BSA Environment Update
Climate issues are a core focus for the Boston Society for Architecture (BSA). As architects, we are very aware the built environment has tremendous impact on greenhouse gas emissions. Our expertise, in collaboration with our engineering and construction colleagues, is critical to create positive change. Our goal is to educate, advocate, and implement strategies focusing on carbon reduction to create a long-term positive impact on our climate.
Embodied Carbon 101
The Embodied Carbon 101 series (EC101) followed up on the BSA’s May 2019 conference, Embodied Carbon in Buildings. From the conference, a 60-person grassroots knowledge community was formed: the Boston Hub of the Carbon Leadership Forum (CLF Boston). This group meets every other month to share knowledge and to develop programming and resources for embodied carbon reduction in the AEC industry. CLF Boston identified the need for more accessible embodied carbon awareness and knowledge. Embodied carbon accounts for 11 percent of greenhouse gas emissions and 28 percent of building sector emissions each year (UN Environment Global Status Report 2017).
A six-person advisory group of AEC professionals from CLF Boston developed the structure and topic areas for EC101. The 12-part series took place for one hour on Monday afternoons, with each session focusing on a different topic (for example: structure; MEP; carbon accounting). Local (Boston-area) and national speakers lent their time and expertise to the series, and each session was recorded so that the series could be used as a reference and resource beyond the live series.
Over 400 people participated in the series, with 135 of those participants attending three or more sessions. Seven companies—primarily product manufacturers—sponsored the series, and partner organizations Built Environment Plus, the International Living Future Institute, and the Structural Engineering Institute helped share the programming, which was relevant to their sustainability-minded membership.
Members of the CLF Global community have commended the BSA for this programming, and for delivering content-rich embodied carbon education in one-hour portions that professionals can choose to watch as a complete series or opt into depending on their work responsibilities. EC101 has received positive feedback from embodied carbon leaders including Anthony Pak, founder of CLF Vancouver (the first Carbon Leadership Forum Local Hub), and Stephanie Carlisle, senior researcher with the Carbon Leadership Forum (formerly a principal of KieranTimberlake).
In late 2020, EC101 will be available on the AIAU learning platform, which will expand the reach of the expertise shared during the series. In the coming year, CLF Boston hopes to offer Embodied Carbon 151, a series of smaller working sessions organized around the topics presented in EC101, and EC201, a series similar to EC101, but addressing different and more specific topics (timber, steel, concrete, existing buildings).
Decarbonization Policy and Advocacy
The BSA wanted to make a statement in support of decarbonization inspired by the AIA 2030 Commitment. Recognizing that there are many ways to advocate for and implement changes to reach carbon neutrality, several members wrote a proposal that allows members and staff to carry out this work on different levels.
Moving away from carbon based fuels is critical for our climate. The BSA has developed and adopted a set of 7 policy principles to support efforts of decarbonization. These principles will be used as a guide for members, professional colleagues, and other like-minded citizens in efforts to advocate for changes in codes, policies, zoning, material selection, building design, and climate equity.
This policy paper was written in partnership with BSA members who have expertise in net zero design, policy, and engineering.
We are working with state agencies, the Board of Building Regulations and Standards, legislators, and local communities to implement regulations and legislation leading to decarbonization. Particular focus is on the next edition of the Mass Building Code to increase energy efficiency standards and promote use of renewable fuels. This will be used as a guide for member advocates to use in order to advocate for changes in codes, policies, zoning, material selection, building design, and climate equity. There are many different avenues to get buildings to net zero carbon in order to create a healthy and sustainable world for everyone.
Zero Carbon Retrofits of Existing Buildings
The BSA is collaborating with the Boston Green Ribbon Commission (GRC) to achieve Boston’s climate resilience and next zero goals. We have sponsored professional forum’s highlighting GRC reports and, as a part of the GRC’s Cultural Institutions Working Group, the BSA works to assist its fellow members in learning about climate change and in become advocates for climate resiliency. We are also looking for a student to help analyze the submissions. The ultimate goal is to create a webpage where BSA members, property owners and the City of Boston can come for a resource for their own work. This will also help the City of Boston in developing their own emissions reduction standards.
In the City of Boston, buildings are the biggest single source of carbon emissions and existing buildings are the greatest percentage of that. Building owners can be overwhelmed in determining optimal ways for reducing carbon emissions in their existing buildings. The BSA, in collaboration with the Green Building Commission, is collecting case studies of buildings that have undergone retrofits to achieve net zero carbon emissions. The BSA will analyze these case studies to create net zero retrofit templates for building owners. The BSA will publish these templates and create a website where members, property owners and the City of Boston can come for a resource for cost effectively and efficiently reducing carbon emissions from their buildings. This will also help the City of Boston in developing their own emissions reduction standards for existing buildings.
12 submissions so far.
Collect more case studies. Analyze the submissions. Create webpage to showcase the case studies to share as Net Zero Retrofit best practices.
Looking for ways to participate? Case studies are being accepted here through January 15, 2020. If you are interested in helping analyze and collect more case studies, contact BSA Policy Director Jennifer Effron.
Boston’s Department of Neighborhood Development (DND) Zero Emissions Buildings Feedback Sessions
View the sessions here: Session 1 and Session 2.
DND works to create affordable housing opportunities throughout the City of Boston. They have several programs to develop city owned land and to help finance affordable housing. DND has design guidelines for these types of projects and recently worked with consultants to create a Zero Emissions Building Guide that analyzes best practices and provides recommendations for reducing emissions in residential buildings that are typically part of DND’s portfolio of housing types.
In 2019, the BSA gathered a small working group to provide feedback on a draft of the guide. In April 2020, the BSA hosted two sessions with DND and the consultants to the project in order to get feedback from the larger BSA audience. Both sessions were recorded and available on DND’s YouTube channel.
30+ attendees for the feedback sessions in April 2020. 12 participants in the 2019 working group. Partnership with DND to promote and educate BSA audience on net zero and affordable housing in Boston.
The City of Boston will finalize the guide and make it part of their design review for DND.
BPDA Microgrid Feedback Sessions
The City of Boston is piloting district energy initiatives including microgrid systems. In the first phase of this pilot, large development projects were asked to undertake a microgrid feasibility assessment. Now, the BPDA is exploring the idea of asking large development projects to become microgrid ready so that in the near future they can be both more sustainable and more resilient. View more information on the BPDA's Microgrid Pilot Program.
In 2019, the BSA hosted two sessions for architects and developers to learn more about the BPDA’s pilot program and to ask questions to BPDA staff directly. In August 2020, the BSA hosted a feedback session* for a small group of participants to give input on the pilot and the proposed next steps.
* The recording of the August 2020 session is available upon request
Throughout the rest of 2020 and 2021, the BSA will advocate for a strong net zero stretch code for buildings throughout Massachusetts. We will continue to work with partners to put forth programming that educates our members and the public and engages people around these topics. We will showcase the net zero retrofit case studies on the BSA website. In partnership with the Mass Climate Action Network (MCAN), the BSA will host a 4-part series on affordable housing as a climate solution, with the first program taking place on November 17.