by Scott Bates
Environmentally conscious clients, especially those in the academic and life science markets, have shifted their focus to constructing new and renovating existing buildings to be carbon neutral. A recent example that showcases this effort was our residence life project with St. Mark’s School and Goody Clancy.
The Patterson-Sculley House was designed and constructed to meet Passive House certification. Sustainable elements that were a part of this program include:
- Twenty-one trees were harvested for reuse as building features such as wall paneling.
- The building is all-electric, with no fossil fuels used for heating and air-conditioning.
- The solar array installed on the building’s roof produces nearly 300 kWh of power annually, representing close to 40% of the building’s energy needs.
- The substitution of 30% slag in the concrete mix resulted in a reduction of 278,600 kgCO2eq of global warming potential, equivalent to the embodied carbon of 262 acres of forest for one year.
- The 3-story residence hall only has one elevator, which minimizes the building’s overall energy consumption.
Passive House is just one of many performance-based building certifications that focus on dramatically reducing energy use. Others include LEED, Energy Star, and Living Building Challenge.
More cities and towns in Massachusetts are making carbon neutrality a priority, especially when it comes to construction projects. In 2019, Boston rolled out a Climate Action Plan to make the city carbon neutral by 2050. Part of their strategy is transitioning to net zero carbon new construction and developing carbon targets to improve existing buildings over time. We’ve also seen similar initiatives in Newton and Somerville and on a national level from the White House with the passing of the Inflation Reduction Act and its clean energy programs.
As carbon neutrality picks up in Massachusetts, various tools have become available for construction projects. National Grid and Mass Save offer net zero energy and Energy Use Intensity (EUI) reduction incentive programs that create long-lasting energy savings and offset the incremental construction and design service costs associated with the inclusion of more energy-efficient equipment and systems. Additionally, Architecture 2030, an independent organization established in 2002 in response to the ongoing climate emergency, has formally launched the Carbon Avoided Retrofit Estimator (CARE) Tool that enables owners, communities, and design teams to quickly quantify the carbon benefits, and understand the value of reuse. Building reuse represents a significant opportunity to avoid carbon emissions in the immediate future, but until recently, quantifying the carbon “savings” in a retrofit or reuse versus new construction has been challenging and not always accurate. The CARE Tool, however, provides clarity and reliability on which project design and construction option would be most beneficial.
Over the last four decades, Erland has deepened our understanding of sustainable design and construction and developed a network of esteemed architecture and engineering firms, third-party consultants, and subcontractors that we partner with to bring a client’s carbon-neutral vision to a successful reality. Together, we will continue to help shape the future of the construction industry and promote climate change through our building practices.
Scott Bates is vice president, strategy & development at Erland Construction.