Boston Smart Utilities Program

Smart Utilities Policy Summary | Review Process for Article 80 Projects | October 2020 Program Update | BSU Program History & Background | List of all Documents and Studies

On October 15, 2020, the BPDA Board approved an update to the Boston Smart Utilities Program. On this page, you can learn about the Boston Smart Utilities Program, access the Boston Smart Utilities Policy, receive guidance on the Smart Utilities review process for Article 80 development projects, and learn about the Smart Utilities Vision that led to the current Program.

Overview

The Boston Smart Utilities (BSU) Program is aimed toward developing strategies for more efficient, equitable, sustainable, resilient, and innovative utility services in the City of Boston. We accomplish across energy, water, telecommunications, and transportation utility services and infrastructure, as part of the Article 80 Development Review process, by (1) providing a new model for upfront, integrated utility planning, and design; and (2) encouraging the deployment of Smart Utility Technologies (SUTs).

In order to achieve an upfront, integrated utility planning, and design, we have developed a process to review utility systems and infrastructure as part of the Article 80 Development Review process. The process includes submitting and updating a Smart Utilities Checklist and a Utility Site Plan (USP) at different stages of development review. (See Review Process for Article 80 Projects for details.)

In order to encourage the deployment of SUTs, we implement the Smart Utilities Policy for Article 80 Development Review, which calls for the integration of five (5) Smart Utility Technologies (SUTs) into Article 80 projects, depending on several thresholds. (See Smart Utilities Policy Summary for details.)

Smart Utilities Policy Summary: SUTs and Thresholds

The Smart Utilities Policy for Article 80 Development Review calls for the integration of five (5) Smart Utility Technologies (SUTs) into Article 80 projects. Each SUT applies at a different threshold. The Policy was first adopted in 2018 and was last updated in 2020. The updated 2020 Policy can be accessed via the following link.

Table 1 describes each of the five (5) SUTs that are included in the updated Policy.

Table 1 - Summary description of Five (5) Smart Utility Technologies (SUTs) included in the Smart Utilities Policy for Article 80 Development Review
Smart Utility Technology (SUTs) Summary Description
District Energy Microgrid Energy system for clusters of buildings that serve electric and/or thermal energy needs on site. These systems normally operate connected to the main electric utility grid, but can disconnect (“island”) during power outages to continue providing electric/heating/cooling needs to end-users. District Energy Microgrid systems can rely entirely on renewable sources of energy. District Energy Microgrid systems can be designed and implemented in a modular form, serving an initial energy load and progressively adding modules as the energy loads increase.
Green Infrastructure An approach for water management that uses infrastructure such as bioretention basins and permeable pavers to mimic and restore natural processes. Different types of GI provide different co-benefits, such as stormwater retention, pollution control, and mitigation of urban heat island effect, etc.
Traffic, Transit, Bike & Pedestrian Supporting Technology Smart traffic signals and sensors that communicate with each other to make multimodal travel safer and more efficient.
Smart Street Lights Traditional light poles that are equipped with smart sensors, wifi, cameras, etc. for health, equity, safety, traffic management, and other benefits.
Telecom Utilidor An underground duct bank used to consolidate the wires and fiber optics installed for cable, internet, and other telecom services. Access to the duct bank is available through manholes. Significantly reduces the need for street openings to install telecom services.

Table 2 summarizes the key provisions and requirements of the Policy, including the development project size thresholds that would trigger the use of the technology.

Table 2 - Summary of size threshold and other specifications for the 5 SUTs included in the Smart Utilities Policy for Article 80 Development Review
(Note: This table is only for informational purposes. Please refer to the latest version of the Smart Utilities Policy for Article 80 Development Review to review the details.)
Smart Utility Technology (SUTs) Article 80 Size Threshold SUTs requirement
District Energy Microgrid >1.5 million SF Feasibility Assessment for Advanced Energy Systems, primarily renewable options, in collaboration with Climate Action Plan (CAP) and Climate Ready Boston (CRB) teams; if feasible, then Master Plan & District Energy Microgrid Ready design
Green Infrastructure >100,000 SF Install to retain 1.25'' rainfall on impervious areas and use priority maps to promote other GI benefits
Traffic, Transit, Bike & Pedestrian Supporting Technology If in corridor of interest, in coordination with BTD Integrate technology and/or infrastructure (i.e., shadow conduit) to support interconnection of traffic signals, BRT TSP, AST, other Active Transportation supportive technology)
Smart Street Lights If significant sidewalk reconstruction, in coordination with PIC and PWD Lay out additional fiber and electric shadow conduit on sidewalks
Telecom Utilidor >1.5 million SF of Development, or >0.5 miles of Roadway or >1.5 million SF in priority corridor Install Telecom Utilidor on applicable streets

Review Process for Article 80 Projects — Information for Article 80 Project Proponents

The Smart Utilities review for Article 80 projects is an iterative process embedded into the different stages of the Article 80 Development Review process, and involves the collaborative review by several departments and agencies of the City of Boston.

