Energy Conservation & Efficiency

Massachusetts lawmakers consider building energy performance standards

Large inefficient buildings would reduce their energy use over time if lawmakers pass the Better Buildings Act

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modern apartment buildings and townhouses, green urban landscape

Last summer, Massachusetts took action to address energy use in large buildings by requiring owners of large buildings to report their energy use on an annual basis. Now, Environment Massachusetts and other  advocates are urging lawmakers to build on that progress and pass An Act relative to better buildings (S.2178 | H.3213)  sponsored by Senator Rausch, which will make sure the the data collected on leads to reducing energy waste in buildings.

In testimony before the Senate Telecommunication, Johanna Neumann, acting director of Environment Massachusetts urged lawmakers to pass the Better Buildings Act.

What does the Better Buildings Act Do?

The 2023 Better Buildings Act directs the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) to set performance standards that require the owners of large inefficient buildings to reduce their energy use and greenhouse gas emissions over time consistent with meeting Massachusetts’ greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.

How much of Massachusetts emissions come from buildings?

Large buildings — including office buildings, apartment buildings, and hospital and university campuses — are responsible for a disproportionate share of energy use in the building sector and energy savings opportunities for those buildings abound.

How can the owner of a large building reduce energy use?

Energy use in these buildings can be reduced by installing more efficient appliances and lighting, reducing heat loss through walls and windows, and encouraging tenants to adopt energy-saving behaviors. Owners can also replace heating and cooling systems with efficient electric technologies like heat pumps and install rooftop solar panels to generate clean, renewable electricity on site. 

This policy is necessary. While the state building code requires new buildings to be built to a minimum energy efficiency standard, there are no statewide requirements for existing buildings to become more efficient. A study in Boston projected that 85% of the square footage that will exist in 2050 has already been built. 

Do building performance standards work?

Building energy performance standards are tried-and-true policy. Boston and Cambridge have already adopted performance standards for large buildings similar to those proposed in this legislation. The states of Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Maryland, along with cities from St. Louis to Denver, have also adopted building performance standards.

The Biden administration also established performance standards for federal buildings and launched a coalition of state and local governments working to implement building performance standards.

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