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 Committee Report

Committee Report #2


In City Council June 22, 2015

Councillor Leland Cheung, Chair  
Councillor Dennis Carlone  
Councillor Nadeem Mazen  
Councillor Marc McGovern  

The Health and Environment Committee held a public hearing on Tuesday, June 9, 2015 at 3:07 P.M. in the Sullivan Chamber.

The purpose of the hearing was to discuss a proposed framework for the goal of setting Cambridge on the trajectory to becoming a "net zero community."  (To view more information on Net Zero this item appeared as Agenda # 11 on the City Manager's Agenda on May 4, 2015)

Present at the hearing were Councillor Leland Cheung, Chair of the Committee, Councillor Dennis J. Carlone, Councillor Nadeem A. Mazen, Councillor Marc C. McGovern, Mike Connelly, Aide to Councillor Carlone, Christian Schlachte, Aide to Councillor Cheung, Lisa Peterson, Deputy City Manager, Lee Gianetti, Director of Communications and Community Relations, Executive Department, Taha Jennings, Assistant to the City Manager, Iram Farooq, Acting Assistant City Manager for Community Development Department, Susanne Rasmussen, Director of Environmental and Transportation Planning, CDD, Ellen Kokinda, Assistant Planner, CDD, Sarah Burks, Preservation Planner, Historical Commission, Owen O'Riordan, Commissioner of Public Works, Ellen Katz, Fiscal Director, Public Works Department, Alexandra Corwin, Energy and Sustainability Analyst, Public Works Department and City Clerk Donna P. Lopez. 

Also present were Dave Ramslie, Principal, Integral Group and George Metzger, Senior Principal HMFH Architects, members of the Consultant Team, Dan Arons, Matt Calvey and Jaime McGavin, Architerra, Inc., 68 Long Wharf, Boston, Kristine Jelstrup, 120 Pleasant Street, Zeyneb Magavi and Leslie Bliss, Mothers Out Front, Marc Hoffman, 482 Putnam Avenue, Sue Butler, 14 Clinton street, Doug Deaeti, Hanover, NH, Scott Bard, Tom Lucey, Director of Community Relations, Harvard University, Sarah Gallop, Co-Director, Office of Government and Community Relations, MIT, John Sullivan, Lesley University, Sarah Kennedy, Director of Government Affairs, Chamber of Commerce, Patrick Haswell, Veolia, Lauren Miller, Chair, Climate Protection Action Committee (CPAC), Torgun Austin, 28 Bristol Street, Emily Grandstaff-Rice, President (2014), Boston Society of Architects and Cambridge Seven Associates, David Nagahiro, Principal, CBT, Mechthild V. Knabelstaff, Peabody Terrace, Meera Singh, 8 Acacia Street, Hasson Rashid, 820 Mass. Avenue, Betsy Boyle, 277 Rindge Avenue, Terrence Rothman, 285 Third Street, Paula Phipps, 227 Hurley Street, John Pitkin, 18 Fayette Street and Minka vanBeuzekom, 20 Essex Street.

Councillor Cheung convened the hearing and explained the purpose.  He thanked the Net Zero Task Force who have worked on this for the past 15 months.  This has been a priority of the City Council.  He explained that this will be reported back to the City Council and the implementation will be discussed.  He outlined the format of the meeting.  He introduced Susanne Rasmussen, the Director of Environmental and Transportation Planning, CDD.

Ms. Rasmussen gave a presentation on Net Zero (ATTACHMENT A).  She stated that the effects of climate change are already being seen and are a cause for concern.  In 2013 the Connolly zoning petition was filed by a group of concerned residents due to their concern that new development would make the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emission harder unless new developments were built to be net zero.  The City Council supported the goal of net zero but had concerns about the impact of requiring net zero construction in Cambridge, when surrounding communities did not have similar requirements, and instead directed that a task force be established to set Cambridge on a trajectory to become a net zero community.  The Task Force was instructed that the plan be broad based.  She explained the task force and its makeup.  The definition of net zero was described.  The task force is requesting that the City Council endorse the recommended set of actions proposed and endorse the process that engages stakeholders over time.  The plan is a 25-year plan.  As part of its process, the task force was directed to create early actions prior to making its final recommendations to demonstrate the City's commitment and momentum towards the net zero target.  The task force took 3 actions. They were to update the zoning ordinance for design of new buildings from LEED Silver to LEED Gold, to advocate that the stretch building code be updated by the state as soon as possible, and to recommend the adoption of the building energy use disclosure ordinance.  The objective of the task force was to reach agreement on the methodology, strategy, targets and a timeline to achieve net zero emissions.  The recommendations outline short, medium and long term actions and include direction on regulation, planning measures, incentives, renewable energy generation initiatives, and net zero targets for new construction.  The work plan started with research on net zero best practices in North America, building energy use in Cambridge, and an examination of renewable energy supply. This was followed by the generation of ideas that were then edited, prioritized, and developed into recommendations for the net zero action plan.  The framework seeks to balance a lot of interests and equally targets savings from all sectors so that no one sector is punished.  The framework sets defined net zero targets, but the plan allows room for course corrections, if needed. The framework balances regulations with incentives as well as addresses strategies for both new and existing buildings. 