In order to initiate the Smart Utilities review, project proponents must submit the items described below as part of their Project Notification Form (PNF) submission.

Once submitted, the Smart Utilities Team and the Smart Utilities Review Committee will review the items and provide comments and request for additional information via filing a comment letter with the respective BPDA Project Manager. Depending on the complexity of the comments and requests for additional information, the Smart Utilities Team may request a follow-up meeting with the project proponent.

Project proponents should then respond to the comments and requests for additional information in any subsequent filings (i.e., Draft Project Impact Report, DPIR). Iterative review can occur between filings and may be requested by the project proponent and/or the SmartUtilities Team.

All final commitments resulting from the Smart Utilities review are included in the BPDA Board Memorandum for the project. Information about the commitments is also transferred to other relevant departments or agencies for further implementation.

Items to be included for the Smart Utilities review

  • Utility Site Plan (USP)
    A Utility Site Plan showing all utility service and infrastructure relevant to the BSU Program. A list of the utility services and infrastructure relevant to the BSU Program to include in the USP is available here.
  • COBUCS Report
    A report of any conflicts that arise when the project is entered into the City of Boston Utility Coordination Software (COBUCS) and a plan for how the project proponent intends to address the conflict with the relevant entities.
  • Smart Utilities Checklist
    A Smart Utilities Checklist with information for the relevant SUTs that apply to the project. The Smart Utilities Checklist template is available here. The Smart Utilities Checklist can be submitted here.

    After submitting a Smart Utilities Checklist you will receive:
    1. A confirmation email with a PDF of your completed checklist.
    2. A separate email with a link that you can use to update your initial submission. Do not submit a new Smart Utilities Checklist if you misplace the link. Email the Smart Utilities Team if you need to locate your original submission link.
  • District Energy Microgrid Feasibility Assessment and Master Plan (for projects over 1.5 million square feet)
    Proponents of projects larger than 1.5 million square feet must carry out a District Energy Microgrid Feasibility Assessment and District Energy Microgrid Master Plan.

    The District Energy Microgrid Feasibility Assessment is reviewed by the Smart Utilities Team in an iterative manner with an energy expert. If the assessment shows that a District Energy Microgrid is technically and financially feasible, then the developer will be asked to prepare and implement a District Energy Microgrid Master Plan that will continue to guide and inform the phasing-in of the development. The goal is to balance benefits in terms of GHG emission reduction, enhancement of energy resilience during outages, and energy cost reduction to the end-users.

    Note: Updated versions of the District Energy Microgrid Feasibility Assessment and Master Plan Outlines are in being developed for new technologies. The Outlines below, which were developed for the two-year pilot of the BSU program (2018-2020), provide a representative scope of the work. Feel free to get in touch with the Smart Utilities Team to inquire about the status of the updates.

October 2020 Update

On October 15, 2020, the Smart Utilities Team presented an assessment of the two-year pilot and recommended updates to the BSU Program and BSU Policy to the BPDA Board. The updates to the BSU Program and Policy were based on the experiences and lessons learned during the two-year pilot period.

You can access a recording of the presentation here (BSU Policy at 58min:50sec)
You can access the slide deck used for the presentation here.

As of October 2020, the Program had interacted with 105 projects subject to the Article 80 Development Review process, totaling over 57 million square feet of development. Each of these projects has been reviewed for all applicable Suits, based on the BSU Policy specifications and thresholds (see Smart Utilities Policy Summary).

As part of the update, the BSU Steering Committee recommended updating the scope of District Energy Microgrids and aligning it with the City’s carbon neutrality goals laid out in the Climate Action Plan. The work to decarbonize the scope of District Energy Microgrids for the new, large, multi-building real estate developments is underway (see Smart Utilities Policy Summary - District Energy Microgrid).

Furthermore, the BPDA approved the Smart Utilities Team to further develop two new SUTs:

  • Microgrid-ready building design standards
  • Broadband-ready buildings

The work associated with these two SUTs will include engagement with all the relevant stakeholders prior to their inclusion into the Policy.

Background and History

The Need for a Smart Utilities Vision

In 2015, the BPDA and the City of Boston launched the Smart Utilities Vision project (“SUV project”), an interdepartmental initiative led by the BPDA aimed toward developing strategies for more equitable, sustainable, affordable, resilient, and innovative utility services in the City of Boston.

