Mayor Wu is targeting energy efficiency in two new steps to make Boston’s buildings greener


The mayor asks the city council to adopt a green building code and introduces a new retrofit program for affordable housing developments.

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu. Matthew J Lee / The Boston Globe

As she sets out to build a Green New Deal for Boston, Mayor Michelle Wu on Thursday announced the final two steps her administration will take to reduce the carbon footprint of Boston’s buildings, which account for about 70 percent of emissions in the city are responsible.

Wu is scheduled to submit a proposal to Boston City Council to pass an optional state building code that would require new buildings that use fossil fuels to add solar panels, wiring and other housing to support a future shift to electrification.

In addition, the Mayor’s Office of Housing will begin a new $10 million federally funded grant program to initiate energy efficiency retrofits in income-restricted buildings with 15 or more units.

“Our focus now is to take decisive action to support our climate, advance justice and improve the quality of life for all of our residents throughout the city of Boston. To advance Boston’s Green New Deal, we’re approaching building decarbonization from every possible angle and using every tool at our disposal,” Green New Deal Director Oliver Sellers-Garcia said in a statement. “By both adapting existing buildings and setting new energy standards for new buildings, we are taking a whole-of-government approach to reducing emissions in more buildings to ensure the health of our climate and the quality of life in our city.”

If the city council gave the green light, the city would be one of only a handful of Massachusetts cities to commit to the “Urban stretch energy opt-in special code‘ since its development late last year.

According to city officials, among other things, the special code will “result in most new buildings complying with a highly efficient, all-electric standard.”

“The requirement for new construction and major renovations to maximize energy efficiency will bring us closer to affordable electrification and make our buildings more resilient,” Councilwoman Kendra Lara, chair of the Environmental Justice, Resilience and Parks Committee, said in a press release. “This is a critical step in meeting our decarbonization goals and protecting our most vulnerable communities from the impacts of climate change.”

The retrofit program, meanwhile, will be offered with federal funds secured by the American Rescue Plan Act, according to the Wu government.

The initiative provides up to $50,000 per qualifying unit to install energy-saving upgrades such as efficient lighting and appliances, insulation, new HVAC models, solar panels, and windows and doors.

The city will also offer up to $10,000 in technical assistance grants to help building owners “educate themselves about their building’s energy use and create a roadmap for a deep energy renovation of their building,” officials said.

“By investing in low-income housing in green energy retrofits, we are creating a more sustainable and resilient city,” Sheila Dillon, chief of housing, said in a statement. “The changes this program will fund will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, contribute to a cleaner, healthier city and advance Boston’s goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.”

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