Main menu


Small businesses and property owners worry about the cost of new clean energy requirements

Construction of Kendall Square includes a life sciences lab that faces increasingly stringent greenhouse gas emissions laws. (Photo: Mark Levy)

As the deadline for clean energy looms, some businesses and property owners find themselves caught between a progressive environmental view and what they see as financially realistic. There is also

The Building Energy Use Disclosure Ordinance was passed in 2014 as a way to track Cambridge’s greenhouse gas emissions. Called Beudo, the law targets large commercial, public buildings and apartment buildings, which account for half of a city’s emissions. Specifically, the law requires buildings over 25,000 square feet and homes over 50 units (an estimated 1,100 buildings citywide) to report annual energy and water usage.

The city’s Net Zero Action Plan recently moved the timeline forward from 2050 to 2035, adding urgency to its environmental commitments. Beudo’s changes, such as performance requirements, were introduced last fall after his report showed no reduction in emissions since 2018. Beudo is a “Cambridge Green New Deal” package.

Property owners can make alternative compliance payments to the City if they are unable to achieve the required emission reductions. The ordinance sets an average cost of $234 to remove one ton of emissions from a building, based on analysis conducted by the city. Cambridge City Councilman Quinton Zondervan told Boston that he is the leader of the local Beudo effort. The Cambridge Council is also debating whether to allow companies to use carbon credits as a means of offsetting their carbon emissions.

In interviews throughout July, property owners said they wanted to prioritize the use of green energy, but many said they wanted to do so without hurting their businesses or penalizing their tenants. I don’t understand how to meet city standards.

Healthworks Gym in Porter Square. (Photo: Christina R via Yelp)

Mark Harrington, manager of a small gym chain called Healthworks, which has stores in Porter Square, said he was one of many business owners backing the proposal, but he is concerned about the implications. The difficulty of maintaining the climate in spaces such as indoor gyms, combined with the pandemic’s demands for things like filtering and more aggressive air circulation, has given his buildings one of the largest carbon footprints in the city. He said he tagged

He recently invested in an eco-friendly heating system and a pump designed to last 30 years, but fears that Beudo’s renewal will impose stricter standards, ruining his investment. doing.

The law should account for the harm to small businesses as it takes into account rules limiting greenhouse gases from large companies such as Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and many of the city’s life science labs. – and the only one with deep enough pockets to shrug off Beudo’s requirements: “Not just the man who owns his 15-story lab in Kendall Square, but this I want you to think about everyone when you put it together,” Harrington said. “We need to have an honest discussion in the community about what it will cost.”

Another voice calling for the city to do more to tweak the ordinance: Central Square attorney and property owner Patrick Barrett.

Cambridge, which often cites a law similar to Boud recently passed in Ithaca, New York, as a model for how things work in Cambridge, said Barrett said the city could offer property owners $100 million in cash. Offered low or no interest loans from the fund. By private equity to support the work required to switch over to the new electrical system. Ithaca’s model also includes hiring consultants to assess costs, Barrett said.

The 2035 target is “an interesting headline,” Barrett said, but the state, like most other places in the country, is on the 2050 timeline. Are you on board? What are the resources that make that possible?”

Barrett said the city has done a lot of research that it feels has failed, and has sent letters to the 4,000 households and 2,387 businesses he estimates will be affected by the law telling them what the law means to them. Agencies like Harvard and MIT have entire sustainability teams that can help the city reach its goals, but most property owners don’t. “I’m on the sustainability team,” Barrett said. Zero, you have to help people get there. ”

Charlie Marquardt, owner of Mid Cambridge Cleaners, is against Beudo in its current form. “I’m sick of the inequalities in how it works,” he said, adding that “exponentially more emissions” than apartment buildings like his included in Bratt’s compliance. He referred to a law excluding large Brattle Street homes, which he said would create a requirement as commercial real estate. Compare 169 apartments and 169 single-family homes.

Marquardt said the cancellation of this summer’s Beudo hearings because city councilors failed to secure a quorum was disrespectful to community members advocating for changes to the law. His concern is that the city will promote the ordinance and deal with the consequences later, but “it is the city’s responsibility to reach out to those affected by the laws they enact,” he said. Told.

Zondervan cites broad public support for the issue, building on a decade-long effort to combat climate change in Cambridge. There has been some backlash from building owners since the time of immortality was accelerated, but most landlords just want flexibility in the ordinance so they can comply. “Ultimately, we have to somehow move forward and reduce our emissions,” Zonderban said.

Business-damaging fines and external costs passed on to customers and tenants may be inevitable shortcomings in protecting the planet, Zonderban said. And it’s not the small businesses that use the most energy and face the biggest offsetting costs, he said, but the large biolabs.

Business concerns exist regardless of the ordinance, because climate change will force buildings to renew their fuel needs even without Beud, Zonderban said. Owners can also find help improving their energy systems through partners such as the Community Development Authority’s Energy Alliance. Some funds are also available through the Mass Save Program.

This article was produced in partnership with Cambridge Local First.