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When I started an internship this summer with the Leading by Example program at the Department of Energy Resources (DOER), I knew that I would be working on projects related to energy efficient and sustainable buildings.   While I was familiar with LEED certification, I didn’t know very much about Zero Net Energy Buildings (ZNEBs). That quickly changed as I delved into researching many aspects of ZNEBs, including their construction, performance, cost-effectiveness, and policies requiring ZNEB construction.

ZNE-Boston-Eric

LBE Director Eric Friedman

As part of this work, I attended three Zero Net Energy Charrettes, held in Boston, Greenfield, and Westborough. The charrettes were intended to facilitate discussion, visioning, and planning for moving toward zero net energy state facilities. They were hosted jointly by the DOER and the Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM), and brought together officials and employees from state agencies and facilities across the Commonwealth, utilities, architects, and engineers to brainstorm goals and an action plan. There were a number of very interesting presentations at the three charrettes: Eric Friedman of DOER gave an overview of the state’s progress made in energy and greenhouse gas emission reductions ; Jenna Ide of DCAMM presented a summary of the state facility portfolio; architects from Sasaki Associates explained the design process for the Sbrega Health and Sciences Center ZNEB at Bristol Community College; and Amy Finlayson from DCAMM gave an informative and inspiring presentation about Passive House design.

ZNE-ExistingBldTeamDuring group discussions, I heard many of the diverse participants talk about their goals and visions for more sustainable and energy efficient state facilities, as well as what some of the challenges are in realizing these goals. There was broad consensus that although much has been achieved thus far, setting targets and a timetable for ZNEB construction will enable the Commonwealth to make state facilities significantly more energy efficient and sustainable. Other goals and actions discussed included reducing the energy usage annually at all state buildings, master planning for ZNE at all campuses and agencies, reducing and consolidating building space, incorporating resiliency into the design of new buildings, improving training for operation and maintenance of high performance buildings, and increasing recycling and reducing water use at all state facilities.

I took away not only a deeper understanding of ZNEBs, but also an appreciation of the knowledge and commitment of everyone involved. While all of the participants acknowledged that their goals are ambitious and far-reaching, they agreed that they are achievable if prioritized.  The participants think that since all buildings will likely be ZNEBs in the future, Massachusetts has the opportunity to be in the forefront of this movement.  The charrettes were just the first step in making ZNE in Massachusetts a reality.

 Comments? Questions?  Contact @MassDOER

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Mimi Kaplan is a 2015 summer intern with the Department of Energy Resources’ Leading by Example team. She is an MPPA candidate at the UMass Amherst Center for Public Policy and Administration, expecting to graduate in 2016. She also has an MS in Environmental Science, and taught K-8 science before making a career shift to environmental policy. Mimi lives near Northampton, MA, with her husband, two children, eight chickens, and a large garden.

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