By Grey Lee

What is going on with Building Energy Reporting & Disclosure in the City of Boston? What is the point of publicizing energy performance of buildings?

Last night, the Chapter partnered up with energy management leader EnerNOC to gather the community and talk about power. Gregg Dixon of EnerNOC and Grey Lee of USGBC MA both spoke briefly about their missions – to improve building energy performance on one hand and on the other: “More Green Buildings!”

Brian Swett, Boston Chief of Energy and Environment, came to present on the BERDO – the energy disclosure law that takes effect this coming year in Boston. The City is taking comments on the draft regulations right now. This ordinance will help the city achieve its climate mitigation obligations through carbon pollution reductions. Buildings account for 70% of Boston's GHG emissions. As usual, it was a very useful presentation and it was great to hear him easily answer the many questions from the very informed crowd. Lots of curveballs!

What if an owner just doesn't want to cooperate? There will be fines, but not major enough to sting. The important mechanism is that non-compliant properties will be listed publicly and the “shaming” factor will probably motivate people more than the potential fines. One note is that just having an old building might not be a reason to be afraid of the ordinance – New York's ordinance has resulted in data showing that one of the more energy efficient building types are those built in the 1920's and 30's, prior to mechanical systems. Designers availed themselves of passive heating and cooling techniques much more than in ensuing decades, when mechanicals were available and energy was relatively cheap.

With the ordinance, we'll have a lot of data to work with. As EnerNOC mentioned, data is a great tool to find solutions to complex problems: “We love data!”

Here are some facts about the ordinance:
  • All large and medium buildings or groups of buildings would be required to report annual energy use, ENERGY STAR rating (if applicable), water use, and greenhouse gas emissions through ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager or an equivalent mechanism.
  • The requirement would be phased in over 5 years and would ultimately apply to non-residential buildings 35,000 square feet or greater and residential buildings with 35 or more units.
  • Buildings with ENERGY STAR ratings below the 75th percentile and not meeting other exemption criteria (to be developed by the city, i.e. high performing buildings that do not qualify for any ENERGY STAR rating or that show continuous improvement) would be required to conduct energy audits or other evaluations every 5 years to identify opportunities for energy efficiency investment. Building owners would not be required to act on the audit.
You can read more about BERDO at the USGBC MA Chapter Advocacy page on our website, including a link to Brian's presentation from last night.


Thank you Brian and thank you to EnerNOC for hosting the program! About 75 people came out to learn and network. The city looks forward to people supporting the roll out of the ordinance and helping to provide feedback on the regulatory language as they encounter novelties of the built environment that need to be responded to such as rare building types, structures that are hard to define, and energy systems that are more complex than usual.

You can chime in: The Air Pollution Control Commission will hear public comment on the proposed regulations on November 12th at 9:00 AM in Boston City Hall, Room 900; written comments are also being accepted through November 15.

Please consider joining the Chapter as a Member – our community increases our power to transform the built environment toward higher performance. Thank you for participating in our work!
Thank you to Lisa Bolwin and colleagues at EnerNOC for organizing and staffing the program. Thank you to Carolyn Day of the USGBC for organizing the series of Networking Nights for the Chapter.
See you next time!
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