Mr. Ramslie, consultant, Integral Group, explained the energy use in Cambridge.  He stated that energy use in Cambridge has remained flat over the past decade while there has been an increase in the residential population and economic growth.  At the same time greenhouse gas emissions have been reduced, primarily due to the switch from coal and oil to natural gas to generate electricity, reducing total energy use will require more intensive action than what has been carried out to date. The presentation had a chart showing how energy is used in Cambridge. 

Mr. Ramslie spoke about best policy practices.  He spoke about renewable energy sources, use, the age of the housing stock, the energy load density profile and how different energy sources are used to generate electricity or for heating/cooling purposes. All renewable technology was looked at and what can be used in a building, grid levels and biased for new buildings.  He stated that the energy efficiency retrofits are the largest opportunities for reducing emissions followed by increased amounts of renewable energy by the grid.  The task force members and a significant number of additional individuals with subject matter expertise and interest in net zero were separated into 4 working groups and worked on 4 focus areas.  There were seventy-seven actions that were scaled down to five key action areas.   The five key actions are: 

ENERGY EFFICIENCY in existing buildings. 





The total percentage in greenhouse gas emissions resulting from energy efficiency versus renewable energy from the six sectors is estimated to reach 70% by 2040, setting Cambridge track to reach 80% by 2050, a goal already adopted by the Council, and net zero sometime after that. A chart was shown that illustrated how the emissions reductions would be achieved by sector.

Mr. Ramslie stated that to address engagement and capacity building the task force had three recommendations:  to develop a communication strategy, develop ongoing municipal capacity to manage getting to net zero and to develop net zero standards for laboratories.  The Net Zero Plan has targets and check points. A Gantt chart was shown that lists all planned actions over a 25-year time horizon including a plan to conduct program-wide review of the Action Plan every five years with full stakeholder engagement. To complete the plan there was extensive engagement.  All meetings were open and there are local stakeholders that have bought into the plan.  Ms. Rasmussen stated that there was participation from all sectors and there was equal engagement. All stakeholders involved agreed that net zero was the right goal for which to aim. .  She spoke about making the plan actionable.  The Net Zero Plan needs to move to implementation.  She stated that starting July 1, 2015 Year One activities will start and showed a list of planned activities. The FY 2016 budget has a full time net zero staff and consultant.  The new regulations will need to go to the Planning Board, Board of Zoning Appeal and the City Council.

Councillor Cheung invited members of the Net Zero Task Force to give their comments.

Marc Hoffman shared his observations from serving on committee.  He stated that there are 3 truths:  net zero must be comprehensive and must address all buildings and their energy supply. 

The whole community must be involved.  The laboratory sector needs to achieve net zero.  Labs will work with the City to achieve net zero.  He stated that the public schools must be involved in net zero.  He stated that net zero must be flexible; the plan is a 25 year plan.  The 5 year review process is a necessity.  He urged the City Council to support this plan.  This is for the good of our citizens.

Quinton Zondervan commented that the process was great and collaborative.  He emphasized two things: to adopt LEED gold in this City Council session and to beat the predictions for when buildings can achieve net zero.

At this time Councillor Cheung opened the meeting to the City Council for their comments.

Vice Mayor Benzan noted that it is incredible to see how far the process has gone.  Cambridge alone cannot solve energy problems for the world. This knowledge must be shared.  He asked if the process to capture kinetic energy from cars was discussed.  Ms. Rasmussen explained that Cambridge will share the information in all the areas where Cambridge is involved.  Kinetic energy capture is in the early stages.  She spoke about new research done at MIT about energy captured by people walking on sidewalks.  Mr. Ramslie stated that this technology is in its infancy stage and will be used when it is developed.

Vice Mayor Benzan asked for comment from architects.  

Emily Grandstaff-Rice, Cambridge Seven Associates and task force member stated that LEED Gold is achievable; it becomes a priority when targets are set.

Dan Arons, Architerra, Inc. stated that LEED, gold and platinum are not barriers; they are design challenges.  This makes buildings better not more expensive.

Shawn Hesse, architect and task force member stated that LEED Gold is achievable with normal budgets; not a hurdle or something to be afraid of.  He stated that as the standards are raised it makes it easier and helps architects be better advocates.

David Nagahiro, Principal, CBT, stated that sustainability is the thing to do. It is not a big hurdle.

