The Cable TV, Telecommunications and Public Utilities Committee held a public meeting on Wednesday, June 13, 2007 at five o’clock and four minutes P.M. in the Sullivan Chamber.
The purpose of the meeting was to discuss provisions in the building code, zoning ordinances and other city regulations that affect the ability to build “green” buildings and install wind or solar devices.
Present at the meeting were Councillor Henrietta Davis, Chair of the Committee, Councillor Craig Kelley, Councillor Michael A. Sullivan, Charles Sullivan Executive Director, Historical Commission, Ranjt Singanayagam, Commissioner, Inspectional Services, Susan Glazer, Deputy Director, Community Development Department, (CDD), Les Barber, Director, Land Use, Planning and Zoning, CDD, John Bolduc, Environmental Project Planner, CDD, Iram Farooq, Project Planner, CDD, Ellen Katz, Fiscal Director, Public Works Department, and Donna P. Lopez, Deputy City Clerk. Also present was Rick Mattila, Director, Genzyme Corp., Tina Miller, Cambridge Housing Authority, Sue Butler, President, Green Decade Cambridge, Terrence F. Smith, Cambridge Chamber of Commerce, Betsy Boyle and John Francis, CCPAC, Brett Feldman, NSTAR, Jesse Foote and Nathan Gauthier, Harvard Green Campus Initiative, Peter Daly, Executive Director, Homeowners Rehab, Jane Jones, Senior Project Manager, Homeowners Rehab, Quincy Vale, CEO, Powerhouse Enterprises, Robert Riman, Daniel Winny Architect, Leroy Cragwell, CAAHA and Kathy Reine, 30 Vassal Lane.
Councillor Davis opened the meeting and stated the purpose. This meeting was scheduled to discuss which codes need to be changed or amended for green buildings. Councillor Sullivan commented that the code is obstructionist for green buildings. Councillor Davis stated that the City has control over the Zoning Ordinances, the Historical Commission has regulations that can be changed and the City has no control over the state building code.
A suggestion was made that local changes be made to make the code more sustainable. Ms. Butler stated that she felt coordination between departments was needed to get LEED Certification.
The building commissioner spoke about a “green” house on Kelley Road. The bay windows are part of the floor area and are restricted by the building code. He spoke about windmills. Councillor Davis informed the committee that Gloucester amended their zoning ordinance to build windmills. Cambridge could do this as well. Skylights require Board of Zoning Appeal (BZA) approval stated Commissioner Singanayagam. At this time Councillor Davis asked the attendees for their experiences.
Mr. Barber stated that green roofs can be counted in the gross floor area (GFA). If the yard is nonconforming no expansion is allowed. Councillor Davis stated that she visited a green roof in Minneapolis. There was no railing because the GFA was not increased. Mr. Barber spoke about ambiguities in the Zoning Ordinance. More specificity in the ordinance is best.
Mr. Mattila spoke about the need for a barrier for biotech building and roof HVAC. Mr. Barber commented that mechanical equipment is big and intrusive. Ms. Butler stated that it may be more efficient to paint a roof white than to plant. Councillor Davis asked if there was anything in place about a green roof. Councillor Sullivan stated that Genzyme has a green roof. Commissioner Singanayagam stated that the Zoning Ordinance has an open space regulation. At Genzyme the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) limit kicked in and prevented the company from going to the next level. Canopies can trigger GFA stated Mr. Barber.
Ms. Farooq informed the committee that the Alewife Zoning included storm water management. Public Works has a stringent storm water management regulation. Storm water management is encouraged by the Public Works and Community Development Departments. However, this is not quantified, but is reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
Councillor Davis asked if there are zoning impacts for green roofs. This may trigger FAR consideration stated Mr. Barber. Maybe incentives are needed commented Councillor Davis.
Ms. Jones stated that the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MTC) has the largest storm water installation in the state at Trolley Square. The storm water retention tank was put in to irrigate a green roof. The issue however was that it was viewed as a gray water system. The state plumbing board gave approval after two months. This is a problematic issue and is a state determination. Councillor Davis stated that this could be a proposed change to the building code. Ms. Butler stated that the Water Department will not do individual unit water readings in a multi-dwelling building. Only one lot per line is the regulation stated Commissioner Singanayagam. Water was part of the tenancy and could not be divided; however, this was changed and can now be divided. It is a one owner per bill. Mr. Vale stated that there is no way to get electric metering to individual condo owners. It is done as a straight pass through. This is a utility regulation. Mr. Gauthier stated that the system is to provide utility to the whole building, but cannot be used to divide up the utility bill. Mr. Smith stated that this goes back to utility franchising. The goal was to consolidate service. There existed neighborhood electric companies that were inefficient. The franchise for who sells electricity to what town was established in 1920. Water, he said, could be subdivided but the owner of the building is responsible for payments of the water bill.
Mr. Vale commented that not every building in Cambridge has a north, east, south or west orientation.
Mr. Gauthier spoke about low e-coating on windows. Low e-coating lowers air conditioning bills, but affects the glazing of the building. Mr. Barber spoke about countervailing entities and conflicts. Low e-coating is expected for residential areas because there is less glazing in residential areas and it is less noticeable.
