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Mayor Menino's green blueprint


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Menino's green blueprint

November 18, 2004

AT A TIME of skyrocketing rates for natural gas, heating oil, and electricity, the city of Boston's push for energy-efficient green buildings makes sense. Last week Mayor Menino's Green Building Task Force pointed the way toward higher standards in both municipal buildings and private development projects that are larger than 20,000 square feet. City officials should give a high priority to fulfilling this blueprint and setting an example for other cities and towns.

The 10-point action plan of the task force is a mixture of carrots and sticks. The carrots include a predevelopment loan fund to promote green design, technical assistance for developers, a "green house doctor" program of assistance for homeowners and residential contractors, and a "green home" recognition standard for high-performance residential construction and renovation. Keyspan, the gas utility, joined with the mayor in announcing its own carrot: $250,000 for employee training and grants to businesses and individuals for planning energy-conserving measures.

The principal stick is on the city itself. All of its new or renovated buildings would be required to meet the "silver" standard set by the US Green Building Council. Private projects receiving city funding for land and developments of greater than 20,000 square feet would not be required to go through the council's actual certification process but would have to be built according to the council's efficiency standards.

Other points in the plan, such as the training of city employees across several departments (including the School Department) in green building procedures, would help ensure that the commitment to efficiency outlives the administration of Menino, an enthusiastic proponent of the standards.

The Green Building Council standards go beyond energy consumed in the building itself to include the use of recycled materials in its construction and the avoidance of paints, carpeting, or other interior materials that give off noxious gases. As the task force report notes, 11 percent of students in the Boston public schools suffer from asthma. The city's Public Health Commission points to increasing the number of new or renovated green buildings in the city as an important way to reduce asthma triggers.

The action plan also calls on the city to back state legislation that would require electric utilities to make it easier for businesses or individuals with photovoltaic cells or combined heat and power generation units to sell excess electricity back to the utility. This "distributed generation" makes locally based renewable energy production much more economical. It is an example of how getting to green requires action on many fronts. There is no time to waste.

From The Boston Globe

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