State and Local Building Efficiency Regulations & Policies: Boston

In this series, we’re exploring state and local building efficiency regulations to give you a bird’s-eye view of the policies that may impact your portfolio.

Boston. A city of accents with long vowels, great pride, and some of the most dedicated sports fans you will ever meet. But the city is committed to more than just the Sox and Celtics; it is also a national leader in climate and energy policy, ranking among the top ten US cities with the most ENERGY STAR-certified buildings, and boasting an ambitious list of efficiency programs and policies. 1

Currently, Boston participates in the Better Buildings Challenge to achieve a 20% reduction in energy use below 2010 levels in its municipal buildings by 2023. It has adopted the Massachusetts Stretch Energy Code with amendments, and its 2019 Climate Action Plan Update established a 2030 goal to reduce emissions from municipal operations by 60% below 2005 levels. To meet this goal, Boston must reduce per capita emissions by 4.19% annually.2 Boston has also committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 and is in the process of developing and rolling out specific carbon targets for large commercial buildings across asset types.3

But as the old saying goes, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Boston’s home state of Massachusetts also aims to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and was heralded as the second-most energy-efficient state in the country (behind California) by the ACEE. The Bay State recently updated its new construction building code to conform with the 2018 IECC standard (with added efficiency amendments) and signed an executive order to reduce state-owned-and-occupied building emissions by 95% by 2050 (see below for more info). 

In addition to the key state and local requirements listed below, Massachusetts offers extensive financial incentives for improving efficiency through multiple avenues, including tax credits and state-run rebate and retrofit programs. (For a full list, head to the Database of State Incentive and Renewable Energy Programs). Not to be outdone, Boston also maintains an extensive Energy Retrofit Resource Hub in partnership with Eversource Energy to help building owners optimize their energy performance.

Learn more about how Aquicore makes it easy to collect the energy data needed to comply with local, city, and state benchmarking regulations.