Mr. Cragwell suggested changing light bulbs in every household.
Mr. Gauthier stated that Cambridge requires pigment in its sidewalk material but because of the pigment buildings cannot get LEED Certification. Councillor Davis stated that changing this specification could be worked on. Mr. Gauthier inquired if Cambridge has a specification for the type of asphalt used. Councillor Davis stated that a rubber sidewalk test was being done.
Mr. Vale suggested reviewing the code and identifying the issues in the code to build green. Developers should be encouraged to build LEED certifiable projects. Other communities have these regulations.
Ms. Glazer informed the committee that an internal group is working on a green building proposal and will come before the City Council. Councillor Davis commented that there are subtle ways that the Building Code prohibits green buildings. Mr. Bolduc stated that he would like to get all involved in energy conservation. He spoke about the issues of sustainability, jobs and education. A neighborhood ombudsman is needed.
Councillor Davis commented on the issue of conserving flat roofs for solar panels. This adds cost to add a level over mechanicals stated Mr. Bolduc.
Councillor Davis asked if there is any problem in the Zoning Ordinance on the issue of solar energy. Councillor Kelley asked if there is a regulation to protect solar access. This gets complicated quickly stated Mr. Barber. Councillor Davis spoke of incentives in other states for green zones. Mr. Gauthier asked if a green code, such as Ashbury, could be adopted. Mr. Singanayagam stated that the City could make changes to the Zoning Ordinances. Mr. Mattila suggested making the state energy code to be more energy efficient. All local ordinances should be reviewed first. It is a longer process to review the state building code. Councillor Davis suggested documenting where there are conflicts in the code.
Mr. Vale spoke about the life-cycle cost of materials. More energy is used to produce plastic trays than is saved. He spoke of solar panels produced in the U.S. versus those made in China. A process is needed to get smart people thinking about implementing the best practices. Councillor Davis suggested a point system to offer incentives for green buildings. Ms. Farooq stated that the LEED system tries to give credit for recycling, but it is complicated. Ms. Glazer suggested using the LEED checklist but to focus on energy reduction.
A discussion arose about the issue of taxes and whether they could be applied as an incentive to build green buildings. The City could adopt a green abatement if the state came forward with a green abatement proposal commented Councillor Davis. Green Decade members would be interested in this concept. A suggestion was made to start at the point where there are conflicts in design for permits and outline the problems. Maybe an energy design review process should be included in the Zoning Ordinance stated Councillor Davis. Mr. Barber raised some issues for changes: air shafts, skylights, bay windows, gray water in tanks. The Cambridge Energy Alliance should look into the code changes stated Councillor Davis. Mr. Bolduc stated the issues would be reviewed as they arise. The sidewalk change is easy to fix stated Councillor Davis. Councillor Kelley suggested building cages to buffer noise. Noise Affidavits are now on-going.
Councillor Davis asked Mr. Sullivan for the Historical Commission’s position on the installation of solar panels. Mr. Sullivan responded that Chapter 40C regulates solar installation. Buildings on Elmwood Avenue and Antrim Street have solar installed. There is not a lot of demand for solar installation stated Mr. Sullivan. The competing public interests must be reviewed. There has been no petition denied by the Historical Commission for solar installation.
Councillor Davis asked about wind turbines. Mr. Sullivan stated that there may be instances in historical districts when wind turbines can be allowed. Competing interests would be reviewed.
Councillor Davis submitted the following motion:
ORDERED: The conflicts between energy efficiency goals, the zoning and building codes be referred to the City Manager for methods to resolve these conflicts.
The motion- carried
Councillor Davis also referred this matter to the full City Council for further discussion.
Councillor Davis thanked all attendees. The meeting adjourned at six o’clock and thirty minutes P.M.
For the Committee,
Councillor Henrietta Davis, Chair
Cable TV, Telecommunications and Public Utilities
NOTE: A communication was received from NSTAR after the meeting that NSTAR would attend a meeting to answer questions on policies for interconnection solar PV and other types of distributed generation (ATTACHMENT A)
From: Feldman, Brett [mailto:Brett.Feldman@nstar.com]
Sent: Tuesday, July 03, 2007 9:16 AM
To: Davis, Henrietta
Cc: Zamparelli, William
Subject: Cambridge Green Building Code
Hello Councilor Davis,
At the Cable, Telecom, and Utility Committee meeting on June 13 about a green building code for Cambridge, some attendees raised concerns about NSTAR's policies for interconnecting solar PV and other types of distributed generation at their homes or businesses. I followed-up with our Interconnection manager, and he said he would be happy to come to a future meeting to answer these questions.
We look forward to continuing to work with the city as it encourages energy-efficient design with its residents and businesses.
Have a good holiday,
Program Manager - Energy Efficiency
NSTAR Electric & Gas
One NSTAR Way, SUMSW3031
Westwood, MA 02090-9230
(781) 441-8721 FAX
(339) 987-7925 CELL