Boston Smart Utilities Project

On June 14, 2018 the BPDA board adopted the Smart Utilities Policy for Article Development Review. On this page you can access the full policy document and learn about the Smart Utilities Vision project that led to the policy.

 

Policy and Supporting Documents

Background

Two years ago, the BPDA and 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, where the “business as usual” approach to 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 stage for Smart Utilities has also been set by recently adopted 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 resiliency to flooding and as a source of new jobs.

Achieving the goals of these city-wide plans related to utility and infrastructure requires a new model for utility planning and design that integrates infrastructure planning across City departments and facilitates the deployment of SUTs, such as District Energy Microgrids and Green Infrastructure. The Smart Utilities Vision Project has resulted in engineering and policy recommendations for water, energy, telecommunication, and transit infrastructure, and aims 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

Policy and Standards to Implement Smart Utilities

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—adopted by the BPDA Board on June 14, 2018—calls for five (5) of the ten (10) SUTs studied throughout the SUV project to be incorporated into new Article 80 developments. This proposed new policy will be launched as a two year pilot and will include informational education sessions with developers, engineers, architects, and City Staff. At the end of two years, staff will evaluated its success and consider adjustments to the policy based on developer feedback and performance of the technologies.
  2. The Smart Utility Standards set forth guidelines for planning and integration of SUTs with existing utility infrastructure in existing or 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. The Smart Utility Standards are currently available in “draft” form and will be finalized upon adoption of the Smart Utilities Policy for Article 80 Development Review.

For any questions about this Policy for Article 80 Development Review and Smart Utility Standards, please contact Senior Infrastructure and Energy Planning Fellow Manuel Esquivel at manuel.esquivel@boston.gov or 617.918.4382.

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. Table 2 briefly describes each of the five (5) technologies selected for the new policy.

Table 2 - 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. Produces electricity on development site and uses excess “heat” to serve heating/cooling needs. By combining these two energy loads, the energy efficiency of fuel consumed is increased. The system normally operates connected to main electric utility grid, but can disconnect (“island”) during power outages and continue providing electric/heating/cooling needs to end-users.
Green Infrastructure Infrastructure that allows rainwater to percolate into the ground. Can prevent storm runoff and excessive diversion of stormwater into the water and sewer system.
Adaptive Signal 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 3 summarizes the key provisions and requirements of the proposed policy, including the development project size thresholds that would trigger the use of the technology. Two of the technologies—District Energy and the Telecom Utilitor—require the scale of a larger project to be economically viable. Therefore, as part of the two year pilot, these two technologies will only be required for Article 80 projects containing 1.5M square feet or more. As Table 3 shows, the three other technologies would be deployed at smaller scales.

Table 3 - Summary of size threshold and other specifications for the 5 SUTs proposed to be advanced in the Smart Utilities Policy for Article 80 Development Review
(Note: This table is only for informational purposes. Please refer to the complete Smart Utilities Policy for Article 80 Development Review to review the details.)
  Article 80 Size Threshold Other specifications
District Energy Microgrid >1.5 million SF Feasibility Assessment; if feasible, then Master Plan & District Energy Microgrid-Ready design
Green Infrastructure >100,000 SF Install to retain 1.25'' rainfall on impervious areas
(Increase from 1" currently required by BWSC)
Adaptive Signal Technology All projects requiring signal installation or improvements Install AST & related components into the traffic signal system network
Smart Street Lights All Projects requiring street light installation or improvements Install additional electrical connection & fiber optics at pole
Telecom Utilidor >1.5 million SF of development, or >0.5 miles of roadway Install Telecom Utilidor

Analysis Phase

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

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), and Boston Water and Sewer Commission (BWSC). A Steering Committee comprised of representatives of these departments met biweekly to oversee the work, and will continue working to oversee the implementation of the Project. Implementation of the Project’s recommendations will start with BPDA Board action and will be followed by related actions (i.e., creation of applicable standards) by the PIC, BWSC, DoIT, and BTD for applicable SUTs.

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

For any questions about this Policy for Article 80 Development Review and Smart Utility Standards, please contact Senior Infrastructure and Energy Planning Fellow Manuel Esquivel at manuel.esquivel@boston.gov or 617.918.4382.

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