Statement: Senators should vote for Better Buildings

BOSTON – The Massachusetts Senate will consider a climate change bill today, along with more than 150 amendments filed by senators on a wide range of topics.

The Better Buildings amendments, #7 and #8, introduced by Sen. Becca Rausch, would require the owners of large buildings — like hospitals, universities, office buildings, and large apartment complexes — to disclose their energy use and make their buildings more energy-efficient over time.

Ben Hellerstein, state director for Environment Massachusetts, issued the following statement:

“The Senate climate bill, in its current form, would take a number of important steps forward on solar, offshore wind, and electric vehicles. But it doesn’t do nearly enough to address the energy we use in our buildings.

Our buildings are responsible for more than 40 percent of Massachusetts’ greenhouse gas emissions. And when we burn oil and gas for heating, we release dangerous pollution into our neighborhoods that is linked to asthma, heart attack, and a wide range of other health problems.

Better buildings are possible. We can make our buildings much more energy-efficient, and we can replace fossil fuel heating with clean, electric alternatives like heat pumps. The amendments filed by Sen. Rausch will help us get there.

We urge senators to adopt Sen. Rausch’s amendments for clean, efficient, all-electric buildings.”

The Legislature has taken some steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from new buildings, such as establishing a “net zero” opt-in building code as part of a climate bill that was signed into law last March.

But existing buildings present a far bigger challenge. A study in Boston projected that 85% of the square footage that will exist in 2050 has already been built.

The Better Buildings amendments would encourage energy efficiency improvements and the replacement of fossil fuel heating systems with clean, electric alternatives in existing buildings. These amendments focus on the larger buildings that are responsible for a disproportionate share of building sector emissions.

Amendment 7 would require the owners of large buildings (over 25,000 square feet) to report their energy use on an annual basis. It would also direct the Department of Energy Resources to analyze this building energy data and make it publicly available so that regulators, advocates, and members of the public can identify the areas with the greatest potential for emissions reductions.

Amendment 8 would establish energy performance standards requiring large buildings to reduce their emissions over time through efficiency and electrification. Similar policies have been adopted in a number of cities across the country, including in Boston. In Maryland, a bill establishing performance standards for large buildings passed into law last Friday.