Over the years it has become increasingly clear to City staff in different departments involved in planning, design and construction that utility and infrastructure construction and maintenance is often inefficient and unsustainable. For instance, repetitive street openings cause business downtime, and innovation is stifled due to a lack of an integrated utility planning framework. Moreover, with modern information systems and technologies, there are more efficient, equitable and sustainable ways of designing and building utilities and infrastructure that improve upon the “business as usual” approach.

The need for this coordinated utility infrastructure planning at the earliest stages of the development review process was made evident by the recent rapid construction of certain neighborhoods of the City, such as the South Boston Waterfront. While some new approaches to the development of the district were very positive, the “business as usual” approach to some utility planning failed to maximize district-scale opportunities for the deployment of SUTs and continues to result in multiple costly and unnecessary street openings.

The SUV project responded directly to city-wide strategic plans. For example, Imagine Boston 2030 identifies District Energy Microgrids as one means to increase climate resiliency during grid power outages and improve equity by decreasing energy costs. Resilient Boston identifies Green Infrastructure as a tool to increase resilience to flooding and as a source of new jobs.

Achieving the goals of these city-wide plans related to utility and infrastructure required a new model for utility planning and design that integrates infrastructure planning across City departments, and facilitates the deployment of SUTs. The SUV project resulted in engineering and policy recommendations for water, energy, telecommunication, and transit infrastructure, aimed 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

Two Implementation Tools

The SUV project resulted in two (2) key products for implementation of the new model for utility design, planning, and construction:

  1. The Smart Utilities Policy for Article 80 Development Review—first adopted by the BPDA Board on June 14, 2018 and more recently updated on October 15, 2020 —calls for five (5) of the ten (10) SUTs studied throughout the SUV project to be incorporated into new Article 80 developments. This policy was launched as a two year pilot and included informational education sessions with developers, engineers, architects, and City staff.
  2. The Smart Utility Standards set forth guidelines for planning and integration of SUTs with existing utility infrastructure on new streets, including cross-section, lateral, and intersection diagrams of an ideal layout for underground services in 40’ and 60’ right-of-ways. The Smart Utility Standards are intended to serve as guidelines for developers, architects, engineers, and utility providers for planning, designing, and locating utilities, and are particularly important for areas proposing new streets.

The Analysis Phase that led to the Implementation Tools

The Project started with the examination of an analytical test case based on the PLAN: South Boston Dorchester Avenue Planning Initiative, adopted December 2016 (“PLAN Dot Ave”). The 144-acre PLAN Dot Ave envisions a long-term build-out of 12 to 16 million square feet of new development and 2 miles of new roads and sidewalks, all needing new utility infrastructure. The Project resulted in two analytical products that supported the development of the Smart Utilities Policy for Article 80 Development Review and the Smart Utility Standards.

  1. Baseline Report: Explores the cost of building out utilities in the PLAN Dot Ave area on a “business as usual” basis over 20 years
  2. Assessment of Costs and Benefits: Models the costs and benefits over a 20 to 30 year construction period deploying ten (10) SUTs, compared to adopting “business as usual” utility construction practices

The selection of the five (5) technologies to be advanced in the Smart Utilities Policy for Article 80 Development Review was based on (a) extensive stakeholder engagement with technical experts, developers, and City staff, and (b) analysis of financial feasibility as demonstrated through the Cost Benefit Analysis report.

Collaboration and Engagement

Led by the BPDA, the Project has been developed in collaboration with several City departments and agencies, including: Environment Department, Department of Public Works (DPW), Public Improvement Commission (PIC), Boston Transportation Department (BTD), Department of Information Technology (DoIT), Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics (MONUM) and Boston Water and Sewer Commission (BWSC). A Steering Committee composed of representatives of these departments continues to meet biweekly to oversee the work and the implementation of the Project.

External stakeholder engagement initially took place at three Smart Utility Whiteboarding Sessions, in May 2016, January 2017, and July 2017 to review the Business As Usual Report, the Cost Benefit Analysis, the SUS, and envision implementation strategies. Stakeholders represented all pertinent sectors, including utility companies (i.e., Eversource, National Grid, Veolia), other private sector stakeholders (i.e., JP Morgan, ARUP, Schneider Electric), public sector entities (i.e., MassCEC, NECEC), non-profit organizations (i.e., Innovation for Cities, C40), and academic institutions (i.e., Harvard Business School, MIT).

During the development of the SUV Project and the Smart Utilities Policy for Article 80 Development Review and the implementation of the pilot phase of the project, staff also conferred extensively with well over a dozen developers who regularly do business in Boston.

More recently, in preparation for the 2-year performance review of the BSU Program, two Smart Utilities Assessment and Update stakeholder engagement sessions were held on May 28–29, 2020.

For any questions about this Policy for Article 80 Development Review and Smart Utility Standards, please contact Senior Infrastructure and Energy Planner Manuel Esquivel at [email protected] or 617.918.4382.

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