State / City / CountyNameType of Reg / Policy / InitiativeDescriptionEffective Date
State of MassachusettsExecutive Order 484- LEED Requirement for State Buildings4New Construction (State buildings)All state construction must meet the Massachusetts LEED Plus Standard, which requires 20% better energy performance than the state building energy code. Required EUI reductions may be achieved by prioritizing: improving envelope performance, reduced air infiltration, ventilation heat recovery, external shading, and reduction in solar heat gains, etc.2007
State of MassachusettsEnergy Code- 2018 IECC UpdateNew ConstructionThe Board of Building Regulations recently adopted the 2018 IECC and ASHRAE standards 90.1-2016 and added amendments.  For Residential construction, these amendments include: solar readiness requirements and Home Energy Rating System (HERS) 55 rather than 62.  Commercial amendments include: adopting the IECC solar-ready appendix, building envelope backstop provisions, EV readiness requirements.  Massachusetts also has a stretch code that can be adopted by local cities or jurisdictions which was recently amended and requires buildings to exceed ASHRAE 90.1 standard by 10% on either a site energy or source energy basis.All projects that file for a permit between February 7, 2020, and November 7, 2020, can apply either the MA amended 2015 IECC or the MA amended 2018 IECC. Permits applied for after November 7, 2020, must comply with the MA amended 2018 IECC.
State of MassachusettsExecutive Order 594Existing Buildings (State Buildings)Establishes state-owned/used building emission reduction targets to meet the State’s overall emissions reductions targets.  Under this EO, buildings must: reduce building emissions by 20% in 2025 and 95% by 2050 and reduce overall site energy use intensity (EU) by 25% by 2030.  The executive order also requires agencies to incorporate emissions reduction strategies into all budgetary planning efforts. To see the full set of requirements, click here.Effective July 1, 2021
State of MassachusettsExecutive Order 594New Construction & Major Renovations (State Buildings)All new construction of state-occupied buildings must use only efficient electric or renewable thermal technologies as defined in Leading by Example Guidelines (LBE) for all space heating and cooling.Effective July 1, 2021
State of MassachusettsExecutive Order 594- Section 3New Construction & Major Renovations (State Buildings)All state-owned new construction must establish and design to an EUI target that meets or exceeds best-in-class EUI for newly constructed buildings by type and climate zone. Effective July 1, 2021
State of MassachusettsExecutive Order 594- Section 7New Construction & Major Renovations (State Buildings)To support peak demand reduction priorities, agencies shall, wherever possible, incorporate demand management strategies into their facilities and participate in applicable programs that provide financial incentives for participation in demand reduction programs. Effective July 1, 2021
State of MassachusettsExecutive Order 594- Section 7New Construction & Major Renovations (State Buildings)DCAMM, in collaboration with LBE, shall continue to manage and expand an energy metering and monitoring program that ensures access to utility and real-time energy data. This program shall be targeted at buildings larger than 20,000 square feet or where it is deemed cost-effective.Effective July 1, 2021
State of MassachusettsExecutive Order 594- Section 7Transportation Requires all state fleets to buy zero-emission vehicles starting next year and the doubling of electric vehicle charging stations installed at state facilities by 2030. 2021, 2030
Boston, MABuilding Energy Reporting Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO)Existing Buildings All non-residential and residential buildings greater than 35,000 square feet and any parcels with multiple buildings that sum to 100,000 square feet report their annual energy and water use. It further requires buildings to complete a major energy savings action or energy assessment every five years. Boston makes all municipal utility billing data and some real-time 5 and 15-minute internal data publicly available through Analyze Boston.2013 onwards
Boston, MABuilding Energy Reporting Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO)Existing BuildingsAll non-residential and residential buildings greater than 35,000 square feet and any parcels with multiple buildings that sum to 100,000 square feet must complete an energy action or an energy assessment every five years. This data will be made publicly available Beginning in 2019
Boston, MABuilding Energy Reporting Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO)- Energy Action Assessment RequirementExisting BuildingsAfter five years of complying with BERDO, buildings must perform major energy-saving actions or complete an energy assessment.  If buildings have not reduced energy by 15% or more, they can perform an energy assessment.Five years after the start of BERDO compliance
Boston, MAArticle 37- Green Building StandardNew Construction All large-scale projects must meet the US Green Building Council’s LEED certification standards.
Boston, MAStretch Energy CodeNew ConstructionBoston has adopted Massachusetts state determined stretch code which requires new commercial and residential buildings to exceed the base energy code by 20%.
Cambridge, MAArticle 22 Green Building RequirementsNew ConstructionNew construction or renovation projects greater than 25,000 square feet or more must meet the standards of one of the following Green Building Rating Systems:1. LEED (Silver Rating for 25000 square feet or above and LEED Gold for 50,000 square feet or above), Passive House Institute, Enterprise Green Communities. Certification by the rating agency is not required but it must meet these standards and be validated by a licensed architect, engineer, or Accredited professional. These new construction projects must also implement an enhanced commissioning program and demonstrate alignment with the City’s Net Zero Action Plan.
City of CambridgeEnergy Efficiency Municipal BuildingsNew ConstructionTo meet the City’s goal to reduce municipal energy use from buildings, all new municipal buildings and major renovations will follow the LEED criteria. 2002
City of CambridgeStretch Energy CodeNew ConstructionLarge area buildings over 100,000 square feet, as well as new supermarkets, laboratories, and conditioned warehouses over 40,000 square feet, must demonstrate energy use per square foot of at least 10% below the energy requirements of ANSI / ASHRAE / IESNA 90.1—2013 Appendix G Performance Rating Method on either a site or source energy basis.Updated efficiency standards went into effect July 2010
City of CambridgeThe Building Energy Use Disclosure Ordinance passed in 2014Existing BuildingsMunicipal buildings, nonresidential buildings more than 25,000 square feet, and residential buildings with more than 50 units must track and report their annual energy use using the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager tool.  This data will be publicly disclosed so that potential property buyers, tenants, realtors, and energy services providers can access the data. 2014
1. https://www.boston.gov/news/boston-ranked-1-city-energy-efficiency 
2. https://database.aceee.org/city/boston-ma
3. https://www.boston.gov/departments/environment/developing-carbon-targets-existing-large-buildings
4. https://www.mass.gov/service-details/green-buildings-and-infrastructure-energy-efficiency 

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