Taking E+ Buildings Mainstream

The City of Boston has a great program to lead the charge in the transformation of the residential sector toward sustainability & resilience. The E+ Program is led by my former Board Vice Chair and mentor, John Dalzell, Sr. Architect for Sustainable Development at the Boston Planning & Development Agency (BDPA). The program demonstrates the real possibility of energy positive buildings & technologies, it creates affordable housing, it opens up new concepts for urban design, and raises awareness for climate-responsive buildings. I love checking out these projects and learn more about the nitty-gritty of getting these things to happen.

The E+ Program has helped bring net positive residential development forward for the city. Boston has taken odd lots and partnered with community organizations to bring developers in who want to build exemplary buildings. The RFP process stipulates affordability, community-responsive design, and the creation of an net positive energy building – where it generates more power than it uses! These projects are contributing to Boston’s championship attainment as the #1 city for energy efficiency and in achieving the Boston 2050 Carbon Neutrality goal.

On Friday, July 26, the City hosted a “behind the walls” tour and open house of the E+ project at 65 Colonial Ave in Dorchester – in the Codman Square neighborhood. Various project partners were there – the BPDA, the development team, and various vendors of technologies used at the building. The program is sponsored by USGBC MA (my former organization), the Boston Society of Architects, and the local utilities – Eversource and National Grid. I went to visit, assuming I’d probably bump into some pretty cool people who are into this sort of thing.

On the site of what had been a bad old triple decker, the project was creating four units of premium housing in an ~8000sf structure, one affordable (at 80% AMI). It is about a 15 minute walk from the Shawmut red line station and a five minute walk to all the shops of Codman Square. It is going to be a great place for a few families to live. The units are either 2 or 3-bedroom and are all-electric. The building envelope has a HERS rating of 38, and with solar installed it gets down to 19. It’s insulated to R-50 and has triple-glazed windows of R-5. It is going to be a LEED Platinum structure. This is the right stuff!

You can read more about the city’s program here.

I did bump into Nikhil Nadkarni, Energy Planner for my City of Cambridge, and we got to catch up a bit about Cambridge policy progress. John Dalzell was also there and I was able to tag into a tour with him and the project architect, Scott Payette, who I have known through USGBC for many years. I also met and was able to talk shop about developing E+ buildings with the developer, Charles Aggouras, and a separate E+ project developer, Jeffrey Dubard. It’s tricky to get these things to come together, even with the support of the City. Below is the best pic I have of John, walking up into the building tour:

You can read more about the project at 65 Colonial Ave here – lots of great info. I didn’t get to learn enough about the community engagement side of the equation, with Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation but I did see my colleague who works there, David Queeley, on the site. You can click on the renderings or inspect the schematic of the environmental features.

One thing I didn’t totally understand about the design was the rear sunken courtyard grottoes – how would you get out of it? A pool ladder or some other egress must be in the works…

Overall, a great project and a great event on a great day. Thank you BPDA, City of Boston and the E+ Program. Shout out to The Green Engineer who are doing the sustainable design consulting for the project, and Studio 2112 who is doing the landscape architecture. It will all balance out and they will call it Cygnus, right? [sorry non-Rush fans!]

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