George Metzger, HMFH, stated that there is a barrier that not all buildings are LEED gold, but we can do it.  The barrier is a mindset. It may be a little more expensive at first, but Cambridge needs to take a strong position. 

Councillor Carlone stated that LEED gold + 6 energy points is the goal and yet the average gold building has 11 energy performance credits in Boston.  He asked why Cambridge is doing less than average.  Ms. Rasmussen stated that the focus immediately is to bring the bottom up and then later move up to requiring the equivalent of 17 points. This gives people time to get used to the higher regulation in four years.  Councillor Carlone stated that there were many groups who wanted this and the way that the City has handed this makes us proud.  He asked about the long term action goal.  Ms. Rasmussen stated that the Climate Protection Action Committee (CPAC) will oversee the creation of an annual report.  There will be communication about what has been achieved annually.  The program will be reviewed in detail with community stakeholders every 5 years.  Ms. Lauren Miller, Chair, CPAC stated that she will be willing to take the reporting on.

Councillor Carlone asked if additional groups participated in the review.  Ms. Rasmussen said there is regular communication with Mothers Out Front and Green Cambridge.  There is no formal role other than CPAC.  What is achieved is what will be reported out.  If the industry moves forward and finds better solutions those can be incorporated.  Councillor Carlone noted that office labs and lights in Germany have to go off by 11 PM in buildings that are not in use.  Is this included in our plan?  Ms. Rasmussen responded that this plan does not look at single narrow strategies.  There is nothing in this plan specifically about lighting; the proposed actions are more comprehensive in nature.  Councillor Carlone asked if the carbon fund will be explored.  Ms. Rasmussen responded in the affirmative.  The fund would likely be operated by a third party and the funds can only be used for offset outlined in the criteria.  Money could flow into the fund from many entities. Private industry was interested in this fund with benefits to Cambridge.  Councillor Carlone noted that most labs will be built by 2030.  Ms. Rasmussen stated that what is envisioned is a working group with knowledge about how labs work will start working right away on how to reduce emissions in laboratories. 

Ken Taylor spoke about the issue of lighting.  He did a survey of outdoor lighting in Paris.  The lighting levels in Paris is more level than in Cambridge.  Three years ago the French government issued regulations that businesses turn off lights at night and the savings generated is equivalent to the energy used by hundreds of thousands of households.  He spoke about light goals and to ensure that the new Lighting Ordinance is parallel with the Net Zero.  He hoped that the Net Zero Task Force looks at the lighting ordinance and see if it is in sync with the Net Zero.

Councillor McGovern asked what can be done with existing building now.  Mr. Ramslie stated that the first action strategy is geared toward existing buildings.  He stated that there is low hanging fruit, retrofit work and incentivized programs to make poorly performing buildings okay.  He stated that time of sale and lease options on buildings were reviewed.  Ms. Rasmussen stated that the Building Energy Use Disclosure Ordinance will generate energy use data next year that will help inform how to target buildings for efficiency upgrades.  She stated that the city is prioritizing its own buildings in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas reduction by 2020 and a specific reduction goal for city operations will be set by the end of calendar 2015.  Councillor McGovern inquired if there is communication with the Cambridge Housing Authority since they are renovating their buildings.  Ms. Rasmussen stated that there is an ongoing communication with CHA regarding their renovation projects and that the CHA is undertaking excellent renovation projects with great efficiency gains.  Councillor McGovern spoke about the updates and the need to keep people informed.  He wanted more information and updates.

Councillor Mazen stated that the hardest part is not done yet.  He noted that the City Council has to be committed.  He asked in the first 2 years of the plan at what point is action required by the council and what funding levels are needed to implement the actions illustrated on the Gantt chart. Ms. Rasmussen explained that the plan laid out is for 25 years and explained how review and course correction would take place.  The specific actions to be taken during the next fiscal year are outlined in detail.  She further stated that the City Manager has asked for a 5 year projected budget.  When the Net Zero planner starts working for the City, which is anticipated to be early fall, this individual will be responsible for managing the program.   She stated that regulatory approval timelines can be supplied to the City Council.  Deputy City Manager Peterson added that funding was discussed for the next 2 years.  The Net Zero planner position and consultant funding are in the CDD budget.

In response to a question by Councillor Mazen, Ms. Rasmussen stated that when the regulatory language is ready it will come before the City Council.

Councillor Mazen inquired about the status of where the City is with the Compact for a Sustainable Future.  Deputy City Manager Peterson explained that MIT and Harvard University and other compact members were engaged in reviewing proposals developed by the net zero task force. 

Mr. Lucey noted that Harvard University and MIT have been working on this issue for many years.  There needs to be collaboration.  He stated that Harvard wants to achieve net zero in a manner that works for the university campus.  

