March, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) addressed the Greenfield, Mass.-based Northeast Sustainable Energy Association’s annual conference and called on the assembled architects, designers, consultants, energy-service providers and contractors to help Massachusetts drive its expectations not up, but down. “Less energy usage isn’t enough,” Patrick asserts. “We have to set our sights not higher, but lower—all the way to zero.” Zero-energy buildings are the new frontier of green buildings and Patrick wants Massachusetts to get there first. He urged the green-building profession to participate in a Zero Net Energy Building Task Force earlier this year to blaze the trail toward buildings that consume no more energy than they generate, and the profession has responded. The task force of five-dozen experts in green-building design, technology and construction convened in July for the first time and is working on recommendations that will make Massachusetts a leader in the next generation of sustainable development. Ultimately, Massachusetts will reap the benefits of lower energy costs; reduced greenhouse-gas emissions; and the growth of a clean-building sector encompassing research and development, manufacturing of new technologies, and design, installation, construction and operations. Already, governments and businesses across the country and around the world are asking about what’s going on in Massachusetts.
PROMOTING ZERO ENERGY
EDUCATION INITIATIVES As a result of the executive order, state agencies and institutions of higher education are going further to save energy and taxpayer dollars. Massachusetts Maritime Academy, Buzzards Bay, which put up the first large-scale wind turbine on state property, now has installed an 84-kilowatt photovoltaic system on its newest dormitory and is working to install additional renewable-energy projects.
University of Massachusetts, Amherst, has reduced its energy usage by 18 million kilowatt hours through efficiency efforts, resulting in annual savings of 33,000 tons (29789 metric tons) of carbon-dioxide emissions and $5 million in energy bills. Now the state university’s flagship campus is replacing its coal-fired power plant with a super-efficient 10 megawatt natural-gas cogeneration system, which will heat and power the entire campus.
The mandate of clean energy has spread throughout state government. For example, the Boston-based Department of Youth Services recently built the first secure treatment center according to LEED guidelines. The Boston-based Department of Mental Health is planning its $250 million Worcester Psychiatric Hospital and is shooting for LEED Gold. The Department of Housing and Community Development, Boston, is using its six LEED Accredited Professional architects and engineers to help local housing authorities reduce energy use and model green-building practices. This includes green roofs in design for a public housing development in Chelsea, geothermal heat pumps being explored for Northampton, and individual heat-and-power cogeneration systems replacing furnaces in public housing for families in Plymouth. In the third priority of the Patrick administration, policies and initiatives adopted by the state government to reduce GHG emissions are promoting green-building practices in the private sector. Including GHG emissions reduction and mitigation in the state environmental review process has led to the nation’s first voluntary but legally enforceable GHG emissions cap in a real-estate development—Harvard University’s Allston campus project, where the first group of buildings to be developed will meet a target of 50 percent lower GHG emissions than national standards. Full implementation of the policy now is requiring developers to do analysis that will make their buildings greener. Patrick is counting on the task force to give him a blueprint for making energy-saving, carbon- neutral construction the wave of the future in Massachusetts. He says, “Consider this my challenge to the industry: Help us—as a state government and a society—get to zero.” Ian Bowles is Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs for Massachusetts.