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Boston Expands Sustainability Requirements for Commercial Buildings

Posted By: Boston City Properties

The city of Boston recently took steps to achieve its ambitious goal of producing net-zero carbon emissions by the year 2050 more quickly and efficiently. On Tuesday, October 5, acting Mayor Kim Janey signed an updated version of the city’s Building Emissions Reduction and Disclosure Ordinance – or BERDO – that expands sustainability requirements for commercial buildings across the city. The enactment of the updated mandate, known as BERDO 2.0, comes after more than a year of discussions among various interested parties. It dictates that all commercial buildings with 20,000 square feet or more work toward net-zero carbon emissions.

Boston Commercial Buildings

These are the first updates to the mandate since it was enacted in 2013. The original legislation targeted commercial buildings of 35,000 square feet or more. By expanding it to include buildings of 20,000 square feet or more, officials hope to increase the odds of reaching the city’s net-zero carbon emissions goal within 30 years. Previously, BERDO affected fewer buildings. Now, under the terms of BERDO 2.0, 4% of commercial buildings in Boston fall under its purview.

Under the terms of BERDO 2.0, which strives to minimize the issues associated with climate change, commercial property owners whose buildings meet the criteria are required to report building emissions and achieve specific emissions reduction benchmarks annually. By tracking this information, the city hopes to improve its ability to reduce carbon emission outputs and to achieve carbon emissions neutrality by the year 2050. In Boston, commercial buildings account for around 70% of the city’s emissions. The city hopes to put a bigger dent in the issue faster by expanding the mandate to include smaller buildings.

The 4% of buildings affected by the updated legislation account for 60% of building emissions in Boston. BERDO is just one piece of the city’s climate resiliency plans, which are being enacted to address steadily increasing climate change concerns. Boston’s BERDO reporting requirements are now among the most stringent in the U.S., and meeting those requirements will be challenging for many property owners – especially those in the healthcare industry, whose buildings consume massive amounts of power. As an international medical research hub and a key player in the fight against the Covid pandemic, Boston is home to many massive, power-hungry labs, hospitals and other healthcare facilities.

The updated legislation has been supported by the Bloomberg Philanthropies American Cities Climate Challenge. The organization is providing extra personnel, media campaigns and technical assistance to bolster the city’s efforts to achieve its goals within the three-decade timeframe.

Specific information about BERDO requirements is available online via the BERDO website. Property owners can identify emission benchmarks for specific building types, learn how carbon levels are monitored and pick up tips for reducing building emissions. Some practical methods for reducing emissions include switching to electric heating and buying clean energy. Property owners whose buildings fail to meet the required emission reduction and reporting benchmarks face fines of up to $1,000 per day, so it will be crucial for affected parties to stay on top of these requirements from square one.

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