Ms. Gallop stated that the MIT Compact is starting on its next step on vulnerability assessment and resiliency planning.

Councillor Mazen spoke about lights left on in buildings and homes.  He noted that no one at MIT is opposed to motion detector devices, but who will take the necessary steps to get them installed?  There are a host of smaller issues that can be addressed. He questioned whether lights will be made smart lights to address building usage patterns and timing in the future.

Councillor Cheung appreciated the work and was amazed how it has come together.  He likes the local offset and the carbon fund.  When municipal buildings go online in 2020 is it a realistic expectation to target net zero with the resources that are being spent on the schools?  Deputy City Manager Peterson stated that the King Open will open in 2018 and will be a net zero building.  She added that in addition $5 million has been allocated in the budget annually for municipal building upgrades which will include energy efficiency improvements.  Councillor Cheung spoke about the carbon tax implemented in Vancouver.  Ms. Rasmussen stated that a carbon tax was discussed by the task force but the City is not allowed to tax carbon.  It is not in our tool box.  Mr. Ramslie stated that no cities but several Canadian provinces, including British Columbia, have a carbon tax; it is under review this year.  The task force looked at a voluntary carbon fund and whether the City could use fees and rebates to incentivize people to go to net zero.  Mr. Zondervan stated that there is a state house bill to have a tax on carbon, or the city could explore a surcharge on the property tax similar to the Community Preservation Act legislation in which funds could be set aside for local carbon reduction projects.

Councillor Cheung asked why LEED gold was proposed as it is, with fewer energy points required than many new buildings in the region have recently achieved.  Ms. Rasmussen stated that LEED gold with 6 energy points will occur immediately to "bring up the bottom" and then the requirement will step up in a few years to 17 points. This is building up to net zero and then net zero becomes mandatory.  Mr. Zondervan stated that this would only require a six word change to the ordinance.  He asked why this cannot be done now.  Councillor McGovern stated that this should be done sooner rather than later.   Ms. Rasmussen stated that this mechanism is in the plan now meaning as soon as the plan is approved the work to change the requirement in the zoning code can start.  She urged the City Council to approve the net zero action plan and proposed implementation process.

At this time Councillor McGovern made the following motion:

ORDERED:  That the City Council be and hereby is requested to adopt the recommended action in the Net Zero Action Plan and that language be drafted and referred to the City Council to include LEED gold + points no later than August 10, 2015.

The motion carried on a voice vote of four members.

Councillor Cheung asked about implementation and whether one staff person is enough.  Ms. Rasmussen stated that one dedicated staff with the right credentials will move this plan along.

Councillor McGovern stated that so much is being done in Cambridge that is not being done in other communities.  Cambridge should be proud of this.

Ms. Rasmussen informed the committee that the City Council has received letters of support from the Chamber of Commerce, MassBio and other entities.  In response to a question from Councillor Cheung regarding the city purchasing renewable energy, Ms. Rasmussen stated that the City Manager will put out an RFQ for an energy broker and community aggregation in the near future.  

Councillor Cheung opened public comment at 5:04 PM.

Zeyneb Magavi, Mothers Out Front, strongly supported the content of the plan, the framework and the five year review process.  She stated that some of the benefits are better building performance, health and increased revenue.

Kristine Jelstrup, Mothers Out Front, supported the broad based method of the plan.  She was excited about the Georgetown University Energy Prize competition that the city is participating in and noted that Mothers Out Front is actively working to support this effort.

Leslie Bliss, Mothers Out Front, stated that climate change is a threat and wants the threat mitigated. She urged the City Council to endorse the net zero recommendations. She added that Mothers Out Front are eager to help the City become a net zero community.  The plan outlines ambitious goals.

Sue Butler, 14 Clinton Street, stated that she was impressed with the collaborative effort.  She urged LEED gold + points to be implemented quickly.

Lauren M. Miller, Chair, CPAC, read a prepared statement in support of the plan (ATTACHMENT B).

Minka vanBeuzekom, 20 Essex Street, stated that it would be great to do this faster.  She wanted to use every tool available.  She spoke about a Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) bill.  Ms. Rasmussen stated that the City has supported the PACE bill at the state house.  The City needs to await state action.  She noted that this would only apply to commercial buildings because of Freddie Mac and Fanny Mae mortgage holders are opposed to the use of PACE for residential property.  Ms. vanBeuzekom stated that there are different classes of land that the City owns where solar farms could be installed.

John Pitkin, 18 Fayette Street, stated that the communication strategy is important.  Metrics also are important. 

Councillor Cheung closed public comment at 5:13 PM.

Councillor Cheung thanked all those present for their attendance.

The hearing adjourned at 5:14 P.M.

For the Committee,

Councillor Leland Cheung, Chair
Health and Environment Committee






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