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Back to Boston: Revisting Beantown’s Green Building Legislation

I want to clarify a recent post I wrote about Boston’s green building legislation, which now applies to public and private development of more than 50,000 square feet, that was erroneous (in part from a confusing article along with some poor research on the part of yours truly- my apologies).

Titled “Green Buildings,” Article 37 was inserted into Boston’s building code back on January 10th. Section 37-5 details exactly how a project will be evaluated, stating that

Any Applicant subject to the provisions of this article shall provide to the Boston Redevelopment Authority a completed LEED scorecard, including any Boston Green Credits that the Proposed Project will achieve. The Applicant shall demonstrate that the Proposed Project will meet the requirements of this article with appropriate supporting documentation and by certification from a LEED Accredited Professional and/or other expert recognized by the Boston Redevelopment Authority. . . . Within five (5) days of its receipt of a completed LEED submission, the Boston Redevelopment Authority shall transmit a copy of the submission to Boston Interagency Green Building Committee.

The Boston Interagency Green Building Committee is described in Section 37-2.3 as “an interdisciplinary committee consisting of at least one (1), but not more than two (2) representatives of city agencies including but not limited to, the Boston Redevelopment Authority, the Boston Environment Department, the Boston Transportation Department, the Inspectional Services Department and the Mayor’s Office.” The purpose of the BIGBC will be to “advise the Boston Redevelopment Authority on [a] Proposed Project’s compliance with the provisions of this article.” Projects will thus not be obligated to wait on certification coming down from USGBC in order to comply with the new building code requirements.

Language in section 37-4 incorporates LEED into Boston’s building code by requiring that a project must reach a LEED Certified level (26 of 69 credits under LEED for New Construction) “under the most appropriate LEED building rating system” (i.e., Core and Shell, Commercial Interiors, etc.). However, up to four of those twenty-six credits may be obtained from the “Boston Green Building Credits,” identified in Appendix A of Article 37 as Modern Grid, Historic Preservation, Groundwater Recharge, and Modern Mobility, created to “make sure LEED values match Boston values,” according to John Dalzell, an architect at the Boston Redevelopment Authority.

I hope this post clarifies what’s going on in Boston- it’s certainly a very positive program and encouraging from a LEED creep point of view to see the BIGBC certifying projects under LEED independently without waiting on any sort of blessing from USGBC. It will certainly be interesting to see how private development reacts to Article 37- one developer is quoted by the CoStar Group as wondering whether the legislation will pressure companies to look elsewhere for office space, particulary if “the economy shifts or their business model changes.” CoStar also notes that although cities like Boston and D.C. should be able to withstand the rent premium that green building implicates, “as the first large city to implement blanket standards, one luxury Boston does not have is the ability to look at programs in similarly sized cities for ideas and tactics.”

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