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Massachusetts city mandates net-zero emissions for some large buildings by 2035

By District Energy posted 07-10-2023 10:07


Smart Cities Dive


Cambridge, Massachusetts, on Monday adopted requirements that all existing nonresidential buildings over 25,000 square feet achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, with a more aggressive deadline of 2035 for the largest buildings.

Cambridge said in a Tuesday news release it’s the “first known city in the country” to adopt such ambitious requirements. Most other building performance standards in the country have later net-zero deadlines, typically around 2050, said Susanne Rasmussen, the city’s director of environmental and transportation planning.

Emissions-based building performance standards such as these are gaining traction in jurisdictions nationwide as a key tool to drive down climate pollution from existing buildings. 

It will be a “big lift” for Cambridge’s large universities to decarbonize their massive district energy systems, IMT’s Ravulapati told Smart Cities Dive in an email, because universities often have extensive, complex and older energy infrastructure and limited resources. 

“Decarbonizing district energy systems often requires significant financial resources,” he wrote in an email. “Major universities have numerous competing priorities for their limited budgets, including academic programs, research, student services, and facility maintenance.”

The city promised in its Tuesday news release to support property owners with “robust technical assistance and connections to incentives,” but Ravulapati said “we’ll have to see what they design and deliver.”

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