Wu Signs EO Banning Fossil Fuels in New City-Owned Buildings

Special to the Times

Mayor Michelle Wu joined Green New Deal Director Oliver Sellers-Garcia, the Operations Cabinet and local climate, and labor advocates to sign An Executive Order (EO) Eliminating the Use of Fossil Fuels in New Construction and Major Renovations of City Buildings. Through signing the EO, Mayor Wu is demonstrating her commitment to accelerating climate action by requiring that all new municipal buildings and major renovations operate without fossil fuels, reducing emissions from Boston’s building sector while creating high-quality jobs, improving public health and quality of life, and advancing racial and economic justice.

Mayor Wu previously announced her intention to draft and sign this EO during her 2023 State of the City Address. The functions of the EO will take immediate effect, exempting projects currently in procurement, design, or construction. Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson also joined for the signing ceremony.

“Week after week, we see the signs of extreme heat, storms, and flooding that remind us of a closing window to take climate action,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “The benefits of embracing fossil fuel-free infrastructure in our City hold no boundary across industries and communities, and Boston will continue using every possible tool to build the green, clean, healthy, and prosperous future our city deserves.”

“As part of the Green New Deal for Boston, we are taking an all-of-government approach, finding ways for our Cabinets and departments to play a role in climate action,” said Green New Deal Director Oliver Sellers-Garcia. “This Executive Order directs and empowers the Operations Cabinet and facilities managers across the City to lead the decarbonization of our building portfolio. In addition to new buildings, this order applies to major renovations because, often, the most sustainable way to make a green building is not to start from scratch.”   

In Boston, municipal emissions constitute 2.3% of all of Boston’s carbon emissions, and over 70% of the City’s emissions are from buildings. Through the Executive Order, the City is leveraging the opportunity to ensure every new capital investment in new construction or major renovation project catalyzes the decarbonization of Boston’s building sector by constructing or retrofitting buildings to eliminate the use of fossil fuels in building operations.

This Executive Order puts in place a clear path to decarbonizing the City’s building portfolio. As the owner of over 16 million square feet of property, the City’s commitment to fossil fuel free buildings will add substantial demand to the many trades and professions that are part of the green building ecosystem. The City will lead by example with its own buildings, and will contribute to the creation of new jobs in the building trades as well as building design and maintenance, expanding local opportunities to strengthen workforce development programs, apprenticeships and other training pipelines for Boston residents to gain access to high-quality employment in the building sector.

PowerCorpsBOS supports these workforce development efforts by training Boston residents for jobs that reduce greenhouse gas emissions in large buildings by learning skills to maintain building operations at peak efficiency. The program is a partnership led by the Worker Empowerment Cabinet and the Environment Department in collaboration with the  Department of Youth Employment and Opportunity, and Boston Centers for Youth & Families. The third cohort of the program began last week.

With the implementation of the EO, all new buildings will be planned, designed, and constructed so that HVAC, hot water, and cooking systems will not combust or directly connect to fossil fuels for all municipal buildings. In addition to applying to all new buildings, it also impacts alterations where structural work is planned in 75% or more of the building’s square footage. Any project that replaces a building’s heating, ventilation, air conditioning or hot water system, or cooking equipment must eliminate fossil fuel combustion in the affected system. 

In addition, the executive order will improve public health and save the City money. Highly efficient fossil fuel-free buildings create immediate health benefits for building occupants by improving indoor air quality, increasing resilience, and lessening the symptoms of existing respiratory and other health conditions. These buildings will also be cost-effective to operate in the long run, reducing municipal energy costs and creating cost savings that can be reinvested in local municipal services.

To support the implementation, the Operations Cabinet will be launching a Facilities Condition Assessment that will identify decarbonization projects. The FY 24-29 Capital Plan includes $132,510,000 for building design projects that will advance decarbonization.

Signing this executive order complements the work of the City’s Building Emissions Reduction and Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO). This ordinance sets emissions standards for large existing buildings, requiring all covered buildings, including municipal buildings, to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

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