring over time Access to the wiring is available through manholes, reducing the need for street openings to install telecom services. This technology will apply to Article 80 projects over 1.5 million square feet or projects that cover over a half mile of roadway.

"Building owners understand that they play a big role in making our cities more sustainable and resilient,” said Dr. Sarah Slaughter, CEO and President Built Environment Coalition. “The upfront coordination of infrastructure planning being proposed by the BPDA will help these owners to implement high performance and cost effective solutions.”

The policy for District Energy Microgrids is crafted with an eye toward being reasonable and flexible.   Developers will only be asked to move forward with including District Energy if there is demonstrated economic feasibility and return on investment.     

The Smart Utilities Policy demonstrates progress toward the City’s climate goals to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 and to prepare Boston for the impacts of climate change. Under Mayor Walsh, Boston is working to advance and accelerate progress toward its goals in many ways, including an analysis of the options to achieve carbon neutrality and the City’s ongoing work to identify climate resiliency measures in the Boston’s most vulnerable neighborhoods.

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